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A certain exodus Print E-mail
By Benedict XVI   
Friday, 07 June 2013

Can or must a man simply make the best of the religion that happens to fall to his share, in the form in which it is actually practiced around him? Or must he not, whatever happens, be one who seeks, who strives to purify his conscience and, thus, move toward — at the very least — the purer forms of his own religion? If we cannot assume as given such an inner attitude of moving onward, if we do not have to assume it, then the anthropological basis for mission disappears. The apostles, and the early Christian congregations as a whole, were only able to see in Jesus their Savior because they were looking for the 
hope of Israel — because they did not simply regard the inherited religious forms of their environment as being sufficient in themselves but were waiting and seeking people with open hearts. The Church of the Gentiles could develop only because there were Godfearers, people who went beyond their traditional religion and looked for something greater. This dynamic imparted to religion is also in a certain sense the case — this is what is true about what Barth and Bonhoeffer say — with Christianity itself. It is not simply a network of institutions and ideas we have to hand on but a seeking ever in faith for faith’s inmost depth, for the real encounter with Christ. In that way — to say it again — in Judaism the poor of Israel developed; in that way they would have to develop, again and again, within the Church; and in that way they can and they should develop in other religions: it is the dynamic of the conscience and of the silent prsence of God in it that is leading religions toward one another and guiding people onto the path to God, not the canonizing of what already exists, so that people are excused from any deeper searching.

Anyone entering the Church has to be aware that he is entering a separate, active cultural entity with her own many-layered intercultural character that has grown up in the course of history. Without a certain exodus, a breaking off with one’s life in all its aspects, one cannot become a Christian. Faith is no private path to God; it leads into the people of God and into its history. God has linked himself to a history, which is now also his history and which we cannot simply erase. Christ remains man to eternity, retains a body to eternity; but being a man, having a body, includes having a history and a culture, this particular history with its culture, whether we like it or not. We cannot repeat the process of the Incarnation at will, in the sense of repeatedly taking Christ's flesh away from him, so to speak, and offering him some other flesh instead. Christ remains the same, even according to his body. But he is drawing us to him. That means that because the people of God is, not just a single cultural entity, but is gathered together from all peoples, therefore the first cultural identity, rising again from the break that was made, has its place therein; and not only that, but it is needed in order to allow the Incarnation of Christ, of the Word, to attain its whole fullness. The tension of many active entities within a single entity is an essential part of the unfinished drama of the Son’s Incarnation. This is the real inner dynamic of history, and of course it stands always beneath the sign of the Cross; that is to say that it must always be struggling against the opposing weight of shutting off, of isolation and refusal.

 

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