The fundamental liberation that the Church can give us is to permit us to stand in the horizon of the eternal and to break out of the limits of our knowledge and capabilities. In every age, therefore, faith itself in its full magnitude and breadth is the essential reform that we need; it is in the light of faith that we must test the value of self-constructed organizations in the Church.
Called to Communion, p. 145
Reflection – OK, so this passage is a bit of a mouthful. Ratzinger has been talking in this book about the Church, its nature, its challenges, its mission. In an earlier post, I discussed how people resent the Church for telling them what to do—how the Church seems to be an enemy of human freedom.
Here, Ratzinger answers that charge, pointing out that the true limitation of our humanity is our being bound by our own limits and capacities and temporality. We are all born into our own time, land, culture. We all have a certain degree of intelligence, strength, personal charisma and drive. We all find ourselves (especially as life goes on and we get a wee bit older!) hampered by our limitations, our finiteness.
The Church, because it bears the life of Christ, the grace of God, the dynamism of the Spirit into the world, frees us from the strict limitations of our finite humanity. We can be weak in body, plagued by illness or disability, but united to Christ this very weakness becomes grace upon grace poured out in redemptive suffering. Or we can be weak in mind, incapable of understanding much, but in Christ the treasures of wisdom and understanding are offered to us. An illiterate peasant who takes hold of the Gospel possesses infinitely more wisdom than an atheistic university professor.And it is indeed the Church that makes this liberating power of Christ present in a visible incarnate way in the world, through the sacraments, the teaching office, the visible structures. And this is why Ratzinger points out that efforts to reform the Church, to change those structures, must be carried out in light of the Church’s true liberating mission—it’s not a question of loosening up the moral rules or letting anyone do whatever they want. It’s a question of bringing people the fullness of the Gospel so that we can put our selfish selves to death and be raised up with Christ. This is true freedom; anything else is a useless parody.