Blog Archives

The Strength of the Church’s Influence is Not Where You Might Think

40  “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41  Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he is God’s messenger, will share in his reward. And whoever welcomes a good man because he is good, will share in his reward. 42 You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.” Matthew 10:40-42 (TEV)

The unrealistic demand that everything the Church teaches be lived completely and in all its fullness fails to take into account humanity as it actually is. There exists in every man a certain tension between that which the Church recognizes as what the Christian ought to be and do and that which the average Christian normally achieves. That is why penance and pardon are fundamental constants in the life of a Christian. In fact, the strength of the Church, the possibility of making her teachings more widely known to mankind, lies not so much in the extensive sphere of mass influence, but rather in the fact that she encounters people personally in the small communities in which they live. It is, indeed, precisely the personal word, the personal pastoral care, and a renewed catechesis that reaches out to the children and cooperates with the parents that are fundamental in making people realize that they are not to be treated as children, but that, on the contrary, it is actually their own survival as men that is at stake.

Out of all these things the conclusion follows that Christians do not live in themselves but in Christ and in their neighbor—in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love. Through faith one ascends above oneself into God. From God one descends through love again below oneself and yet always remains in God and God’s love. As Christ says in John 1:51, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”(37 footnore below)

The quote in green above is remarkable, not just because of what it says, but because of who says it.

Joseph Cardenal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, was the leader of doctrine for the largest religious body in the world, the Roman Catholic Church. Yet he saw the power of the church, and the hope of the church not in its worldwide influence, but in the small community, in the personal small group communities, in the personal word from one to another.

It is found in the pastoral care that is given, as a pastor/priest encourages his people to seek pardon, to look at their sin in a penitential way, and in the grace he offers as he speaks on behalf of Jesus, commanded by Jesus to forgive the sins of people.

It is in the cup of water given to someone weak and in need, not in the halls of power. It is in ministering to those whose spiritual lives are on the line, not in schmoozing with those who have political or financial clout.

This is the same thing Luther is pointing out, that the response to being with God is to be with our neighbor. That this the blessing of any sacramental moment, the joy of knowing God’s work in our lives causes us to desire to see that work replicated in our own lives.

To reach out, in the midst of our own brokenness (that God is healing), and help someone realize that God will heal them as well – that is the greatest strength, the most powerful infleuce the church has.

In truth, it is the only infleunce we have.

To share with people simple words, knowing the difference they’ve made in our lives….

Words like, “The Lord is with You”


Heavenly Father, help Your church to reveal you to the nations, one person at a time. Help us teach them to desire your pardon, to seek the peace only You can offer, and to do so, confident that You will provide. AMEN!

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 102). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

(footnote 37) In the Latin version Luther uses the word raptus/rapi, meaning that by faith the Christian is enraptured into God: per fidem sursum rapitur supra se in deum. See Heiko A. Oberman, The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1986), 149–54.

Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

%d bloggers like this: