Pope Benedict: Christ Founded The Church In Order To Bring Answers To All Mankind
Humankind cannot know the full truth about God or about itself as God intended in isolation of the teaching of the Church.
Christians of the first centuries said, "The world was created for the sake of the Church." God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the "convocation" of men in Christ, and this "convocation" is the Church. The Church is the goal of all things, and God permitted such painful upheavals as the angels' fall and man's sin only as occasions and means for displaying all the power of his arm and the whole measure of the love he wanted to give the world: Just as God's will is creation and is called "the world," so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called "the Church." (CCC 760)
If we want to know what it means to be human, understand our human story and God's story revealed to us, then we need listen to the Church, the Bride of Christ whose words are the words of life.
"The pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes asks key questions on human existence," continued the Pope, "the meaning of life and death, evil, disease and suffering, all present in our world. It recalls that, in His paternal goodness, God brings answers to all these questions and that Christ founded His Church in order to bring those answers to all mankind. This is the reason why one of the gravest problems of our time is the ignorance of religion on the part of many men and women, also among the Catholic faithful."
While Pope Benedict was speaking directly to the bishops of France, his perennial words do not apply only to Europe but are of universal value for the whole world. They are certainly relevant to the grave situation in the U.S. in which many millions of Christians, Catholic and otherwise, are lacking in catechesis, and therefore remain ignorant of religion and of an understanding of the nature and purpose of holy mother Church. Such a situation has serious consequences for individuals and society collectively.
The Church Is Necessary
In the first place, we need to understand the "why" of the Church. That is, why did Christ found the Church? He certainly did not found the Church on a whim, as a merely pleasant addition to an otherwise humdrum and meager life, as some trivial but perhaps entertaining thing of personal preference in which we might want to consider taking part in order to boost social morale. On the contrary, the Church is necessary. What God has done and continues to do is of supreme importance.
The fact that Christ founded the Church on St. Peter, gave him the keys to the kingdom and the power to bind and loose (see Mt. 16:18-20), and promised to be with his Church "always, to the close of the age" (Mt. 28:20), ought to get our attention. That Jesus gave authority to his Church should very quickly erase any tendency one might have toward religious indifferentism (see Mt. 18:15 ff.).
In light of the fact that Christ gave authority to his Church and promised to be with her always, it becomes obvious that there is extant an authoritative, definite and specific Church, given by God the power to rule on faith and morals. The Church, then, cannot be reduced to the abstract. To say she consists of only and nothing more than a group of people who call themselves Christian, lacking a visible authoritative body (which we refer to as the Magisterium) and consequently living an existence of doctrinal limbo of sorts, is to deny the express teaching of Sacred Scripture.
Christians are to live as one body in one Spirit, one in Faith as children of the Church. It was Jesus Christ who prayed that "those who believe" in him through the teaching of the apostles "may all be one" (Jn 17:20-21). Also, St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all" (4:4-6).
Further, at the Last Supper Christ instituted the divine liturgy and the Eucharist, the center and summit of the Church's life, when he took the bread into his hands, blessed it and broke it, gave it to his apostles and said, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me" (Lk 22:19). While people heavily influenced by the individualism of the age are often repulsed by the word "command," it is nevertheless important to note that there is no prepositional phrase in Luke 22:19. Christ did not say, "Provided you approve, do this in remembrance of me." "Do this . . ." is a phrase which expresses an obligation, a command.
God's word is not a passive reality, something which can be rejected or ignored without consequence. Everyone is called to enter into the womb of the Church, live out a sacramental life through the divine liturgy, and attain to spiritual perfection and holiness as children of the Church. God calls us not to the mediocre but to the great, the sublime, the unfathomable richness and beauty of life as members of the divine family.
Nevertheless, there is always the question, do I (we/society) need the Church? In ...
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