Why belong to the Church?

When he travelled to Germany, Pope Benedict met with reporters on the plane and responded to a number of questions. One of the Holy Father’s responses in particular has caught the attention of many throughout the Church, especially those involved in various aspects of parish work. The reporter noted that many people in Germany are leaving the Church for various reasons and asked Pope Benedict to comment on this phenomenon.

Pope Benedict said, “I think it important to ask oneself; “Why am I in the Church? Do I belong to the Church as I would to a sports club, a cultural association, etc., where I have my interests, such that I can leave if those interests are no longer satisfied? Or is being in the Church something deeper?”

The Holy Father continued, “I would say it is important to know that being in the Church is not like being in some association, but it is being in the net of the Lord, with which he draws good fish and bad fish from the waters of death to the land of life. It is possible that I might be alongside bad fish in this net and I sense this, but it remains true that I am in it neither for the former nor for the latter but because it is the Lord’s net; it is something different from all human associations, a reality that touches the very heart of my being. In speaking to these people I think we must go to the heart of the question: what is the Church? In what does her diversity consist? Why am I in the Church even though there are terrible scandals and terrible forms of human poverty? Therefore, we should renew our awareness of the special nature of “being Church,” of being the people made up of all peoples, which is the People of God, and thereby learn to tolerate even scandals and work against these scandals from within, precisely by being present within the Lord’s great net.”

What can we take from the Pope's words? Parishes are communities blessed with many people of diverse backgrounds and shaped by equally diverse life-experiences and understandings of both the Church and the Catholic Faith. Yet as a Church we pray each time the Most Holy Eucharist is celebrated that we become, “One body, one spirit in Christ.”

Certainly the work of Christian Unity within a parish is first and foremost the work of the Holy Spirit. The ongoing Divine Work of the Holy Spirit is needed to combat evil that wants to “tear apart (the literal meaning of the word diabolic)” the Church and Her members.

But there are also attitudes alive and well within each of us that pose obstacles to unity that are contrary to Jesus own prayer He made to His Father the night before He died for us, “And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me (John 17:22-23).”

Each of us asking “why I believe, why I am part of a parish, why I participate in Sunday Mass” can be the start of reconnecting with faith in an invigorating and conscious way. Reflecting on the Pope’s words can be a start of moving from complacency and apathy to a faith that encompasses and animates every aspect of our existence and leads to building up the Body of Christ in unity.

No comments:

Post a Comment