The Church… has to bring men to Christ, and Christ to men, so as to bring God to them and them to God. Christ is not just some great man or other with a significant religious experience: he is God, God who became man to establish a bridge between man and God and so that man can become truly himself.
Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith, 292
Reflection – At first glance this quote from Ratzinger seems a bit… well, obvious, I guess. Of course the Christian Church has something to do with bringing people to Christ, and vice versa. What else would it be for? What is there to say about such a basic statement?
I think there’s quite a bit to say, actually. The mission of the Church can get wound up and bound up with lots and lots of different things, all of which are valuable and all of which are part of this large mission of bringing Christ to men and men to Christ.
But we can easily lose sight of the big picture in the details, right? Religion can be a powerful force of social change, for example, a view that can be found on both the left and the right. Urgent moral causes like the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, or the alleviation of global poverty certainly are part of the mission of the Church… but only if they are understood as dimensions of bringing ‘Christ to men and men to Christ.’
Or the Church can be a place of social gathering, a force of cohesion and identity in society… again, not entirely illegitimate, but only if the force making us one is the Spirit of Jesus.
The Church and its mission can encompass all sorts of things: patronage of the arts and artists, of science and scientists, educator of youth, healer of the sick—all the social and corporal works of mercy are part of what the Church is for.
But if we lose the center of it all—bringing Christ to men and men to Christ—then it is all ultimately for naught. Some temporary alleviation of suffering, or various other temporal goods achieved for a time.
It is the intense Christ-centered nature of the Church’s mission that has to be returned to over and over. Only in Christ do human beings ascend to communion with God, and only in communion with God is our humanity healed and elevated to its supernatural end. Everything else is to be subordinated to this. In our times of social instability and uncertain future, we really have to dig deep into this—what does it mean? What does it look like? How are we to do it.
This is the mission of the Church. And remember, the Church is not the Pope, the bishops, the diocese, the parish, the priests and religious, not only. The Church is you and me. This is our mission, your mission. Your life and what it is for today.