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Posted April 7, 2011

Being Part of the Church Means Accepting Others

By Pope Benedict XVI
Origens, March 24, 2011, Vol. 40 No. 41

Preamble from Pope Benedict’s Address:

Even though it is not easy to like every member of the seminary, the parish or the church, being part of Christ’s body means accepting them all, Pope Benedict XVI told Rome diocesan seminarians. It is true that God calls each individual into a personal relationship with him, but “at the same time God’s call is a call to a community,” the pope said March 4 during an evening visit to the diocese’s major seminary. In the seminary chapel, the pope led the priesthood candidates in “lectio divina,” a prayerful reading of the Scriptures. In his reflection, the pope said that the personal call of God also is a call that comes within the community of the church and is a call to serve God in a particular way through the church. “At this time the seminary is the body in which your being on a common journey is brought about in practice,” he told the students. “Then there will be the parish” where they will be called on to accept, to support and to animate the whole parish and all the people, “those who likeable and those who are not.”

Excerpts from Pope Benedict’s address to seminarians:

To love and serve God means to love and serve the church, the body of Christ, even when we “do not like the body.”

I think we should meditate time and again on this mystery: God, the Lord has called me, is calling me, knows me, awaits my answer just as he awaited Mary’s answer and the answer of the apostles. God calls me: This fact must make us attentive to God’s voice, attentive to his word, to his call for me, in order to respond, in order to realize this part of the history of salvation for which he has called me.

Then, in this text, St. Paul points out to us several concrete elements for this answer with four words: lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearing with one another in love.

Lowliness: The Greek word is tapeinophrosyne, the same word that St. Paul uses in his letter to the Philippians when he speaks of the Lord who was God and who humbled himself, he made himself tapeinos, he descended to the point of making himself a creature, of making himself man, obedient even to death on the cross.

Lowliness, then, is not just any word, any kind of modesty, something . . .it is a Christological word. Imitating God who descends even to me, who is so great that he makes himself my friend, suffers for me and dies for me. This is the humility we must learn, God’s humility.

. . . Meekness: The Greek text uses here the word prautes, the same word that appears in the beatitudes: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” . . .

So this word meek, or gentle, is also a Christological word and once again implies imitating Christ in this manner.

Patience: [magnanimity], makrothymia, means generosity of heart, it means not being minimalists who give only what is strictly necessary: Let us give ourselves with all that we possess, and we will increase in magnanimity.

Forbearing one another in love: it is a daily duty to tolerate one and other in our own otherness and precisely to tolerate one another with humility, to learn true love.

And let us now take a step further. The word call is followed by the ecclesial dimension. We have now spoken of the vocation as a very personal call; God calls me, knows me, waits for my personal response. However, at the same time God’s call is a call to a community, it is an ecclesial call. God calls us to a community.

. . .Body: The church is a body so she has structures, she really has a law and this time it is not so simple to integrate. Of course we want the personal relationship with God, but we often do not like the body. Yet in this very way we are in communion with Christ: by accepting the corporeity of his church, of the Spirit wh is incarnate in the body.

. . .If we are to maintain the unity of the Spirit, we must impress upon our own behavior the humility, meekness and patience to which Jesus witnessed in his passion; it is necessary to have hand and heart bound by the bond of love that he himself accepted for us by making himself our servant.

This is the “bond of peace.” and St. John Chrysostom says further in the same commentary: “If you would attach yourself to another [your brother] . . . these thus bound by love bear all things with ease. . .Thus also here he would have us tied one to another; not simply that we be at peace, not simply that we love one another [to be friends], but that all should be one, one soul.”