that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
In my old age I find myself growing more affectionate. I'm not sure that anyone else finds me more loveable, but I notice a growing fondness for people and things I used to dislike.
One thing I am fond of is the awful messiness of the Church. It is indeed enormous! As massive as the Church is, with its billion people (roughly estimated) and its complexity of institutions, foundations, organizations and traditions; its churches, shrines and holy sites; its customs and practices that span every nation and nationality; not to mention its complex history of triumphs and emberrassments, and the ruins of monasteries, hermitages and churches that spackle the world -- I find it irresistably charming.
If I ever thought I should make a difference in the life of the Church, I see how foolish the notion was.
When I meet someone who thinks the Church should be better than it is, I point to the Bible. What a mess! There is hardly any religious notion, no matter how wild-eyed, that cannot find some obscure passage in scripture to lend it credence. The idealogue expects to find some unifying principle in the scriptures which she can hold up for praise or ridicule but it is never so simple as an ideology. It is rather a patchwork history of a people with their virtues and their vices, and a story of their God who by turns punishes and dotes over them. If the Bible were more coherent it would not need a Church to interpret it. It would make sense and would need no interpretation.
The Christian is invited to claim this Church with its sacred texts as her own beloved. She is one day a dotty aunt who does emberrassing things in public; and the next day a heroic amazon who defends the rights of poor widows and orphans.
Finally, the Church is like me: a vessel of clay, damaged goods, deeply and profoundly flawed; but not unhappy -- always carrying about in the Body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.