The Holy Father yesterday gave the first of a series of Wednesday general audience addresses that will focus on the relationship between Christ and his Church. Zenit has the English translation here.
This Pope does not beat around the bush. After paying respect to his predecessor by delivering the addresses which John Paul II had already prepared, Benedict is now delving into one of the greatest mysteries of the faith.
In this first address of the cycle, Benedict refutes the notion that the Christian faith is a "just me 'n' Jesus" faith. "Although [Jesus'] preaching is always a call to personal conversion, in reality it continually tends to build the People of God which he came to gather together and save."
The address focuses on the Apostles, and is specifically a reflection on the calling of the Twelve in Mark, chapter 3. This calling, according to the Holy Father, is "an evident sign of the Nazarene's intention to gather together the community of the covenant in order to manifest in it the fulfillment of the promises made to the forefathers."
The symbolism of the Twelve Apostles is an important sign for the Jews as Benedict shows:
The number 12, which evidently refers to the 12 tribes of Israel, reveals the meaning of the prophetic-symbolic action implied in the new initiative of founding the holy people again. After the downfall of the system of the 12 tribes, Israel awaited the reconstruction of this system as a sign of the arrival of the eschatological time (this can be read in the conclusion of the Book of Ezekiel 37:15-19; 39:23-29; 40-48).
By choosing the Twelve, introducing them into a communion of life with him and making them sharers in the same mission of announcing the Kingdom with words and deeds (cf. Mark 6:7-13; Matthew 10:5-8; Luke 9:1-6; 6:13), Jesus wants to say that the definitive time has arrived; the time for rebuilding God's people, the people of the 12 tribes, which is now converted into a universal people, his Church.
Through the Sacraments, all Christians share in the universal unity symbolized by the Apostles:
In a certain sense, we could say that the Last Supper is precisely the act of founding his Church, because he gives himself and in this way creates a new community, a community united in the communion with himself. and in their mission of building up the Church.
Let's connect the dots. The Church is the community founded by the Lord by gathering the Twelve Apostles and numerous disciples. He was among them, teaching them and sanctifying them. Christ entrusted his ministry to the Apostles. They brought more and more sheep into the flock and brought Christ to them in the Sacraments. Today, our bishops who are themselves the successors of the Twelve continue to gather together the scattered and continue to bring Christ to the faithful in the Sacraments.
It's so simple, yet so profound. Most importantly, it works. The bishops and the priests who share in the bishops' ministry are Christ's guarantee of being among us. Christ is always present in the community of the Church. Our eternal Lord, whom Augustine refered to as a "beauty ever-ancient, ever-new," is always with us, renewing us and giving us the fullness of his life.
Benedict ends the address with a marvelous profession of confidence:
He is always our contemporary -- our contemporary in the Church built upon the foundation of the Apostles. He is alive in the succession of the Apostles. And his presence in the community, in which he himself always gives himself, is the reason for our joy. Yes, Christ is with us, the Kingdom of God is coming.