What Unites Us as a Church?

Statues on St. Peter's Vatican

Is it culture, habit, fellowship or something deeper that unites us?  In John’s gospel, Jesus described the bond that unites his followers as the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep.

An experience sometimes bonds people together in unexpected ways. A tragedy or an event or even a leader can bring diverse peoples together to share a common memory or goal. The intimacy which the bond brings can only be really understood by those it directly affects.  What common bonds have you experienced with others?  What brought those bonds about?

In the gospel, Jesus stressed the unity he has with His Father and with His followers. This unity manifests itself in the four marks of the Church (those qualities that define the Church) which we say in the Creed:  “We believe in one  holy  catholic  and  apostolic Church”.

How is the Church “one?” The Church has one Lord, it has only one faith, it is formed in one Baptism, it comes together as one Body, it is given life by one and the same Spirit, and it shares one hope for the future. (Cat 866)

How is the Church “holy?”  Because God the Father called people together to form the Church, God the Son gave his life up for the Church and is one with the Church in the sacraments, and God the Holy Spirit gives the Church life. The Church is a home for sinners who wish to come closer to God. (Cat 867)   It is through the Church that we become holy. That is, we are called to become saints (someone who gets to Heaven, not necessarily the canonised Saint!)

How is the Church “catholic?”  The word “catholic” means “for everyone at all times” (universal) which is how the Church serves us.  The Church has the fullest revelation of God (Cat 868) and therefore provides us with our best chance of attaining Heaven.

How is the Church “apostolic? The faith and power came from Christ, was passed on to the apostles and on to successive Popes in union with the bishops (St. Peter was the first “Pope”) and the Church has the power to teach faith and morals infallibly (i.e. without error) where appropriate. (Cat 869)   Every deacon, priest or bishop can trace their orders back (i.e. Holy Orders – ordination) ultimately to one of the twelve Apostles.

God is the cause of our community. He sent His Son into the world to call us, to embrace us, to unite us. He makes us one with His Son. He sanctifies us with His Spirit. He gifts us with a full faith and the power to reach out to others, no matter who they are. He sends us out the same way He sent out the Apostles, to send the Good News to others.

Have you ever reflected on the great bond that unities us with all other Christians through our one Baptism?  As we reach out to the Father, how will we reach out to others this week to share our unity with them?