While reading the Ratzinger Report just prior to my birthday a comment he made on heresy and apostasy made an impact on me. It caused me to reflect on my own faith formation in the fullness of God’s time. I realized that, in order to get where I am in understanding the fullness and the richness of the Catholic faith I had to become an apostate for a time or else I never would have gotten to this point. God’s time is not our time. And my conversion is not complete – it will continue until the day I die. This is because conversion (and repentance) is a continuous process and unless we recognize that we will drift away from Jesus.
Similarly, the Church, as the body of Christ, has to go through these phases, so as to strengthen it by the challenges placed before it. In the Ratzinger Report, then Cardinal Ratzinger notes, “the Church is always needful of reform.” (p. 50) And so, the Church, too, is in constant need of conversion. By this I mean the Church as the body of believers, the communion of saints, all who express belief in Christ Jesus. And to what must it convert? It must constantly go back to Jesus and the Apostles; the Church as founded by Christ himself. As a Church we need to constantly remind ourselves that we are in the world but not of the world. Just like each individual believer is called to shed his/her worldliness. And this is not only a problem with the laity; it is entwined throughout the Church hierarchy, which accounts for some of the problems the Church, as a whole, is experiencing today.
As a consequence, too often we think of the Church as “our Church” forgetting that, in reality, is His, Christ’s Church. Again, Cardinal Ratzinger notes, “It is necessary to recreate an authentically catholic climate, to find again the meaning of the Church as Church of the Lord, as locus of the real presence of God in the world.”