"The Church is a piece of land to be cultivated, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the Prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly Husbandman. The true vine is Christ who gives life and the power to bear abundant fruit to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ without whom we can do nothing."To illustrate this dependency, this grafting on the Lord, let me share with you some profound words of a great woman of the Church, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein] (1891-1942), Carmelite, martyr, co-patroness of Europe, and one who knew what it meant to be intimately connected to the Lord. They are taken from Chapter 6 of her "Essays on Woman" (ICS Publications).
"The notion of the Church as community of the faithful is the most accessible to human reason. Whoever believes in Christ and his gospel, hopes for the fulfillment of his promises, clings to him in love, and keeps his commandments must unite with all who are like-minded in the deepest communion of mind and heart. Those who adhered to the Lord during his stay on earth were the early seeds of the great Christian community; they spread that community and that faith which held them together, until they have been inherited by us today through the process of time. "But, if even a natural human community is more than a loose union of single individuals, if even here we can verify a movement developing into a kind of organic unit, it must be still more true of the supernatural community of the Church. The union of the soul with Christ differs from the union among people in the world: It is a rooting and growing in him (so we are told by the parable of the vine and the branches) which begins in baptism, and which is constantly strengthened and formed through the sacraments in diverse ways. However this real union with Christ implies the growth of a genuine community among all Christians. Thus the Church forms the Mystical Body of Christ. The Body is a living Body, and the spirit which gives the Body life is Christ's spirit, streaming from the head to all parts (Ephesians 5:23,30). The spirit which Christ radiates is the Holy Spirit; the Church is thus the temple of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:21-22)."This week, let us pray that our belonging to Christ be profound and real, going beyond all of the turbulence that exists on life's surface. May Christ's very life flow through us, building up the Body of Christ that is the Church. [The readings for this Sunday are Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8.]