Saturday, January 19, 2013

Devotion for today: Ours is the Church of the Suffering

This is a passage from the book “God is Near: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life” by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVII). I found it to be an interesting discussion on the idea: was Jesus’ death on the cross a failure? I know, shocking, but read on…

Some years ago, Gonsalves Mainberger-who was at that time still a member of the Order of Preachers-shocked his audience in Zurich, and soon after that his readers right across Europe, with the assertion: “Christ died for nothing.” Bultmann (a German scholar) says: We do not know how Jesus met his death, how he endured it. We must leave open the possibility of his having failed.

Did Jesus fail? Well, he certainly was not successful in the same sense as Caesar or Alexander the Great. From the worldly point of view, he did fail in the first instance: he died almost abandoned; he was condemned on account of his preaching. The response to his message was not the great YES of his people, but the Cross. From such an end as that, we should conclude that Success is definitely not one of the names of God and that it is not Christian to have an eye to outward success or numbers.

God’s paths are other than that; his success comes about from the Cross and is always found under that sign. The true witnesses to his authenticity, down through the centuries, are those who have accepted this sign as their emblem. When, today, we look at past history, then we have to say that it is not the Church of the successful people that we find impressive; the Church of those Popes who were universal monarchs; the Church of those leaders who knew how to get on well with the world.

Rather, what strengthens our faith, what remains constant, what gives us hope, is the Church of the suffering. She stands, to the present day, as a sign that God exists and that man is not just a cesspit, but that he can be saved.

This is true of the martyrs of the first three centuries, and then right up to Maximilian Kolbe and the many unnamed witnesses who gave their lives for the Lord under the dictatorships of our own day; whether they had to die for their faith or whether they had to let themselves be trampled on, day after day and year after year, for his sake. The Church of the suffering gives credibility to Christ; she is God’s success in the world; the sign that gives us hope and courage; the sign from which still flows the power of life, which reaches beyond mere thoughts of success and which thereby purifies men and opens up for God a door into this world.

So let us be ready to hear the call of Jesus Christ, who achieved the great success of God on the Cross; he who, as the grain of wheat that died, has become fruitful down through all the centuries; the Tree of Life, in whom even today men may put their hope.

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