Jesus Yes? The Church No?

05-08-2022Weekly Reflection

One time several young American Catholics were interviewed about their relationship with the Church. With Saint Peter’s Basilica in the background, one guy, said something to the effect that “I have a relationship with God and I don’t really need the Church to come in between that.” In other words, “I can live however I want, still love Jesus, call myself ‘Catholic’, and no pope, bishop or priest is going to tell me otherwise.” Most of you I am sure have heard a variation on this line before. Pope Benedict addressed this attitude in a reflection on Christ and the Church in 2006. Here are excerpts from that reflection:

…(I)n the perspective of biblical tradition and on the horizon of Judaism, where the work of Jesus is situated in all its novelty, it is clear that the entire mission of the Son-made-flesh has a communitarian finality. He truly came to unite dispersed humanity; he truly came to unite the People of God….

In choosing the Twelve, introducing them into a communion of life with himself and involving them in his mission of proclaiming the Kingdom in words and works (cf. Mk 6: 7-13; Mt 10: 5-8; Lk 9: 1-6; 6: 13), Jesus wants to say that the definitive time has arrived in which to constitute the new People of God, the people of the 12 tribes, which now becomes a universal people, his Church. Appeal for Israel…

In this light, one understands how the Risen One confers upon them, with the effusion of the Spirit, the power to forgive sins (cf. Jn 20: 23). Thus, the Twelve Apostles are the most evident sign of Jesus' will regarding the existence and mission of his Church, the guarantee that between Christ and the Church there is no opposition: despite the sins of the people who make up the Church, they are inseparable. Therefore, a slogan that was popular some years back: "Jesus yes, Church no", is totally inconceivable with the intention of Christ. This individualistically chosen Jesus is an imaginary Jesus.

We cannot have Jesus without the reality he created and in which he communicates himself. Between the Son of God-made flesh and his Church there is a profound, unbreakable and mysterious continuity by which Christ is present today in his people. He is always contemporary with us, he is always contemporary with the Church, built on the foundation of the Apostles and alive in the succession of the Apostles. And his very presence in the community, in which he himself is always with us, is the reason for our joy. Yes, Christ is with us, the Kingdom of God is coming. (emphasis added)

In general beware of books and claims that say: this is the real Jesus that the Church does not want you to know. It’s an old fiction. Jesus from the beginning was and is only known and proclaimed to the world through the witness of His Church from the eyewitnesses. Every new “real Jesus” says more about the people claiming that this is the “real Jesus” than about Jesus Himself. For example, you have the “real Jesus” who resembles various communist guerillas and leaders. You have the “real Jesus” who is a socialist reformer. You have the “real Jesus” who really was an Aryan proclaimed by the Nazis in the 30’s. You have the hippie “real Jesus” of the 60’s and 70’s who flashes the peace sign. You get the picture: once you depart from the Church of the eyewitnesses of Christ, you get all these real Jesus- compilations, the Jesus of a thousand faces.