The next five sections state and develop the theme of the catholicity of the Church. Where do we get such an audacious and bold notion? From the Gospels themselves:
61. Brothers and sons and daughters, at this stage of our reflection, we wish to pause with you at a question which is particularly important at the present time. In the celebration of the liturgy, in their witness before judges and executioners and in their apologetical texts, the first Christians readily expressed their deep faith in the Church by describing her as being spread throughout the universe. They were fully conscious of belonging to a large community which neither space nor time can limit: From the just Abel right to the last of the elect,[Saint Gregory the Great, Homil. in Evangelia 19, 1: PL 76, 1154] “indeed to the ends of the earth,[Acta 1:8; cf. Didache 9, 1: Fund Patres Apostolici, 1, 22] “to the end of time.”[Mt 28:20]
This is how the Lord wanted His Church to be: universal, a great tree whose branches shelter the birds of the air,[Cf. Mt 13:32] a net which catches fish of every kind[Cf. Mt 13:47] or which Peter drew in filled with one hundred and fifty-three big fish,[Cf. Jn 21:11] a flock which a single shepherd pastures.[Cf. Jn 10:1-16] A universal Church without boundaries or frontiers except, alas, those of the heart and mind of sinful man.
Those of us with the pope often confront the matter of which identifies us: being Roman or being Catholic? Or catholic?
The first and original quality of the Church before large-C, is our catholicity, our universality. Sinful minds and hearts, as Pope Paul suggests, limit our reach, our abilities, and our vision. In the next few posts, we’ll look at sections 62-65 and explore the notions of being different, being apart, and being one–and how these impact our evangelical efforts. After all, our mandate from the Lord knows no limit in space (Acts 1:8) or time (Mt 28:20).