The idea that the Church is the "People of God" surfaced recently in our Parish Bulletin. This identification of the Church with the people reduces the concept "church" from that which the Church really intends for it.
According to Pope Benedict "the Church does not exhaust herself in the 'collective' of the believers being the 'Body of Christ'; she is much more than the simple sum of her members" ( The Ratzinger Report, Ch 3).
The society structured with hierarchical organs, and the mystical Body of Christ, form one complex reality comprising a human and a divine element ( Lumen Gentium, 8.) The Church is both human and divine. In her the human is directed towards and subordinate to the divine ( Catechism of the Catholic Church, 771).
The expression "People of God" occurs in the Old Testament and refers to the people of Israel (Exodus 6:7, Deuteronomy 4:20), however the Church receives her New Testament character more distinctively in the concept of the Body of Christ.
One reality is church, and the other is its members, not through a sociological adherence but through incorporation in this Body of Christ through Baptism and the Eucharist. The Church is not ours, she is His ( Ratzinger Report).
Disregard of this Catholic concept of the Church has, according to Pope Benedict, seen a consequence in the decline of obedience ( Ratzinger Report).
Another consequence was pointed out by Robert Kraynak ( Christian Faith and Modern Democracy, Ch 4). The rejection of the Catholic concept of the Church diminishes its mystical or divine foundation, as it encourages a change of tone in worship, from a solemn worship instilling sacred awe, to a civic assembly or communal meal for the People of God.
Instead of offering an alternative to the prevailing secular culture, the Church becomes a mirror image of modern society, and weakens its ability to stand as a counter culture in the world.
The Church is holy (CCC, 823); she is the Bride of Christ for which He unceasingly cares (CCC 796 and 808); she has no other light than Christ's; she is like the moon with all its light reflected from the sun (CCC 748).
It is in the Church that Christ fulfils and reveals His own mystery as the purpose of God's plan: to unite all things in Him (CCC 772) the Church is Christ's instrument for the salvation of all (CCC, 776); the Church is the Kingdom of Christ already present in mystery ( Lumen Gentium, 3).
JOHN FREY (DR)