The word “Church” (Latin ecclesia ) originally meant a convocation or assembly gathered for a religious purpose.
In Christian usage the word “church” refers to the worshipping community, the local community or “parish” and the entire universal community of believers. (CCC, 751 – 752)
In the Old Testament God called the chosen people of Israel to be his holy people.
In the New Testament, Jesus calls his disciples to form a community of faith as the people of the New Covenant. Jesus inaugurates the Church through his preaching and teaching and in His total self-giving on the cross (CCC, 763 – 766)
Eph 2: 19-22
Why the Catholic Church?
Today this community of faith, hope and love is continued in the Catholic Church. The Church is a mystery that is both visible and spiritual, human and divine, a hierarchical society and the Mystical Body of Christ (CCC, 771, 779)
Petros, Cephas, Rock
“ You are to be called Cephas” – Jesus to Peter in John 1:42
Cephas in Aramaic (language spoken in Jesus’ time and by Jesus) = Rock
“ You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18)
Peter the first Pope
The early Christians, who were close to the apostles in time, culture and theological background, clearly understood that Jesus promised to build the Church on Peter
The intent of the Lord was clear when he conferred personally upon Peter…Upon you I will build my Church and I will give you the key the keys
An Apostolic Church
The first Christians traced their beliefs, doctrines and their Church back to the true teachings of Christ
Because there was a clear link from their leaders (bishops) back to the apostles
Handing down of teachings
Clearly mentioned in Scripture – 2 Tim (2:2)
Teachings were handed down orally and publicly
The unbroken succession of bishops see the original revelation going back lineally to the apostles
1300-1500 AD - Popes and bishops became great political powers and were obsessed with wealth. Thus they became poor faith leaders
Martin Luther set out to reform (change) the Church, finally breaking away from his priestly vows and the Church to marry and start a new church
Reformation – Martin Luther
Earning of salvation by good works and faith
Sale of indulgences
Papacy – divine intervention
Earning or salvation by faith alone
Against sale of indulgences
Papacy – human intervention
Diminished papal authority
Those of other faiths
What of those of other faiths?
It has been said – “Outside the Church, there is no salvation.”
Hence they could not be saved, who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. (CCC 846)
But there is still salvation
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation. (CCC 847)
Why salvation for those of other faiths?
The Catholic Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they at length have life. (CCC 843)
Sharing and reflection
1. Why is belonging to a community of faith so necessary in our personal relationship with God? [I.e. why can’t I pray alone? Why must I join other Catholics in church?]
2. How is Jesus Christ at the center of our understanding of the Church?