An Invisible Body?

An Invisible Body?
 

Is the Church an invisible union of all who believe in Jesus Christ, regardless of denomination or other beliefs? 

This is how many Christians have come to understand the Church since the Protestant Reformation.  In this view, only God can identify the Church and its members, because only God can see into our hearts.  But does this view fit with the Lord's teachings in the Gospels? 

Jesus used metaphors for the Church which are very concrete and visible: the light of the world, a city set on a hilltop that cannot be hidden, a kingdom, and a flock of sheep led by a shepherd.  Jesus intended his Church to be visible to the entire world, united in his truth and reflecting the unity he shares with the Father (John 17:21).   As we have discussed previously, Jesus gave his apostles authority and sent them out to form a family of faith which would continue his ministry until he returns in glory. 

This is why Saint Paul can go so far as to call the Church "the body of Christ" (1 Cor 12, Eph 4-5).   By its very definition, a body is visible.  Our visible bodies manifest our invisible spirits.  If the parts of our bodies were not operating properly as a unified whole, our spirits would not be able to communicate or act.  Similarly, in order for the body of Christ to effectively teach as Jesus taught and serve as he served, it must be a visible, unified whole, as visible to the world as the Lord's body was to his contemporaries. 

This is what we see depicted in the Acts of the Apostles: a visible, recognizable body of Christ.  This body could be recognized by its teachings, which were the same everywhere (Eph 4:3).  This body could be recognized by its worship, which centered around the celebration of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11).  Finally, this body could be recognized by its leaders, who taught and led with authority, as we see throughout Acts. 

Just as a baby will change greatly in appearance as he grows, but still maintains the same essential characteristics as a full-grown man, we should expect to find such visible unity in the body of Christ today.  This is what one finds in the Catholic Church.  We are made up of more than a billion members throughout the world, and yet like the early Church our teachings remain the same among every nation, people, and class. Like the early Church, we are united in worship, sharing the same Lord's Supper throughout the world, truly fulfilling Paul's words in 1 Cor 10:17: "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."  Like in the early Church, our unity of teaching and worship is maintained by visible leaders, who teach and lead with the authority handed down from the apostles. 

As with our own bodies, there is great diversity within this essential unity of the Church.  The Church is full of saints and sinners, each in need of ongoing conversion of heart.  One finds within the Church many different, beautiful ways to walk with Christ.  To learn more about the Catholic Church, visit CatholicBridge.com or give us a call. And if you are Catholic and have been away for a while, we would like to help welcome you back! 

 

 

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