Friday, December 02, 2005

Party of Christ or Church of Jesus Christ?: Introduction

The heading of this short post comes from a title of a chapter of Cardinal Ratzinger's book, Called to Communion. This book was written by Cardinal Ratzinger in 1991, and as short as this book is it contains some profound insights on what it means to be "Church"; insights that are in one way profound yet that are also so obvious it's difficult to understand how many of us easily miss them when discussing issues facing the modern Church. I'd like to devote the next few posts to the Holy Father's thoughts that are spelled out in this book.

If there is one major theme that runs through this book it is this: The Church is created from outside. Anything we have from God, be it faith, the Church, or anything as regards the divine life in the world comes not from our efforts but only from God. The Holy Father writes:

"Faith is not something we excogitate ourselves; man does not make himself a Christian by reflection or ethical achievement. He always becomes a Christian from outside. "

(Called to Communion, pg. 120)

What does this truth mean for us as Church? Speaking of the "parties" that grew up within the Corinthian Church, the Holy Father comments:

"When I advocate a party, it thereby becomes my party, whereas the Church of Jesus Christ is never my Church but always his Church. Indeed, the essence of conversion lies precisely in the fact that I cease to pursue a party of my own that safeguards my interests and conforms to my taste but that I put myself in his hands and become his, a member of his Body, the Church." (emphasis in original)

(Called to Communion, pg. 158)

This insight is so obvious that it really doesn't strike most of us unless we're slapped in the face with it. Amongst all our bickering about what's 'best for the Church' we tend to forget that this isn't our project. It's God's project. Seeing that it's His baby and not ours, we should accept in humility that our own tastes (and our efforts to get others to conform to them) may be clouding any true progress in the Church. True reform will only occur when all sides admit that the Church is not ours to mold or create, it is only ours to receive and accept. When this profound but simple principle is willingly acknowledged, truth rather than opinion will once again become the overriding decisive factor in all our efforts to bring reform to the Church.

God Bless,
Patrick Morris