God not people made Church: BXI

22 Oct 2008

By The Record

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The church is not a club founded by people with a common interest; it is a living body convoked and created by God, Pope Benedict XVI said.

It is through the proclamation of the living Christ that “God comes to all peoples and reunites them as one people of God,” the pope said on October 15 at his weekly general audience.
The pope focused on St Paul’s teachings on the church and its meaning during the audience with 25,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Square.
The Greek word “ekklesia,” which is translated as assembly and church in English, was used in the Old Testament to mean an assembly of the people of Israel summoned or called upon by God, the Pope said.
In his writings, St Paul used the term to mean “the new community of believers in Christ” and “the new convocation of all peoples by God and before God,” the Pope said.
St Paul realised “the God of Israel, through Christ, came to the people… and became the God of all peoples,” the Pope said. Different languages and cultures could not separate the people of God; “everyone was called in their diversity to become part of the one people of God, in the church of God, in Christ,” said the Pope.
This was the essence of St Paul’s evangelical mission – to “embed the community of believers in Christ,” he said.
For St Paul, the Pope said, church meant both an assembly of God’s people in a particular place, city or home, and it also meant “all the church in its entirety.”
The church is not just “a sum of different local churches,” he said. Each local church is in itself a reflection or “realisation of God’s one church,” Pope Benedict said.
St Paul presents this one church of God as “the bride of Christ” that forms, “in love, one body, one spirit with Christ himself,” said the Pope. St Paul also formulated the concept of the church as the body of Christ, said the Pope.
Each individual Christian, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, is an integral part that is necessary for the life and functioning of the body as a whole. And the church is not just a gathering of individuals but “truly becomes the body of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist where everyone receives his body and we truly become his body,” he said.
He said in this way St Paul shows people that the church does not belong to a particular person or group but is precisely the body of Christ, “the church of God, God’s field, God’s building.”
God is no longer confined to sacred places, the Pope said. “God does not live in buildings made of stone; rather God’s presence in the world is in the living community of believers,” he said.
St Paul also referred to the church as the “house of God,” thus adding to it an original sense of community, familiarity and warm personal relationships, said the Pope.
Pope Benedict called on Christians to remember “we are temples of God in the world, places where God truly lives, and we are at the same time a community, a family of God.”