Party of Christ… or Church of Jesus Christ?

Listening to this Sunday’s readings, I was reminded of a great homily delivered by Cardinal Ratzinger on these texts (Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A). He delivered it to some seminarians in Philadelphia back in 1990, and it appears as an appendix in Called to Communion (Ignatius Press).

Among my favorite passages:

The Corinthians see in Christianity an interesting religious theory that answers to their taste and their expectations. They choose what suits them, and they select it in the form that pleases them. But when one’s own will and desire is the decisive criterion, schism is a foregone conclusion, because there are multiple and opposing varieties of taste. A club, a circle of friends, a party can grow from such an ideological choice, but not a Church that overcomes antitheses between men and unites them in the peace of God. The principle by which a club develops is personal taste; but the principle on which the Church is based is obedience to the call of the Lord as we see it in the Gospel: “He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Jesus” (Mt. 4:21f).

This brings us to the crucial point. Faith is not the selection of a program that is to my liking or the joining of a club of friends in which I feel understood but is a conversion that transforms me and my taste along with it, or at least makes my taste and my wishes take second place. Faith penetrates to an entirely different depth than can be attained by a choice that pledges me to a party. Its power to change is so far-reaching that Scripture designates it as a new birth (cf. 1 Pet 1:3, 23).

I’ve posted a copy of the homily in PDF format. Something to brood over during this week of prayer for Christian unity.

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