We’re told by the Holy Father that the internet is to be used for evangelization and catechesis (and maybe a bit of quirky humor?) You might think this blog is just the random rolling stream of consciousness of a Catholic priest with too much time on his hands, but there is method to my madness.
I try on this blog to mix stuff English and American, Catholic and Anglican, personal and universal. The aim is to inspire, annoy, encourage, educate and entertain.
As part of the purpose is to educate, here beginneth the lesson: During Advent a precis of the Pope’s Wednesday catechesis from March 2006 to February 2007 published in book form called The Apostles.
Benedict XVI begins with the Scriptural statement that the Church is built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has, from the beginning revealed himself through his relationship with his people. He uses individuals to accomplish his plan, but the individuals are always set in a context of the holy people of God. In other words, God works through families.
The Pope then knocks on the head the modern, individualistic, Protestant interpretation of religion. Jesus’ call to the individual is important, but it is not of the essence of who he is or what he came to do. He came within the context of community and he establishes his new covenant with a new community. He comes within the twelve tribes of Israel and he establishes the new Israel by choosing the twelve apostles. To be a Christian you have to be part of this community. The slogan, “God yes, Religion no” is vapid and cannot be Christian.
Jesus takes the twelve up the mountain to make them witnesses and heralds of the new covenant. The mountain is the symbol of the establishment of the new relationship between God and Man. It was on a mountain that Abraham gave his son, his only son, on a mountain that the ten commandments were given; on a mountain that Elijah heard the still, small voice, and it is on a mountain that Zion is built–the city of God–the old Jerusalem and the New.
In Revelation this everlasting city has four walls, and on the foundations are inscribed the names of the twelve apostles.
All that to say this: Jesus gives his own ministry to the twelve. He establishes them as the foundation of the Church. He says on them he will build his church. At the Last Supper he commands them to bring him to his people through the Eucharist. There he gives them the power to forgive sins. Finally, he tells them to go into all the world to spread this good news.
The Pope is quite firm about this: you can’t be saved without the witness of the Apostles, and the church, in the widest understanding of apostolic succession, continues the apostolic witness in the world today, and you can’t therefore have a valid encounter with Christ outside the Church. The Church, after all, is the Body of Christ, and it is through the Church (established on the foundation of the Apostles) that we encounter him.
If you believe you have encountered Christ outside the Church, you have no guarantee. That wonderful religious experience might have been the result of the manipulations of a clever evangelist, your own psychological projections, your wishful imagination, your own sentimental ‘spiritual’ experience, or even the result of a very good dinner.
Within the church, however, you may experience objectivity; reality. A Rock. Something solid and something sure.