The Church of Jesus Christ is never my Church but always his Church

Homily for Wednesday Week 22 of Year 2
Optional Memorial of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

by Fr. Tommy Lane

There was a problem in the church in Corinth as we heard in the first reading (1 Cor 3:1-9). The church was split into factions and groups, “I belong to Paul”, “I belong to Apollos.” It happens when one faction or group wants to change the Church into the way which corresponds with its own opinion. So an ideology comes to the fore and the Christ’s Church recedes. One such group in Austria received worldwide notoriety earlier this year (2012) but there are pressure groups in every country. Cardinal Ratzinger, writing in Called to Communion, states, “When I advocate a party, it thereby becomes my party, whereas the Church of Jesus Christ is never my Church but always his Church.” (Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today p158) The solution is given by St. Paul, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” Paul has decisively taken attention away from himself and Apollos and directed the Corinthians to look to God instead. Had Paul not intervened we could easily imagine schisms forming in the church in Corinth. The center of attention is always to be Christ. If not, we risk drifting into a Corinthian ideology.

Just as Paul acted decisively to overcome a problem festering in the church in Corinth, in the Gospel today (Luke 4:38-44) we see Christ reacting against those who seem to want to possess him for themselves, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God…” Even though Jesus will return again to Capernaum, he will not allow himself to be controlled by the people of Capernaum. As Ratzinger said, “the Church of Jesus Christ is never my Church but always his Church.”

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, known as the living saint, was always known for her humility, always serving Christ’s church and never seeking to build up her own kingdom. Before founding the Missionaries of Charity she was a Loreto Sister in Calcutta. She had grown up in Albania, and as a postulant she was sent to the Loreto Motherhouse in Dublin to learn English. Surely it was that time of formation in Ireland that left such an impression on her, and contributed to her becoming the great person she became and that we know her to be, Blessed Mother Teresa of Dublin and Calcutta! The centerpiece of her spirituality was meditating on Jesus’ words on the cross “I thirst.” She asked to have the words “I thirst” placed beside the crucifix in every one of her convents. So the Collect for Mass today began,

God, who called blessed Teresa to respond to the love of
your Son thirsting on the cross …

A number of times Blessed Mother Teresa reflected on Christ’s love on the Cross and by way of conclusion I quote her words,

Jesus wants me to tell you again…how much is the love He has for each one of you - beyond all what you can imagine…Not only He loves you, even more - He longs for you. He misses you when you don’t come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don’t feel worthy....

Why does Jesus say “I thirst”? What does it mean? Something so hard to explain in words—...“I thirst” is something much deeper than just Jesus saying “I love you.” Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you - you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light p42)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.