One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Facilitator Background

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1 One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Facilitator Background By Jim Merhaut Engage We profess in the Nicene Creed a Church that is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. The New Testament provides our basis for understanding what these four essential characteristics mean. Match each New Testament reading below with one characteristic of the Church by writing one, holy, catholic or apostolic on the line next to the reading. (Ephesians 5:25-27) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. (Acts 2:37-42) Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, Brothers, what should we do? Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for you children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him. And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, Save yourselves from this corrupt generation. So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. (Romans 8:18-23) I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 1

2 (John 17:20-23) I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 2

3 KEY HOLY (Ephesians 5:25-27) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. APOSTOLIC (Acts 2:37-42) Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, Brothers, what should we do? Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for you children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him. And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, Save yourselves from this corrupt generation. So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. CATHOLIC (Romans 8:18-23) I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. ONE (John 17:20-23) I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 3

4 Reflect ONE How important is unity in your daily life? How does the Church help you appreciate the significance of unity? HOLY In what ways are Catholics in your community different from those who do not profess faith in Christ and/or express their faith in a local church community? Name one way that your Catholic faith helped you to choose good over evil in the last 24 hours. CATHOLIC What does your parish do to make its presence known locally, regionally, nationally and internationally? How do you think and act with a global perspective? APOSTOLIC How does your parish share the life and teachings of Jesus with parishioners in a way that is in communion with your local bishop? How is your daily life inspired by the teachings and witness of your pastor, and how is that inspiration expressed to people who are not members of your church? 4

5 Explore There are four essential characteristics of the Church: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. These four characteristics, also known as marks of the Church, indicate the church s features and essential mission. They are rooted in the life and mission of Jesus Christ and are gifts to the Church, gifts that open and come to fruition over time as the Church becomes more like Christ her founder. While in this essay we will treat each characteristic separately, one should note that all four work together as a unified whole. For example, when unity is broken, then our journey to holiness is impeded as well. One God is one. While there is a diversity of persons in God, there is only one God. The God that Jews worship is the same God that Muslims worship, and the God that Muslims worship is the same God that Christians worship. While there are many ways to understand and express God, there is only one God. Jesus expressed the gift of oneness to the Church in the form of a prayer. In John 17:20-23 he said: I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Jesus gives a gift that he possesses. Jesus and the Father are one, and the abundant unity that they share overflows from them to the Church. In the same way, our unity can become a gift to the world as it struggles with division and war. An appropriate prayer for Christian unity could be as follows: Jesus, give unity to the world. As you are in us and we are in you, may we also be one with the world and the world one with us, so that all division and strife may cease as all become completely one. On the other hand, we cannot help the world find unity if we ourselves do not possess it. A divided church promotes division in the world. Did you notice the unfolding nature of the gift in Jesus prayer? Jesus gives the gift of unity to the Church but prays that the gift will grow, that they may become We 5

6 possess the gift, and yet it continues to unfold before us as we explore it with acts of love for each other. Finally, our love for each other is the witness to the world that Jesus was in fact sent from God. The Church, as an expression of God in the world, is called to be one as God is one. While diversity in the Church and within Christianity in general is not a threat to the essential unity or oneness of the Church, division damages the characteristic of being one and makes our messages of love and reconciliation ring hollow to those outside of the Church. The author of the letter to the Colossians reminds us that unity is above all: (Colossians 3:14-15) Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Above all, clothe yourselves with love In other words, let your love be seen as plainly as your clothing. Wear it every waking moment. The passage then gives us two clues about how to wear the clothing of love. Pursue peace as the law of your heart and be grateful. Unity in your family, in your community and in your Church will grow from your grateful disposition and your peacemaking. The oneness of the Church is bigger than the unity shared among Catholics. We are called in a special way to be united with all followers of Christ. The movement to bring all Christians into unity is called ecumenism. The divisions within Christianity are among the greatest scandals perpetuated by Christians in all of history. We cannot represent Christ authentically to the world in our divided state. The Church must be visibly one in order for the invisible spirit of God to unleash the fullness of its saving power. Holy The sixth chapter of Isaiah teaches us that God is not only holy; God is holy, holy, holy. God is the holiest of the holy, and the Church, like its founder, is called to be holy. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16) The Hebrew word for holy is qadosh, a word that means separateness or set apart. God s holiness is rooted in the idea that God is set apart from all else. There is nothing or nobody like God. God is pure love without blemish, and; therefore, God is the holiest or the most set apart. But, from what and for what is God set apart? To be holy means to 6

7 be set apart from sin and to be set apart for love. This is the essence of God s holiness: no sin, all love. We, as noted in the quote from 1 Peter above, are called to be holy for God is holy. The Church is holy because it is the body of Christ in the world and Christ is the unblemished sacrifice, i.e. Christ is the offering that is set apart. Christ is the only sacrifice without blemish. He is the holy sacrifice. In the Eucharistic Prayer, Jesus is called the pure victim, the holy victim, the spotless victim. Clearly, there is no victim like him, yet the Church is called to become one with that holy victim. Our unity with Christ makes us holy. The letter to the Ephesians suggests that marriages are a reflection of the holy love Jesus has for the Church: (Ephesians 5:25-27) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. It is Jesus sacrificial love for the Church that makes the Church holy. We, too, bring forth holiness in ourselves and in the Church through our acts of love. Loving others is how we can bring out the best in them. We live holy lives by pursuing our daily activities in a way that is set apart from sin. In other words, there is a holy way and an unholy way to do whatever it is that you do each day. If you are a homemaker, do your chores with a spirit of love, and you will be a holy homemaker. If you are an athlete, play your sport with a spirit of love, and you will be a holy athlete. If you are a parent, raise your children in loving ways, and you will be a holy parent. If you own a business, operate your business in loving ways, and you will be a holy business person. Holiness is expressed by choosing good over evil in all the situations of our lives. Catholic The word catholic means universal. The saving actions of Jesus Christ, which are celebrated in the Sacrament of Baptism, are extended to all of creation by the gift of catholicity or universality. God intends that all will be united and saved through the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Eucharistic Prayer II, the prayer that we pray at mass, Jesus is called the Word through whom God created all things. Just as one can detect the presence of an artist in her work, so too can one discern the presence of Christ in all of creation because Christ is the one through whom everyone and everything is created. Universal salvation through Jesus Christ does not mean that one must explicitly profess faith in Jesus to be saved. The salvation that is offered to all through Christ is 7

8 mysteriously present to all people, and even all of the non-human creation, by virtue of their being created by a loving and merciful God. Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Jesus as Christians know him are not excluded from experiencing God s saving grace. An important element of catholicity is our belief that Jesus Christ is present in and through all of creation. One need not know Jesus in an explicit way to experience his presence. Being alive, in itself, puts one in relationship with the universal Christ. Paul discusses the mysterious presence of salvation in all of creation in the eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans: (Romans 8:18-23) I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Christ s gift of salvation is truly catholic, truly universal! Christians extend the gift of catholicity by sharing the blessings we receive from Christ with the entire world. Jesus commissioned us to do so as recorded in Matthew 28:18-19: And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. As with the other characteristics of the Church, the language of gift giving is present here. Universal authority is given to Jesus, and he passes on the gift to his followers by commissioning them to share his salvation with people of all nations. Christ s presence within each believer calls us in a special way to speak and act with a universal perspective rather than a self-centered one. We live and die for others in the same way that Christ lived and died for us, indeed for the whole creation. Apostolic After Jesus ascended to heaven, the Church became his hands and feet in the world. Christ s ministry was continued by his followers and is continued today by the Church. The apostles are the foundation of the Church with Christ as the cornerstone. Acts 2:37-42 gives us a glimpse of how apostolic ministry got started. In this passage, Peter has finished addressing a crowd in Jerusalem, and many are inspired to become Christ s followers: 8

9 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, Brothers, what should we do? Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for you children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him. And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, Save yourselves from this corrupt generation. So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. Peter is introduced in Acts as the spokesperson for the apostles. In a similar way, the pope is the spokesperson for the bishops. Yet each bishop, priest, deacon, professed sister/brother and lay ecclesial minister also speaks for the Church. Indeed, every baptized Christian is called to be the presence of Christ in the world in communion with the ministers of the Church. Jesus gave the gift of ministry to his apostles, who shared it with the other ministers of the Church; and all of us are called by Christ to share the gift of ministry with everyone we meet each day. We are all called to be an apostolic Church. And, we are called to share not only with our words, but also with our actions. Peter taught with words, but his teaching was received because his faithful actions backed up his words. The following passage from Acts shows how the apostles and other believers gave witness through resurrection teaching and their radical sharing in service to those in need. They lived what they taught: (Acts 4:32-35) Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. The apostolic Church sanctifies the world through inspiring witness and authentic teaching. We are apostolic when we present a unified message that is rooted in the gospels and carried on through the centuries by way of sacred Tradition. The bishops, successors to the apostles, give the teachings of the apostles to the Church in the same spirit of Christ who taught the apostles in word and deed. Those who receive this teaching are called to share it in whatever capacity they can. Sharing the teachings of the Church with others in inspiring ways is how we all participate in the gift of apostolic ministry. 9

10 Conclusion The Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. These four essential characteristics define the Church as a distinct community in the world that has the purpose of sharing the gifts of Christ with each other and with all of creation. Just as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit share in oneness, in holiness, in universality and in mission; so too is the Church, the presence of God in the world, called to receive and share these four essential characteristics in generous and inspiring ways. Apply As a facilitator of this session, what stories can you tell about how your diocese and your parish express the four characteristics of the Church? In other words Search for a story that shows how your diocese/parish is united. Search for a story that shows how your diocese/parish is holy, i.e. set apart from other organizations by choosing good over evil in its daily operations. Search for a story that shows how your diocese/parish has a worldwide perspective, rather than an exclusively local perspective. Search for a story that shows how your diocese/parish teaches and preaches the gospel in both word and action in a way that presents a unified message shared by the bishop, your pastor and your fellow parishioners. You will also be a more effective facilitator if you can identify ways that the four characteristics of the Church are present in and expressed through your daily life. Prepare to tell those stories as well. 10

11 Resources for Further Learning This website has the purpose of helping households fulfill their mission as the Domestic Church. This particular page provides a few thoughts on the four characteristics of the Church. This webpage provides a concise description of the four characteristics of the Church. The descriptions include quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This website provides simple lessons for children. This lesson focuses on the four characteristics of the Church. &ie=utf-8&oe=utf- 8#q=four+marks+of+the+church&hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&prmd=ivns&ei=G4VW Tp3uKcLFgAec4p2LDA&start=30&sa=N&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=c313f2edd24fc65 d&biw=1280&bih=658 This lengthy link connects you to a simple PowerPoint presentation on the four characteristics of the Church. 11

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