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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories - Church: A Sacramental Community of Jesus the Christ

Prophets: Throughout the Old Testament these figures are the voice of God in the midst of God’s People, a sign or sacrament of God’s continual loving presence for Israel. That loving presence continues into the New Testament in the sacrament or sign that is the Church. In the community of disciples that gathers as church, we see how what is referred to as “sacramentality” reveals God’s constant active presence in humanity.

Sacramentality lies at the base of our Catholic tradition and practice. Through it, we identify who we are. Its origins rest in the very beginning of creation and life. The Genesis story of Creation opens with the breath (Spirit) of God sweeping over the “formless void”. (Gen.1:1-2). All life reveals the life-giving love of God. At the center of our New Testament lie the wonders of the Incarnation – “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)” Jesus the Christ is the sacrament of God among us, bringing the active presence of God among humanity.

It is no small thing that Jesus surrounded himself with a group of disciples, and with them sought to share good news with crowds of people. After his death and resurrection, as the Risen One, he appeared most often to groups of disciples. It was when they gathered to share the faith they had in this Jesus that this community of Jesus’s friends had their hearts opened and were able to “see” that he was risen and remained among them.

These gatherings of the first disciples were the beginnings of what we call “church”. The disciples as they gathered formed the sacrament of Jesus the Christ. The Book of the Acts in the New Testament tells the story of our emergence and awareness of who we are, the sacrament of Jesus continuing among us all, even now. The Pentecost event tells the story of our beginnings as the Spirit or the breath of God is poured out upon the community of disciples. As church we are touched by this life-giving Spirit.

It is also no small thing that where we are most aware of our faith as disciples of Jesus is when we join together to share our stories, and around the Eucharistic table, break bread and share the cup. Our faith is about the Risen Jesus, not just in “me”, but in all of us. This is the whole point of our tradition and practice of the sacraments. Through them we are truly a community of disciples, a church.

Our Eucharistic gathering is our central sacrament. The other sacraments of our tradition flow from the actions of a Eucharistic community of disciples who recognize the Spirit of Jesus the Christ active in our midst. Thus, gathering at the Table of the Eucharist as church, we discover that we take on the mission of Jesus ourselves – to share Good News. As Jesus came to build the reign of God among us, so we build that reign in the place and time in which we live.

Luke captures this in his telling of the good news. Fundamentally it is a message and task of building peace as an expression of God’s loving dream for all creation. It is to the broken and the suffering, to the sick and wounded, the poor and lost, oppressed and forgotten we go as church declaring as Luke expresses it: “The Kingdom of God has come near to you (Luke 10:9).

As a Eucharistic community we are the sacrament of Jesus. He spoke to crowds of people. He gathered a community of disciples. He acted to heal and reconcile relationships. So often he sought to include all, to liberate all, to bring back those who found themselves isolated and left out. Jesus revealed an openness to all, especially the lost, the wounded, the poor and the excluded.

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