At Benedict’s last General Audience, he looked out to the crowd and said, “I see the Church is alive!”
Right there, we have the heart of Benedict’s ecclesiology. This Church isn’t an organisation, corporation, or a lobby for either the Right or Left; She is the living Body of Christ, the living people of God. She is alive!
She is alive and draws her life from Her Head, the one Who is Life (Jn 14:7) and Who has come that we may have life and have it to the full (Jn 10:10). The life Jesus gives is eternal and ever-new. His Body, risen from the dead, is ours. His precious Blood is our life-blood. He is the vine, we are the branches. He is the head, we are the body. It’s only through, and in, and because of Him that the Church is alive.
Benedict used those same words eight years earlier at his inaugural Mass.
“Yes, the Church is alive – this is the wonderful experience of these days. During those sad days of the Pope’s illness and death, it became wonderfully evident to us that the Church is alive. And the Church is young. She holds within herself the future of the world and therefore shows each of us the way towards the future. The Church is alive and we are seeing it: we are experiencing the joy that the Risen Lord promised his followers. The Church is alive – she is alive because Christ is alive, because he is truly risen.”
I don’t whether you’re feeling much that the Church is alive right now or if it feels like confusion, hurt, apathy, and ridicule are running the show. I don’t know whether I’m feeling that “wonderful experience” that he spoke about then. Eight years feels like a long time to me. Maybe it was a different time.
But thanks be to God, the Church is alive and She will keep on living, through good times and bad, good popes and bad, and even good press and bad. All because Her Lord lives.
Pope Benedict book-ended his pontificate with these words: The Church is alive. I think he knew we needed to hear it, because we’re not always very good at seeing it.