I had a lot of time as I recuperated to consider this question. I believe it is imperative for every Catholic to ponder personally as well.
For me, foremost is the fact that Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, was Incarnated, gathered to Himself and formed twelve unlikely candidates, established His Church, showed us how to live as humans, and was willing to go to an excruciating death to prove how much He loved us. Now that is impressive beginning.
In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 16:18, we read, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail upon it.” Jesus, the fulfillment of the law and long- awaited Messiah, establishes His Church. In fact, anyone who was Christian was Catholic up until the Reformation, when human men started thinking they knew better than God and broke away from Christ’s Church. I am not willing to belong to and stake my eternal soul on a religion manufactured by some human with an idea, agenda, or cock a mammy vision. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach [to you] a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! Gal 1:8
God Himself set up His Church. Catholic means universal, and was first used by St. Ignatius of Antioch in about 107 AD. We can trace ourselves back from Pope Francis all the way to St. Peter our first Pope, who was given the “keys of the Kingdom” from Christ personally.
What I struggle with is understanding why the Lord asks for our participation in His great work of salvation. We are sinful, pathetic losers who stray at a moment’s notice, are prone to pride, power hungry, perverted at times, and greedy, to name just a few of our shortcomings. Feminists are famous for stating that they believe the Church would be better run by women. Eve comes to mind here. We blew it at the first opportunity. We women are no better than our counterparts and often more vicious, back-stabbing, and emotionally driven. I can say that because I am a woman.
Everything perfect about the Catholic Church is Divine. Everything wounded, is human. But for some reason, God asks us to work in the vineyard together with Him, as men and women whom He has gifted uniquely for this purpose. He gives us the freedom and dignity to accept or reject the invitation to do so. He only asks that we love one another, get along, share with those who have less, and work together for the good of humanity. Seems like the very thing we need to flourish us as a human race. It is hard to imagine why some are so threatened by that.
Our best efforts however are simply not enough humanly speaking. To succeed in doing God’s Will, requires we be receptive to the supernatural grace God wants to freely give us. Like a small child who wants to help mommy make cookies, we are limited. As a loving Father, God steps in and does the heavy lifting for us if we only ask, and we get the satisfaction of thinking we accomplished something bigger than ourselves. It is a win-win situation.
Jesus said that the “gates of Hell would not prevail” against His Church- but that does not mean evil will sit by idly and not do everything in its power to try to break her down. We have seen this attack for two millennium. St. Irenaeus wrote that, “The devil does not trouble himself with things he has already won.” Think about that statement for a minute. What Church is attacked, burned, criticized, and the brunt of jokes more than any other? We fight for life at all stages and the dignity of the human person from the “womb to the tomb.” We feed, clothe, teach and help more people on the planet than any other organization.
If you are not a threat, you are not on the devils radar.
Christ set it all up. The hierarchy, male priesthood, and the Sacraments that give us what we need to get home to heaven. God loves order and chose to become incarnated as a human male. Why? Because men are better than women? No, because God our Creator uniquely gifted us for the work, He would call us to do. Ignore secular ideologies, that often lead to unhappiness and victimhood. Do you TRUST that God knows what He is doing or not? There is order and meaning in all that God does. As I said before, we humans are the messy side of the Church. We are not perfect. Only God is perfect, and we are to seek to be like Him. “Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct.” 1 Pet 1:14-15
There has been a lot of confusion over the centuries that has sadly caused some to leave the Church. Whenever something so great as your eternal destiny is at stake, plan on evil sticking its nose there. We can come up with a million excuses why we don’t think “we are being fed” at Mass. The Mass is not meant to be entertaining or a feel-good hour. It is our communal participation in worship that is owed to the Father as we offer the only perfect gift of His Son. We did not make up the Mass, it was given to us on the Thursday before Christ died, at the Last Supper. Christ left us the gift of His Body and Blood given for us as an eternal remembrance. “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is a command, because He knew we needed this Bread from Heaven to receive the grace to survive here and get there.
Finally, the Sacraments and Saints are why I faithfully remain Catholic. Christ provided all that we need to become initiated into His family in Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation. He provided a means to start again every time we get off track with Reconciliation. When we are sick or dying, He comes to us in the Sacrament of Anointing. And, in the Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony we live out our vocation if we are called to that state in life. It is like God thought of every possible way to heal, help, encourage and fill us with His grace.
The Communion of Saints are our brothers and sisters who went before us and are in heaven. They are examples, and inspiration from every creed, color, gender, and walk of life. Call on them- they want to intercede and help us too.
Love won’t force us to go to Mass or receive the Sacraments. Love will not execute revenge if we chose to do our own thing and come up with every possible excuse to be lazy and selfish. That is our choice after all, to choose sin over sanctity. When we chose self over God in this life, He will grant our desire for it in the next life as well, and that would be an eternal hell.
There will always be wolves in sheep’s clothing. From the very beginning Jesus showed us this with one of his hand-picked Apostles, Judas Iscariot. Judas may have thought he was sincerely helping by taking matters into his own hands. Like Judas, we can be adamant in our sentiment about all that needs to change in the Church. We can sincerely believe we know better how to run the Church, but we can also be sincerely wrong! It comes down to this frankly, do we trust that Christ Jesus knew what He was doing in following the Father’s Will?
The ancient serpent still slithers around today and whispers to us, that maybe we know better than God.
So how do we know what is the Will of God and what is a counterfeit? How do we begin to act in accord with our Baptism? How do we begin to grow in holiness which draws us closer to the Lord, discovering His Church? It simply starts with saying, “Yes, Lord I want to know you better.”
We invite you to journey with us and sign up for the Journey Toward Holiness. We begin on Monday Nov. 9th. This is a beautiful effort to get a little holier, patient and kind, and together as God’s children make an intentional effort to grow. We are happy to answer your questions, hear your story, and accompany you on your journey, firstname.lastname@example.org
See you on the path!