Father James Schall, S.J.–The Beginning of the Mystery (and the Nature of the Church's Mission)

In the Freiburg Concert Hall, Benedict frankly told the German leaders: “For some time now we have been experiencing a decline in religious practice and we have been seeing substantial numbers of the baptized drifting away from church life.” Benedict is a realist. So demands for change arise, changes almost always modeled on secular institutions and not on the sources of the original founding of the Church. Such radical changes would never work. The Church is of divine, not human law, in its essence.

Here, Benedict recalls that someone once asked Mother Teresa this same question about what needs to be changed in the Church. Her answer was “you and I.” Chesterton was once asked a similar question. “What’s wrong with the world?” He answered with wonderful brevity and profundity, “I am.” Mother Teresa meant by this response that the Church is not “other people.” “Every Christian and the whole community of the faithful are called to constant change,” change away from sin, change to accept what is revealed, to accept what is true. What sort of change? “The fundamental motive for change is the apostolic mission of the disciples and the Church herself.” Why is this? It is because ultimately this mission is not of our own making and arises from God’s presence in the world.

The Church is to keep its mission in mind. Christians are told: “You are witnesses.” They are not, at bottom, originators. They are to pass along what is heard, what is witnessed to every age and place. All nations, all times, and all places are in the original intention of the Church’s founding. This means that we must not think as the world, for something less than what we are. The Church must be rather in a way “unworldly.”

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