Pope Francis continued his teaching series on the Church, explaining how the Body of Christ is a visible expression of the very life of God. Referring to a passage in Ezekiel, he warned that the mission of this vital, mystical entity is often derailed by the sins of its members.
The pope reminded the faithful that “the image of the body is used when one wants to show how the elements that make up a reality are closely united with one another and form together one thing.” He emphasized that it is not just “a body built in the Spirit , the Church is the Body of Christ. This is not just a figure of speech. It is what we truly are! It is the great gift that we received on the day of our Baptism!”
Pope Francis invites us to read Ezekiel chapter 37 which describes the Spirit of God breathing life into a Valley of Dry Bones. Francis always emphasizes that God is in charge and in control of the Church, not man. In Ezekiel, it is God who, through the prophet, sends the Spirit upon the skeletons. Ezekiel humbly admits he doesn’t know what God’s plan is. Similarly, it is God Himself who breathes His life into the Body, the Church.
Francis explained that”the vision of Prophet Ezechiel, in which God’s Spirit gives flesh and life to a field of dry bones, is a foreshadowing of the Church, filled with the Spirit’s gift of new life in Christ and united in fellowship and love.”
In addition, it is important to notice God sends Ezekiel in the midst of a rebellious house of the exiled Israelites. The dry bones are Israel, cut off from the of life God. By zeroing in on this scene of the Valley of Dry Bones, the pope makes a parallel connection with individual members of the modern Church who act like the rebellious house of Israel, “with the experience of division, of jealousies, of misunderstandings and marginalizations”. He said this “dismembers us” and moreover is the beginning of a war. “War does not begin on the battlefield: war, wars begin in the heart, with this misunderstanding, division, envy, with this fighting among each other”.
No one is superior in the community of the Church, and when we feel tempted to think of ourselves as superior “especially to those who perform the most humble and hidden services” the Pope said we should “remember our sins” in shame before God.The only way to counter such division is to appreciate the individual qualities and gifts of others and give thanks to God for them.
The pope’s reference to Ezekiel is not only an allegory of a mission to Israel, its an allegory of the Church’s mission. Given life by the Spirit, we are sent to proclaim God’s word and to bring the world back to Him. Only the Spirit gives life to the Church, heals division and empowers the Church to serve. The Church, understood as the Body of Christ, is a profound communion of love and part of this missions is “always showing generous concern for our brothers and sisters in need.”
With God in charge, the Church “is beautiful. It is a masterpiece, a masterpiece of the Spirit, in which the new life of the Risen One is infused and puts one next to the other, one at the service and support of the other, thus making us all one body, built in communion and love.”