Let us begin by reflecting on the Bible’s witness concerning the church that Jesus founded.
We know that the Church is ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC. In general we are taught to identify this church with the Roman Catholic Church, which in its concrete organizational form and mode of practicing its mission has often moved far away from what Jesus taught: frequently it has turned into an institution that keeps certain people out, that has marginalized and rejected charismatic communities, that has badly treated many groups and that, finally, decreed our excommunication.

If we do not live in the light of Scripture’s teaching, we can be distressed and frightened, or we can let ourselves be moved by what the people say, whether they say it from ignorance or for the sake of holding onto their power. Thus it is very important that we see what the Church that Jesus founded really is and what are her characteristics so that we may be aware that indeed nobody can excommunicate us and nothing can exclude us from the ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC Church, as Jesus founded it and as Holy Scripture witnesses to it. Let us list eight basic characteristics of the Church. These are based totally on the Bible. They are not our opinions or inventions. This list is based on a famous study by a very famous Catholic Biblical scholar, Father J. Mateos, S.J., translator and editor of “The New Spanish Bible.”

1A church founded on acknowledging Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God

The foundation of the Church is the confession and acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. That is the rock on which it is founded (Matthew 16:18). But to accept Jesus is not just to accept a doctrine; it is something more demanding:
-Mark says that to accept Jesus is “to be with him” (Mark 3:14), that is, to accept his person and his way of life.
-As John expresses it, to accept Jesus is to love Him (John 14:15). To love Jesus is to do what He does and in the way that it does it.
-Matthew and Luke insist on the same thing by quoting Jesus when he said that it is not enough to call him “Lord, Lord,” for one must put Christ’s message into practice (Matthew 7:21; Luke 6:46).
-Thus, to accept Jesus is to follow him. To follow Jesus means to keep close to him,
taking the same road that he took.
-Following means making Jesus’s inner reality one’s own inner reality, to have his same Spirit, his same attitudes.
-The communion of the Spirit with Jesus creates a communion of life with him, which John says is like the union that exists between the vine and the vine branches (John 15:1-4).

2.  A community of the Spirit

-By accepting Jesus, each of the members of the Christian community participates in his Spirit (John 1:16).
-The distinctive trait of the community is the possession of a new life, which is the very life of God.
-By the Spirit the presence of Father and of Jesus is actualized in each person and in the community.
-The presence of the Spirit of Jesus is the mode of permanent presence that takes the place of the corporeal presence of Jesus in the world (John 14:16-19).
-Jesus ranked his presence through the Spirit above his physical presence. Thus he says to his disciples, “It is good that I go away, for if I do not go away, the protector (the Spirit) will not come upon you. Whereas, if I go away, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).
-In this way, the Spirit makes real the unity of the Christian community and the whole Church. It is the unity of life and love that creates equality and results in the unity of a common commitment.
-Within the Church there is unlimited individual diversity, but there is a single goal behind all the differences:  to work to bring life to humanity by proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom of God.
-The Spirit is the one who founds and inspires prayer in the community. Prayer has two aspects, union with God and petition to God. Union with the Father and with Jesus is given by the Spirit himself, for he is the presence of both to the Christian (John 14:23), and the basic Christian prayer consists in being aware of this reality; when it is expressed in words, it turns into praise and thanksgiving.
-In John 20:21ff, the delivery of the mission task follows immediately on the gift of the Spirit. For the Spirit, being love, impels the commitment to humanity; being life, he can give life to men and women; being power, he sustains them in difficulties and persecution (Mark 13:11: “When they deliver you up, do not take care what you are going to say, but say what is given to you in that hour, for it is not you who are speaking, but the Holy Spirit”).
-Indeed, in the midst of persecution, the Spirit keeps the community from being frightened or feeling guilty for not accepting the values and standards of the unjust society that judges and condemns it. The Spirit makes it see that, in spite of rejection and condemnation, in Jesus is life and in traditional institutions is death (John 16:8-11).

3.  A community of free people

-The freedom distinctive to the followers of Jesus comes from the fact that in the new community everyone possesses the same Spirit, who establishes in each one a relation with the Son and the Father.
-This relation excludes fear (I John 4:18:  “In love there is no fear …; who still feels fear has not attained to love”), for the Father does not demand submission and obedience; what he hopes and wishes is the likeness of his children to himself (Matthew 5:48: “Let there be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds”).
-The experience of God as Father, and not as Lord or King, creates Christians’ fundamental freedom, liberating them from all slavery and submission (John 8:32, 36). This condition is reflected in the Christian community, where there are not some who command and others who obey, some who are above and others below; mutual relationship is friendship (3 John 15).
-Jesus affirmed this kind of freedom when he was reproached for not following the tradition of spiritual teachers who imposed hard disciplines on their followers (Mark 2:18: the fast). For Jesus, the festival mood that should exist in his community (like that of a wedding) keeps sadness away, and the chain that binds the disciples to him is not that of obedience but of friendship (Mark 2:19, “the bridegroom’s friends;” Luke 12:4; John 15:15).
-Jesus, therefore, does not want his disciples to maintain a childish dependency on him, for he wants adults, people who are autonomous, responsible for their life and their activity.
-The experience of freedom distinctive to Jesus and the disciples has to be conveyed to other people. Thus, in the episodes with the loaves, Jesus or the disciples acting on his instructions make the people lie down on the grass or on the ground to eat (Mark 6:39; 8:6), signifying by that the freedom to which they are called.

4.  A community of equals

-Matthew makes plain the basic equality of the members of Jesus’ community in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (19:30-20:16). The parable shows clearly that all those called to work for a new life (“the vine,” symbol of the Kingdom of God) receive the same wage, independently of the time of the call and regardless of the fatigue from work.
-The equal wage for all is a figure of the Spirit of life, which every member of the community receives as the fruit of his work, of his decision and dedication.
-According to the parable, in the new community work is not to be done from a desire for recompense, but from a will to serve; it is the spontaneous fruit of the Spirit of life.
-One does not work to create inequality and privilege, but to procure equality among all, and this must be manifest in the Christian community.
-The quantity or quality of work or of service, the age, the size of the return on the investment must not create situations of privilege nor be a source of merit, for this service is to be the disinterested response to a free appeal.
-Jesus himself establishes a relation of equality with his disciples by calling them “friends” (Mark 2:17; cf. Luke 12:4; John 15:15) AND “brothers” (Mark 3:35; cf. Matthew 28:10, John 20:17). Therefore he prohibits everything that might create inequality among his followers (Matthew 23:8-10).
-Equality does not mean that the community is not organized, for organization is necessary for it to be able to develop its internal and external activities.
-But the organization is based precisely on the reality of the gifts, that is, on the inborn or acquired gifts of the members, empowered by the Spirit and placed at the service of love.
-Each person’s gift, recognized by the community, enables that person to carry out certain functions for the group and to conduct certain activities. It is necessary to keep in mind that the organization is simply for practical ends, and is not a matter of a fixed, permanent institution; its standard is need or suitability for the mission above all else. And it is necessary always to remember that in the Christian community one’s personal qualities or the responsibilities that one takes on do not make one superior to anyone else.

5. A community open to everyone

-In contrast to the particularism and exclusivity of first-century Jewish society, Jesus opens the doors to all—those who are excluded, and those who are marginalized inside and outside of Jewish society. He approaches socially despised people, particularly the unbelievers, who are called sinners by those who observe the law. Not only does he approach them, but he also invites them to be part of his group (Mark 2:14), that it may consist both of people originally from the religious system and also of others excluded from it.
-This is shown in the banquet that is celebrated after the call of Levi, the tax-collector/sinner, a representative of this kind of marginalized person. Tax-collectors and unbelievers, who in the person of Levi are seen as accepted participants, sit at dinner with Jesus and his disciples (followers coming from Judaism), and they are treated as equals (Mark 2:15). This banquet is a metaphor of the universal community of Jesus, for in addition to the unbelieving Israelites the road is open to pagans, who are the  “unbelievers” par excellence for the Jews.
-Jesus affirms not only the equality of all individual human beings, but also the equality of peoples. Accepting pagans and integrating them into the new society is expressed by Mark in his account of the paralytic (2:1-13). In this story, four litter bearers (the four cardinal points of the compass; 2:3) represent the humanity that is coming near to Jesus wanting salvation; the paralytic represents the same humanity that, because of death/sin (paralysis), needs to be saved. In contrast to the contempt with which the Jews rejected pagan peoples, who were, according to the official theology, destined to be subordinated to Israel, Jesus’s actions and attitude toward them aim to erase the past of injustice, which has paralyzed them and prevented their development (2:5) and convey new life to them, life in the Spirit (2:10), which empowers them to attain full humanity.
-Matthew’s and Luke’s stories that describe the cure of the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10) announce the salvation that Jesus’s message offers to humanity without distinction of nation, race or religion.
-John expresses this universal offering of salvation in the story of curing the son of the royal officer (John 4:46b-54). Matthew and Luke indicate the same in announcing the joy of the messianic banquet (symbol of the future society) shared by people coming from the four cardinal points, whereas Israel, as a physical group that refuses the universal program of Jesus is excluded from it (Matthew 8:10-12; Luke 13:28-30). Jesus affirms the same thing in the parable of the murdering vineyard workers (Mark 12:9) and in the parable of those invited to the banquet (Matthew 22:1-10; Luke 14:15-24).
-The letter to the Ephesians formulates God’s plan to bring history to its fulfillment: “that the universe, all in heaven and on earth, might be brought into a unity in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:10).

6.  A community of solidarity and mutual support

-According to Jesus, the choice to be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3) is an indispensable condition for the new society to begin—or for the Church as he wanted it to be and founded it to be—(the beginning of the new society signals the presence of the “Kingdom of God”). Members of the community have to make this fundamental choice (Matthew 16:24; “If anyone wishes to be a follower of me, he must leave self behind,” that is, he must renounce every ambition).
-From this comes Jesus’s recommendation that his followers not accumulate wealth nor put their confidence in money (Matthew 6:19-21). Likewise, the incompatibility between faithfulness to God and the worship of money (Matthew 6:24) indicates the fundamental importance of the choice to be poor in spirit.
-Sharing is taught by sharing; such is the lesson that Jesus gives in the stories of the loaves (Mark 6:34-45; 8:1-9). When the multitude gets hungry, the disciples are unsympathetic and ask Jesus to dismiss the people so that each person might arrange for himself however he can (Mark 6:36). When Jesus tells the disciples to give them something to eat, they object that there is no money to buy food (Mark 6:37). In response, Jesus gathers all the food that the people do have and gives it to his disciples so that they may serve it to the people (Mark 6:41; 8:6). The abundance of the leftovers (Mark 6:43, 8:8) shows the efficacy of sharing. These stories teach that if there is solidarity the problem of hunger will be solved. And the mission of the Christian community is to show a solidarity that inspires other people to be generous.
-This does not have only a material meaning, but also and above all it refers to sharing life in the Spirit, which is the most necessary gift that Christ gives and is the secret of the Church and new humanity.

7.  A community of service

- Jesus’s twelve disciples came from Judaism and retained the hierarchical mentality distinctive of the Jewish world. Each one wanted to make himself superior to the others (Mark 9:33b-34).
-Jesus reacts by rejecting this attitude and proclaiming the principle that in his community “to be first,” that is, to be closest to him, is to have renounced all ambition of power and domination (9:35:  “to be last of all”) and to want to be of service to all the members of the community (“servant of all”).
-To provide an example, he puts before them a follower whom Mark introduces as “a child” (9:36a), taking up in this metaphor the terms of “last” and “servant”: Jesus embraces this follower, showing his identification with and affection for him (9:36b).
-The ambition of the Twelve returns during the ascent to Jerusalem (Mark 10:32-34). The sons of Zebedee ask Jesus to let them occupy the first seats in the messianic kingdom, which, they were hoping, Jesus was about to inaugurate in the capital (10:37). The ambition of the two brothers provokes the indignation of the other members of the group (10:41), who in their hearts are aspiring to the same place. Jesus takes advantage of the occasion to confront them with the fact that the messianic ideal they hold is no different from all the other tyrannies imposed on humanity (10:42).
-He insists that his followers maintain the attitude that is to distinguish them: to be “first” one must put oneself at the service of all the members of the community (cf. Matthew 23:11; Luke 22:24-27); to be “great” one must become a “servant,” that is, to be in solidarity with the oppressed of the whole of humanity. 
-Thus, following Jesus no Christian may demand service from the community, but rather is to give service, and be ready to work fearlessly for the liberation of all the oppressed (Mark 10:44).
-In the Gospel of John, the meaning of serving people is made concretely specific in the story of the washing of feet (John 13:2-17).

8. A missionary community

-The Church as Jesus founds it is, definitively, ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC.
-It is One, for the Holy Spirit, who is indivisible, is its center and its life.
-It is Holy, for all its members have been sanctified by the Spirit and made children of God by participating in the life of the Spirit.
It is Catholic for it is open to all humanity. It has space for every one.
-It is Apostolic for it receives the same command as did the apostles: to go into all the world, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom and of the new life for all humanity, without distinction of any kind.
-In light of the foregoing we thoughtfully conclude: undoubtedly, as the Scripture teaches and as the Spirit witnesses in our hearts, what we are doing and the way we are living through the Church corresponds exactly to what Jesus wanted. It corresponds to the ONE HOLY, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC Church that he founded. Even the critics and persecutors are a sign that confirms that what we are doing is genuine and authentic.