Emily: Do you know the difference between a house and a home?
Edmund: I think I’ve heard one of these rhyme-y quotes like “A house is built with walls and beams; and a home is built with love and dreams.”
Emily: That’s Ralph Waldo Emerson, right?
Emily: Or “Home is where the heart is.”
Edmund: Oh, that’s a good one too.
Emily: I can get the idea that the physical building like a house becomes more than the building when a family lives there.
Edmund: Yeah, a family makes the house into a home. It’s more than just the beams and walls. It’s more than just the physical building.
Emily: I worry, though, that people don’t have the same understanding of the word ‘Church.’
Edmund: What do you mean?
Emily: We’ve heard the word “church” so many times but we don’t have two different words to refer to its different meaning. There’s the physical building made of walls and beams. But the word “church” REALLY is about something bigger.
The word “Church” comes from the Latin ecclesia, and from the Greek (eh-ka-laine) This means to “call out of” and here is used to mean a convocation or an assembly. Ekklesia is used frequently in the Greek Old Testament for the assembly of the Chosen People before God. In the Church, God is “calling together” his people from all the ends of the earth.
Edmund: Sounds like more than just a building.
Emily: Exactly. The Church is the family of God. The Father planned this family from the beginning. The church is instituted by Jesus and by his Holy Spirit brought into being to unite all people into this family of God, also known as the Body of Christ. The Church has four key characteristics that we profess in the creed. The Church is one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic.
Edmund: The Church it seems has this visible and invisible reality to it.
Emily: The church is a visible reality but also communicates to us the invisible, spiritual reality. The Church is the body of Christ through which we become united to Jesus, who is the head of the Church. In this way we can say that the Church is “one” meaning it is united in Jesus. Our membership in this unified family begins with our baptism and is completed when we are confirmed and receive the Eucharist.
Edmund: Well, that would include all people throughout all of time as well, right?
Emily: Yes, the family of God includes everyone who has been baptized into the Church throughout all time. We’re all united and part of the family of God, the Church. The Church isn’t perfect, in fact it’s full of sinners in need of a savior. And these sinners become holy through the help of God’s grace. Every age throughout history has been filled with the saints, who are wonderful examples of sinners transformed by the grace of Jesus and their union with the Church.
Edmund: These people are witnesses to Jesus’ holiness and love in the world. This is how we can say the Church is “Holy”. So Jesus makes us holy.
Emily: Yeah. his means the Church is an invitation for all men and women, throughout all time, throughout the whole world. Everyone is invited to join the family of God, and to be united in Christ in the Church. This is what we actually mean when we say the church is “catholic”.
Edmund: Well wait, I thought that was just the name of our religion.
Emily: Well, in some ways yes, but the word itself means “universal”, or “containing the whole”. The Church has the fullness of faith, and truth, and the sacraments, and Jesus. And this fullness has always been there since Jesus instituted the Church.
Edmund: Not just a building.
Emily: It’s great to have church buildings. But yes, we’re talking about the family of God. The church is Catholic because it is given and sent out to the whole human race.
Edmund: The Catechism says in paragraph 845: To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son’s Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is “the world reconciled.”
Emily: We’ve said the church is one, holy, and catholic. But one very crucial quality of the church is that it is apostolic.
Edmund: Okay I know there were apostles that followed Jesus.
Emily: Many people followed Jesus and were considered his disciples, but there were certain disciples Jesus himself chose for the special work of being an apostle because they were sent out by Jesus as witnesses and guardians of everything he taught. The Apostles are special witnesses Jesus chose himself, and these apostles hand on the deposit of faith.
Edmund: Do we have apostles today?
Emily: We have successors to the apostles, called bishops. Apostolic succession means the Church can be traced back through all the bishops directly to the first apostles and ultimately, to Jesus.
Edmund: So the Church is the family of God, and God invites everyone to enter this family. And this family of God, the Church, is special because it is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. And in the Church, we are invited to become united to Jesus and everyone who is part of this family of God.
Emily: Because the Church is more than just a building. The Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The Church is the family of God. And the Church can be your home.