Saturday, October 31, 2015

Daily Thought For October 31, 2015

Why The Church Is Important

To put it quite concretely: It is the Church that, despite all the human foibles of the people in her, gives us Jesus Christ, and only through her can we receive him as a living, authoritative reality that summons and endows me here and now. Henri de Lubac formulated this state of affairs as follows: “Do they realize that if they still receive Christ, it is to the Church they owe it?… Jesus lives for us. But without the visible continuity of the Church, the desert sands would have long since swallowed up, if not perhaps his name and his memory, certainly the influence of his gospel and faith in his divinity.… ‘Without the Church, Christ evaporates or is fragmented or cancels himself out.’ And without Christ what would man be?” This elementary acknowledgment has to be made at the start: Whatever infidelity there is or may be in the Church, however true it is that she constantly needs to be measured anew by Jesus Christ, still there is ultimately no opposition between Christ and Church. It is through the Church that he remains alive despite the distance of history, that he speaks to us today, is with us today as master and Lord, as our brother who unites us all as brethren. And because the Church, and she alone, gives us Jesus Christ, causes him to be alive and present in the world, gives birth to him again in every age in the faith and prayer of the people, she gives mankind a light, a support, and a standard without which humanity would be unimaginable. Anyone who wants to find the presence of Jesus Christ in humanity cannot find it contrary to the Church but only in her.
With that we have already made the next point. I am in the Church for the same reasons that I am a Christian in the first place. For one cannot believe alone. One can believe only as a fellow believer. Faith is by its very nature a force for unification. Its primordial image is the story of Pentecost, the miracle of understanding among people who by their origins and history are foreign to one another. Faith is ecclesial or it is not faith. Furthermore, just as one cannot believe alone but only as a fellow believer, neither can one believe on the basis of one’s own authority and ingenuity, but only when there is an authorization to believe that is not within my power and does not come from me but rather goes before me. A faith of one’s own devising is an oxymoron. For a self-made faith would only vouch for and be able to say what I already am and know anyway; it could not go beyond the boundary of my ego. Hence a self-made Church, a congregation that creates itself, that exists by its own graces, is also an oxymoron. Although faith demands communion, it is the sort of communion that has authority and takes the lead, not the sort that is my own creation, the instrument of my own wishes.

Ratzinger, J. (2009). Credo for Today: What Christians Believe. (M. J. Miller, H. Taylor, M. F. McCarthy, A. Walker, J. R. Foster, G. Harrison, & M. J. O’Connell, Trans.) (pp. 193–194). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.