Oblivion of the Way and the renewal of the Church

The renewal of the Church takes place through the renewal of her pastors. Pastors and flock are one in the Mystical Body of Christ, which means that a profound and mysterious spiritual bond exists between shepherds and flock. Therefore, the renewal of the pastors and that of the flock are intrinsically linked to one another. At the present time, the shepherds (and with them, also the flock) are suffering from a severe amnesia of the Way. This is ultimately at the root of many evils that have been taking place both in the Church and the society. What does ‘amnesia the Way’ mean? It is none other than forgetting God, because the God-man Jesus Christ is „the Way, the Truth and the Life“ (John 14:6). He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6f.). Shepherds and flock suffer from a forgetfulness of God. „As every truth is acquired with the light of faith, so through unbelief one falls into lies and deception“[1] New evangelization and a successful pastoral ministry in the sense of the Gospel presuppose overcoming the amnesia of the way. In this regard, however, it seems that the will for such an endeavor is still lacking [2].

Manfred Hauke’s current article „The Corona Pandemic and the Question of God“ draw our attention to this serious amnesia of the Way on the part of German shepherds:

„Whoever therefore fundamentally emphasizes, as apparently the German bishops Bätzing and Wilmer did, that „God does not punish“, contradicts the obvious witness of the Word of God, proclaims a false image of God and does not take the reality of sin seriously. Whoever denies sin also rejects Christ, whose work of salvation consists in redeeming us from our sins and giving us eternal salvation. „God does not punish“: whoever thinks this assertion through to the end has abandoned the Christian faith and has become a Gnostic who proclaims an ideology of his own making“[3].

God in his infinite love does not want the sinner to fall into eternal death but that he may have eternal life, which is something that he can attain through conversion „in self-knowledge and confession“. It is therefore never too late until the moment on the deathbed to make an act of conversion. Someone who, as a wanderer and pilgrim on earth, has forgotten the way to their destination, wanders around without ever being able to reach his destination. The same is true of forgetting God. If the first and most important commandment, „You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your heart“ (Mt 22:17) has been forgotten, everything else is also invalid. This means that without the love of God, not even one’s fellow men can be loved completely. In dialogue with God’s Providence, God the Father answers St Catherine’s questions about the „renewal of the pastors“:

„No rank, whether of civil or divine law, can be held in grace without holy justice. For those who are not corrected and those who do not correct are like members beginning to rot […] if the members are still obstinate in their evildoing, they will cut them off from the congregation so that they will not infect the whole body with the filth of deadly sin. But [those who are in authority] today do not do this. In fact, they pretend not to see. And do you know why? Because the root of selfish love is alive in them, and this is the source of their perverse slavish fear. They do not correct people for fear of losing their rank and position and their material possessions. They act as if they were blind, so they do not know how to maintain their positions. For if they saw how it is by holy justice that their positions are to be maintained, they would maintain them. But because they are bereft of light they do not know this. They believe they can succeed through injustice, by not reproving the sins of their subjects. But they are deceived by their own sensual passion, by their hankering for civil or ecclesiastical rank. […] They are blind and leaders of the blind. And if one blind person leads another, they both fall into the ditch“.[4].

The Trinitarian God is omnipotent, and since He is the infinite perfection and perfect infinity, He also is the infinite love. So how can He allow the Church to be in such a bad state of affairs for His Mystical Body? Furthermore, if there is no one, as God the Father tells St. Catherine: „neither a righteous man nor a sinner who is not in my Providence, because everything was created by my goodness, except sin which is not“,[5] how can Almighty God allow such a state of His Mystical Body? For the same reason as he allowed the crucifixion of his Son, namely, out of infinite love for us sinners.

The apparent victory of the devil, namely Jesus’ bodily annihilation on the wood of the cross, turns out to be the redemption of the human race of infinite value, a victory over devil, sin and death. The Mystical Body of Christ, according to the divine will, does not fare any differently - it suffers, like the God-man 2000 years ago, the death on the cross, not bloody but bloodless - the mystical death on the cross. But what is the mystical death on the cross for the Church? This is what the thesis, Mt 24,15, speaks of: it is written „in the holy place of the abominations of desolation“ (Mt 24,15) and Dan 11,31: Someone „sets up forces that desecrate the sanctuary in the castle, abolishing the daily sacrifice and setting up the abomination of desolation“. What exactly is meant by this?

The crucifixion of the Mystical Body of Christ has been achieved, so my thesis, when both the number of true members of the Body of Christ is becoming smaller and smaller (Mt 24,22), although the number or the supposed effect of those who are church members only in a formal sense is not really diminishing; at any rate, the position of the church dignitaries of state and world is apparently undiminished in its worldly or media significance. And also, and this goes hand in hand with the development just described, the daily St. Sacrifice of the Mass is abolished and in its place an „ominous abomination“ is erected. This is, according to the thesis, a Mass whose liturgical subtext is changed. In this Mass the Sacrifice of the Mass, transubstantiation, that is, the transformation of bread and wine by the priest’s words of consecration, no longer takes place. In such a sacrilegious Mass, therefore, there is no longer a bloodless visualization of the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, even if it is simulated in a modified form. According to Catholic understanding, this is a severely sacrilegious simulation of a mass, but as such it will not be perceived by those who are church members only in a formal way, so the thesis goes.

If we really tried to find ways out of the church’s forgetfulness of the way, we should ask the question how such a negative development, which in its harbingers is already apparent, could have come about. God the Father provides an answer to this question in the above quotation. Since shepherds and flock belong to a mystical body, there is a spiritual connection between them. This means that a flock at a certain time does not have these shepherds by pure chance. All events on earth take place within Divine Providence, even if God does not want sin positively, but allows it. Moreover, shepherds and flock are spiritually related to each other as members of one body. They should be there for one another, especially in prayer and in pro-existence devoted to the other. God calls and pardons the shepherds as and when He wills, but He also permits bad and lukewarm shepherds for His flock. These shepherds, although He does not want their sins, their lukewarmness and the seduction of the many immortal souls entrusted to them, are a means in the divine plan of salvation to separate the wheat from the chaff on the one hand and to test the good sheep so that they may prove themselves on the other.

„For as we know: patience is patience, but patience is proof, proof is hope. Hope, however, does not allow hope to perish, for the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.“ (Rom 5:3-5)

The Trinitarian God cares for each of us incredibly well in His infinitely loving Providence. We should begin today to learn to see his infinite love in his providence, in which we should feel secure and which we cannot escape. If we learn this, then we can also better accept what happens to us, seemingly positive or also seemingly negative, like Job, and praise God’s name, in good and bad days.

Whatever happens, however great the tribulation may be, there is no reasonable reason to abandon one’s Catholic faith and replace it with an idolatrous belief. „No man can serve two masters.“ (Mt 6,24) And God the Father continues to say to St. Catherine:

"But the wretched, the unfaithful and the exalted do not consider that it is I who provides for everything that body and soul need, so that in the measure in which you trust in Me, My Providence will be given to you. “[6]

Just as the apparent destruction of Jesus on the wood of the stake of shame turned out to be the indestructible final victory over sin, death and the devil, so too the apparent destruction of the Mystical Body of Christ through the associated voluntary acceptance of the sufferings of the remaining members of the Body of Christ will turn out to be the culmination of subjective redemption and will contribute much to „what is still missing in the sufferings of Christ“ (Kol 1:24).

After the crucifixion, the Mystical Body of Christ, mediated by Mary’s hand, rises gloriously. In Jesus Christ’s atoning death of love on the wood of the cross, good has triumphed once and for all. The eternal victory of good over all evil is thus absolutely certain, even if it is not yet evident as phenomenon, nor perfect, in the reality of our lives.

So what can we do? How do we find a way out of our oblivion and towards the renewal of the Church? We cannot find the strength and the way by our own initiative. Only through the nourishing sap of the vine, the one true vine, can we renew the Church. So what can we do? Jesus gives us a clear answer to this question, which is also a timeless standard for shepherd and flock: „He who has my commandments and keeps them is he who loves me; but he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I also will love him and reveal myself to him“ (Jn 14:21). Through every form of forgetting the way, that is, through the forgetting of the God-man Jesus Christ in deed and truth and thus also in the life reality of the Church, in other words, because of our forgetting God, the two commandments on which the whole law and the prophets are based can no longer be fulfilled. „Without these two, no other commandment can be fulfilled“[7] We are thus called to love Jesus, our God, above all else and to worship Him in deed and truth. HE is „the way, the truth and the life“ (John 14:6)

„Ubi amor ibi oculus.“ Where there is love, there is eye. This phrase by Richard of St. Victor’s outlines a characteristic of love. It shows us the way out of oblivion and into the renewal of the Church. We lack a fervent love of God! So let us answer, while we still can, to God’s infinite love for us: We exist because God is the infinite love. God has conceived and wanted every human being from eternity. Every human life, even the unborn and the graying, is of infinite preciousness, has an inalienable ontological dignity. God, who is the infinite love, created us, gave us a spiritual soul endowed with will, mind and memory. He has created us in His image and sustains us every moment of our existence in His Being. We are, as independent human persons with reason and free will, a unique, unrepeatable expression of his love.

God, by giving us free will, has called us to love. Love demands counter-love, or rather: „Your substance is love, because I created you out of love, and therefore you cannot live without love“[8] Our mission in life can be summarized as simply as this. The goal of life can easily be lost from sight in the zeal of everyday life. Out of sight - out of mind - we carry the weakness within us. The same is true of us as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, we might be sheep or shepherds. We are only dust and to dust we shall return.

In baptism we are born again as Christians and become children of God. God dwells in the hearts of those who are in the state of grace - have not offended Him by any serious sin or have received forgiveness of their sins from God in Holy Confession.

„To him who loves me and keeps my word I will reveal myself, and he shall be one with me and I with him.“ (John 14:23)

The believer knows about this reality. It is something immensely great and at the same time a mystery that eludes our everyday eyes. „Ubi amor ibi oculus.“ John 14:23 is both mission and promise. The infinite perfection and perfect infinity which is the Trinitarian God wants to dwell in us. The Christian can thus, through self-knowledge, reach the greater knowledge and love of God. This is the way to the renewal of the Church, which starts with me, by God’s grace, with my responding to my baptismal calling and thus becoming and remaining a true member of the Body of Christ. Then, in the ardent love of God, we will be one with God in deed and truth and God with us[9].

[1] Caterina von Siena. Gespräch von Gottes Vorsehung, Einsiedeln 1985. p. 57. The quotation speaks of the unbelief of the baptized.
[2] The Synodal Way is, it seems clear, a way into and not out of the even deeper oblivion of the way. Cf. The Synodal Path Downwards by Communio veritatis
[3] Manfred Hauke „Die Corona-Pandemie und die Frage nach Gott“ Theologisches 50.5/6 (2020): 219.
[4] Caterina von Siena. Gespräch von Gottes Vorsehung, Einsiedeln 1985. S. 155-156.
[5] Ebd. S. 189.
[6] Ebd. S. 157.
[7] Ebd. S. 67.
[8] Ebd. S. 143.
[9] Vgl. Joh 14, 23