Pope: Mistaken Notions of "Dream Church" Cause Discontent
It's Not Just an Organization, He Clarifies in Berlin
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BERLIN, SEPT. 22, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI told the rows and rows of people filling Berlin's Olympic Stadium today that many people have a mistaken concept of the Church, and this, combined with the fact that there are "good and bad fish" in the Church, can lead to dissatisfaction.
The Pope made these observations today as he celebrated a Mass in the stadium built by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympics. He is in Germany through Sunday on an official state visit.
The Holy Father's homily answered to the situation of the Church in Berlin, where only one in three residents belong to a Christian community, according to the city's archbishop.
The Pontiff said that many people only see the "outward form" of the Church and this leads to the idea that it is "merely one of the many organizations within a democratic society."
"If to this is added the sad experience that the Church contains both good and bad fish, wheat and darnel, and if only these negative aspects are taken into account, then the great and deep mystery of the Church is no longer seen," he reflected. "It follows that belonging to this vine, the 'Church,' is no longer a source of joy. Dissatisfaction and discontent begin to spread, when people's superficial and mistaken notions of 'Church,' their 'dream Church,' fail to materialize!"
Drawing from the 15th Chapter of the Gospel of John, the Holy Father painted an entirely different picture of the Church.
"In the parable of the vine, Jesus does not say: 'You are the vine,' but: 'I am the vine, you are the branches' (John 15:5)," he said. "In other words: 'As the branches are joined to the vine, so you belong to me! But inasmuch as you belong to me, you also belong to one another.'"
Benedict XVI went so far as to describe this "belonging to each other" as "I would almost want to say -- a biological, life-transmitting state of belonging to Jesus Christ."
"'I am the true vine' actually means: 'I am you and you are I' -- an unprecedented identification of the Lord with us, his Church," the Pope declared.
He then spoke of the choice -- faced by everyone -- of choosing to abide in the Lord, and be abided in by him.
"The Lord reminds us how much is at stake as he continues his parable: 'If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.'"
"The decision that is required of us here," the Pontiff said, "makes us keenly aware of the existential significance of our life choices. At the same time, the image of the vine is a sign of hope and confidence. Christ himself came into this world through his incarnation, to be our root. Whatever hardship or drought befall us, he is the source that offers us the water of life, that feeds and strengthens us."
The Holy Father explained that to abide in Christ means "to abide in the Church as well."
"The whole communion of the faithful has been firmly incorporated into the vine, into Christ. In Christ we belong together," he said. "Within this communion he supports us, and at the same time all the members support one another. They stand firm together against the storm and they offer one another protection. Those who believe are not alone. We do not believe alone, but we believe with the whole Church."
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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-33498?l=english