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THEOLOGY IV The Church: The People of God Exposition: To help us understand better the relationship of the Church with

Christ and the relationship of the members of the Church with one another, the documents of the Second Vatican Council offered a number of images. The principal among these was the People of God. It was not a new thing that Vatican II introduced. It was rather a return to what the Church had always been in her earliest beginnings: a community of people called together by God to be His own people! This title People of Godhad deep roots in the Old testament where Israel was constantly referred to as the people whom God formed as his own. Their experience of enslavement in Egypt, their deliverance, their desert experience, and the Sinai covenant led them to clear understanding of Gods calling them to become a people dearer to him than any other. In the story of Exodus (6:7), God made clear his promise to Moses saying I will take you as my own people, and you shall have me as your God.

A.Scripture: In his first letter to newly baptized Christians (1 Peter 2:9-10), Peter applied to them Gods word to the Israelites through Moses in exodus 19:2b-8 You, however, are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people claims for his own to proclaim the glorious works of the One who called you from darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people, but now you are Gods people; once there was no mercy for you but now you have found mercy. Let us reflect on these verses with the help of the following explanations: v.9a chosen race: The special privilege of ancient Israel (cf. Ex. 19:2b-8) is now fully and more fittingly applied to the Christian people indicating their divine election. a royal priesthood: by virtue of their baptism and confirmation, the faithful share in the priesthood of Christ. This means that they share in the life of the Risen Christ which calls them to a life of prayer and thanksgiving, to a life of sacrifice and active charity, and thus, to a life of holiness.

a holy nation: As Israel was holy not by own merits but her being chosen and love d by god., so also is the Church, the New people of God. The covenant relationship is that which empowers the people to be a holy nation consecrated for Gods divine purpose of salvation. a people he claims for his own: Christians have become Gods possession through the shedding of the precious blood of Christ. That they belong in a special way to God is the identity and destiny of Christians. to proclaim the glorious works of the One who called you from darkness: The Christian is by nature a prophet, a proclaimer of the Good News of salvation which he/she first received. v. 10Once you were no people, but now you are Gods people now you have found mercy: The Christian people are the recipient of Gods mercy. It was by Gods initiative of love that Israel was brought out of the darkness of slavery into the light of freedom through the Exodus. The Christian Community is the New Israel, on whom God has bestowed his mercy.

B. Church teaching In thedesire to bring to the consciousness of Christians this beautiful identity of the church, the Second Vatican Council provides in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church ( LumenGentium), no. 9: God has willed to make men and women holy and save them not merely as individuals without any mutual bond but by making into a single people, a people which acknowledges him in truth and serves him in holiness. Prefigured in the Old Covenant which Yahweh set up with the people of Israel, Christ instituted the new covenant in his blood by calling together a people and making them one not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. 1. The image of the Church as the People of God makes clear that she is a community of people that has been formed by Gods desire to save all. As a key theological theme of Vatican II, it stresses that the Church is a human community which enjoys a special relationship with God as her origin, sustainer, and destiny. Indeed, the Church is a community of disciples that has been formed by the Father by sending his son for the salvation of the world, and the Father and the Son by sending the Holy Spirit to keep this community one and to guide her in her journey back to God. The title People of God also stresses the need for participation and dialogue in the on-going life and mission of the Church. This is Christs desire: that we become a communion of life, love, and

truth, a community of faith, hope, and charity (LG 9,10). On the eve of his saving death, Jesus has expressed this as his deepest desire for humanity: Father, may they be one as you and I are one (Jn. 17:21). He wanted to gather us all in unity founded on his union with the Father and the Holy Spirit. 2. Christ expresses the intimacy and unity that he wills between him and the Church by saying that his followers must be like branches attached to him as the Vinefrom whom life and fruitfulness come. They are to be a flock of sheep who listen only to his voice. For them he will lay down his life (cf. Jn. 10: 1-118). St. Paul likewise brings out the nature of the Church as Gods people by writing to the Corinthians that they are the Body of Christ (cf. Cor. 12:12f). Christ is the Head of the community that is made up of many members but only one Body or that is like a building standing on Christ, the Cornerstone (cf. 1 Cor. 3: 9). 3. All are invited into this fellowship and communion of persons. Although each one has a special call and charism,a particular mission and function, all together in Christ they make up a single and united people. All receive the same spirit in Baptism and confirmation and all are nourished in the Eucharist. 4. Sharing in the priesthood of Christ through the grace of baptism, sealed in Confirmation, and nourished in the Eucharist, all the members of the people of God are called to make the world holy and to transform it. This task of every Christian is expressed by Jesus himself in his Sermon on the Mount as that of being salt of the earth and light of the world. It is both a personal and communal calling made stronger and purer by prayer and worship. It is a sharing in Christs mission as priest, Prophet, and the King. As baptized Christians, we live our sharing in Christs priesthood in three ways. a) First of all, by being consecrated to God through the sacrament of baptism, we commit ourselves to doing the will of the Father in our lives in everything we do. b) Secondly, we are called to be Gods instrument in his plan and purpose of transforming and saving the world. c) Above all, our role as the priestly People of God is realized in our worship of God and our life of holiness. When we offer our lives as a sacrifice in union with Christ in the Eucharist, we express in the best way our being the Church, the People of God! This is the so-called common priesthood of the faithful. It is in the context of this priesthood in which we all share by virtue of baptism that we can appreciate most

the role of the ordained priest. They are ordained to the ministerial priesthoodin order to lead the People of God in their worship and their pursuit of a holy life, because of their desire to be light of the world and salt of the earth, and to work for the betterment of the world. As shares in the prophetic mission of Christ, the People of god are called to give witness to Christs presence by their words, actions, and life. By their works of justice and compassion, they proclaim to the rest of the world that God does not want his children to suffer in poverty and powerlessness. Christians are called to be signs of Christs peace and compassion in the face of violence and injustice. As a kingly people, Christians share in the mission and power of Christ as King who came to serve and to give his life as ransom for all. To be a king is to minister and to serve others. Thus, the People of God are called to be servants of all. In giving themselves in service to others, they make present the love of Christ as the Servant King. The will and power of God is brought into effect in the world by the many men and women who live their lives for others. In this way, Gods kingship is realized and his rule prevails!
The Church on the Move Josefina M. Manabat, Ed.D.

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