- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories - The Body of Christ: A Spirit-filled Community of Many Faces
The writer of the Gospel of Luke is a visionary. He presents the story of Jesus the Christ as an expression of the Spirit of God incarnate in the person of Jesus. Luke’s faith is that of a Gentile (non-Jewish) Christian about two generations after the death and resurrection of Jesus, i.e. about 70-90AD. Tapping into his community’s oral memory, as well as that of Mark’s Gospel, Luke sees Jesus as a gift of God’s love for all who share a common humanity and a common home in creation. For Luke this happens through the sharing of the same Spirit among all.
Luke begins the story of Jesus setting out on mission after his baptism by John in the Jordan and his time in the desert (Lk.3:21-22; 4:1-13). The focus and direction of the mission is described by Luke as the work of the Spirit and power of God (Lk.4:14-21). The rest of the Gospel will be centered on this universal gift of God’s Spirit shared by Jesus with his disciples and then through them, with that same Spirit to the ends of the earth.
The sequel to this Gospel, the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, will express this ultimate goal of the Spirit spreading to all humanity. We can find it proclaimed by Peter early in the Acts as a way of great promise. He uses the words of the Old Testament prophet, Joel:
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
(Joel 2:28-29, cf. Acts 2:17-18)
In the early days of the Christianity, St. Paul traveled from one little community of believers to another. As he did so he seemed acutely aware that these early communities were families of believers. Though made up of many very different persons, they shared a common Spirit and were called to live in love, supporting one another. They were one body, unified by the Spirit and called to the same mission. He expressed this vision to a community in Corinth:
Brothers and sisters: Just as the body is one and has many members,
and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is
with Christ. For the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body –
Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
(1 Cor. 12:12-13)
To be baptized is to be in the Body of Christ, a Spirit-filled community that we call Church. This Body of Christ, this Church can be regarded as an organized institution with its beliefs and practices. For most of us, however, what offers us life is the community of persons that surround us. They welcome us, support us, accompany us and nurture us in our journey of faith together. One might say that for most us, Church, the Body of Christ has a face, or faces. These faces are Church for us. There we find the Spirit of the Living God.
Question for Reflection ~ Who are some of the faces who have
been part of your faith journey?