Apologetic Track Mark of the Church: One

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                         Mark of the Church: One:
                                 


“It is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities.” (CCC 811)

There are many Christian fellowships and communities calling themselves churches.  Each claims to be the authentic Church founded by Jesus Christ or the one that is most identified with Jesus.  What distinguishes the true Church from all others?

In the Scriptures Jesus gives us the distinguishing marks identifying the Church he established.  These are basically four: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.

One:

As Christians, we believe in the One God who is Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Because of this unity, we believe that Jesus made it very clear in several places in the Gospels that unity was to be a hallmark of his disciples and therefore his Church.  It is also clear that the early Church saw this as important for it.

Jesus said: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (Jn 10:16)

Here Jesus was referring to the Gentiles who would join the Jewish converts and form one flock under His one shepherd.
St. Paul alluded to this oneness in his Letter to the Ephesians.  “For he is our peace, he who made both (Jews and Gentiles) one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in the place of two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it.” (Eph 2: 14-16)

In Jesus’ prayer to the Father at the Last Supper —part of his Last Will and Testament — he prayed: "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. “ (Jn 17:20-21)

The oneness of the followers of Jesus was to reflect the oneness that Jesus had with the Father (and the Holy Spirit) as well as the fact that He was the one sent by the Father.

This mark of oneness in his Church was to be an additional verification of the identity and mission of Jesus to the world.

In the Acts of the Apostles we read: “The community of believers was of one heart and mind.”  This was a hallmark of the first century Christians. 

This unity was identified as a call from baptism by Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians: “I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one  baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. “ (Eph 4:1-6)

Notice the various aspects of the oneness within the true Church of Jesus Christ: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.

Oneness is a mark of the Church even though lived oneness is not always the reality, due to our human weaknesses.

In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul addresses their divisions and factions: “I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.”
(1 Cor 1:10)

Later in the same letter Paul becomes very specific, using the analogy of the human body to identify the unity of the Church.  “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit…Now the body is not a single part, but many.  But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.  Now you are Christ's body, and individually parts of it.” (1Cor 12:13, 19-20, 27) Even in diversity of culture, language and ethnicity there is unity. 

How is the oneness of the Catholic Church manifested?  Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians, quoted above, talks about one faith. The teachings of the Church in Europe, America and Africa are the same in Asia and South America.  We profess one and the same faith.

There is a oneness in worship (the celebration of same Mass) and the same seven Sacraments of the Church among Catholics no matter where they are.

There is a oneness in authority reflected in the Pope in union with the college of Bishops who are joined by the ordained ministers in the service of God’s people.

Even when there is division within the Church, the division is in the accidents not in the essentials. Some individuals may disagree but the teaching is universally the same.

The Catholic Church reflects the mark of Oneness called forth by Jesus.



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