As in the questions of every day, so too in our relationship with God we can find a path forward only by sharing in the knowledge of others. In our relationship with God, those who see and those who experience are present, and we can rely on them in our own faith. In some way, they bestow their own certainty on us… relying on those who see, we advance gradually toward Him, and the buried memory of God, which is written on the heart of every man, awakens more and more to life in the depths of our own being.
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 115
Reflection – Today is the feast of St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist. This gets me thinking about this whole business of coming to God by sharing in the knowledge of others that Ratzinger writes about here.
It seems to me that this is at the heart of the Christian religion – we come to know about God and about Jesus from others. First from those twelve apostles/four evangelists, but then down through the centuries in an unbroken chain of proclamation and love. You and I are Christians because for 2000 years people have told one another the story, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now God didn’t have to do it that way, right? He is God, after all, present in all places, filling all things, intimately present to each human heart. We know from the long history of mystical prayer that God can speak directly to us when He wishes. Normally, He doesn’t wish.
God could have directly communicated the Gospel to each human being who He knew (being God) was open to it and willing to obey Him. There would have been no need for the Church, or it would have been a very different kind of affair, perhaps something like the Quakers who meet and sit in silence until the Spirit speaks to one of them.
And, looking at what a hash we have made of it so many times over the millennia, the horrible sins and abuses of some of the clergy, the rampant error and outright heresy of others of us, the compromises and mediocrity and so many others—looking at all that, one might reasonably question whether God’s idea was so hot. To entrust his Truth which is the salvation of the human race to a bunch of fallible frail men seems chancy at best.
Why did He do that? Why, when the knowledge of God and of Christ is so vital to our salvation, did He choose to convey that knowledge in such an unreliable medium? It seems to me that the answer to that question lies, as all these answers do, in looking at the big, broad picture. What is God trying to do in its broadest scope? That’s why He does it the way He does.
The purpose of Christianity is the healing of the human person. Christianity offers radical healing to humanity in its deepest wounding. The deepest of all woundings is our estrangement from God; Jesus heals that alienation by his death and resurrection and gift of the Spirit—the Paschal Mystery by which God’s life become ours.
But the other deep wound of humanity is our estrangement from one another. In losing our communion with God, we lose communion with each other. We are at odds, at war, at each others’ throats. We withdraw, isolate, separate. We are apart from one another.
God’s master plan to heal that is the Church. In all its wounds, all its failures, all its human weaknesses and misery, God has chosen that we should receive His Gospel—the Good News of our reunion with Him and the gift of His life—from one another.
This is the healing of our alienation and division, even if it is a healing we will not experience in fullness until heaven. We cannot float in some individualistic bubble, just me and Jesus, me and God. We must come together, come to one another, to receive the life of God and the truth of God. The Church is a vital and necessary part of God’s saving plan for humanity. It is from one another that the buried memory of God, the truth of our inmost being, is relearnt, and in that both estrangements, both wounds are healed.
And so He chose twelve men and called them apostles. He sent them as the Father had sent Him. Two of those men and two other men would write accounts of His life. And so it has gone for 2000 years. And of course, this has a direct and immediate relevance for you and me today, doesn’t it? Jesus chooses us, calls us, and sends us as the Father sent Him. And if this poor bedraggled divided, violence-torn world of ours is to hear about the Gospel, it will be from our lips and our lives or it will not be at all.
So… let’s do that today, eh?