In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus called the people and his disciples to him and said: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me”.
What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ? Answering this question in 1971, Fr Joseph Ratzinger has said the following:
From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. It will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. It will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices it built in its palmy days. As the number of its adherents diminishes, so will it lose many of its social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, it will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of its individual members. Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry, and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Alongside this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly.
The Church will be a more spiritualized Church, not presuming upon a political mantle, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost it much valuable energy. It will make it poor and cause it to become the Church of the meek. The process will be all the more arduous, for sectarian narrow-mindedness as well as pompous self-will will have to be shed. (…). But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. (…) It may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that it was until recently; but it will enjoy a fresh blossoming, and be seen as humanity’s home where they will find life and hope beyond death.
From Glaube un Zukunft (1970) Faith and the Future (1971)