Monday, September 5, 2016


For most Protestants, seeing the Catholic Church with understanding is hard. Catholics comprehend this. But if you could enter our world and see Catholicism through the eyes of someone deeply in love with her, perhaps, it would make some sense.

What is the Catholic Church?

The Catholic Church is immense. Think about an entity who has been around since the first century. Two millennia! That is 20 centuries, a hair under 2000 years. To compare, Lutherism is almost 500 years old. Just a babe in comparison. The Wesley Brothers started the Methodist church 300 years ago. The pentecostal movement and its churches are just over a hundred years old. The Catholic Church
 is ancient.

Let's look at the history of the Catholic Church as if each century stood for a year: 

The minute the church was born, so many centuries ago, the Serpent was poised to attack. Hardly had the swaddling clothes come off when the Father of Lies attempted to kill her off with persecution. 

Then with a sudden miracle, the persecution stopped just in time for the Body of Christ on earth to turn three years old. 

The Catholic Church spent its childhood watching the fall of the Roman Empire and fighting off the barbarian invasions. It put together the Bible. And spreading its wings-- traveling across the globe giving the gospel of Jesus Christ by starting hospitals, universities and orphanages.

Through the early teens, she struggled as all teenagers do with an identity crisis and a bit of wildness such as the inquisition and Crusades, but she was becoming a lovely young girl: learned, refined, under the gentle tutelage of her Mother and Father. 

As the Catholic Church entered young adulthood, she witnessed the birth of a bitter enemy, one who had been a part of her all those years: The Protestant Reformation.

She was there during the dark ages, the middle ages, the Renaissance, the  Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, scientific age, modernism, technological age, and now the post-modern era.  

The Catholic Church has spanned enough time to have done wonderful, miraculous things, as well as have great failures. You would expect this of one so ancient. 

The Catholic Church as well as having spanned 2000 years, it is has more than 1.2 billion members (including the Eastern Orthodox it brings it to over 1.5 billion.) spreading out among every single nation on earth, every culture, every tongue. 

Imagine attempting to set up a worldwide organization? How difficult would it be to coordinate anything that vast--with 1.2 billion volunteers! All speaking different languages and in vastly different cultures with differing governmental systems? All cemented together not with seduction of money, but with the loyalty of love for Christ. 

This massive universal kingdom has no standing army. It has a little armed guard for the Vatican of less than 200 soldiers.

It is an organized visible Church. It can't hide. It's popes are known. It's beliefs are out there. It's people and churches are in every city. 

All are welcome.

And WHO are the Catholics?

Every single person who has ever comes into the Catholic Church is a  soul wounded with sin. Hardly anyone walks upright into the kingdom, they usually fall at the doorsteps, hands outstretched for help. Each person is exhausted, broken and bleeding from the battles of life and seek the hope promised in Christ's kingdom. 

Many are great sinners, some are tiny babes,
but each one is baptized into the covenant family of Christ, because someone loved Jesus. No one comes into the Kingdom without the covering prayers of the saints. And though many come from a personal conviction, most are received because of the faith of their parents or spouses. Yet, all came into the door through faith in Jesus Christ, faith that works through love. 

Each life who has been drawn into the church is a terrible mess of sin. Some are mean, other prideful. The list of sins are great: adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, murderers, thieves. Each soul is
 poor, wretched, many are depressed, scared and disillusioned. All broken, all are wounded by sin. And the Catholic Church understands this. She shows her mercy towards those who come into her kingdom shackled with sin, feeling hopeless. She also welcomes those who come running with joy. The Church is Christ's heart on earth and each sinner who enters her is given a heavenly reception of joy. 

But the Church is not a place of entertainment to wait out the Second Coming. It is not a social hall. In a sense, when you step into the Kingdom of God you set foot in upon a new battleground. But it is one of freedom. It is a battle of healing. Christ set up within His Kingdom, the Church, a way of healing all these wounded souls who come in seeking Him. God does not leave them nor abandon them to their sins, He has set up a hospital to rehabilitate them. 

The Miracle and Mystery of the Sacraments

Everyone who enters the kingdom is in need of help, even the deacons and priests, bishops and cardinals and popes. Christ while on earth never romanticized what the kingdom would look like. Read His Words in the Gospels about what the Kingdom of Heaven really is. And it is not pretty.

He warned us that there would be good and bad, the wheats and the tares. He told us that it wouldn't be easy to enter, especially if you are rich. But for each soul who finds the kingdom of God in this world that is controlled by the Father of Lies, it feels very much like they have found the pearl of great price. It was hidden in plain sight.

He has provided a way, a journey to help us heal from sin and become truly free. It is called the sacraments. With our short-sighted, blurry vision caused by sin, many who enter do not want to begin another journey. The sacraments seem like too much work. They want to remain shackled and entertained until Christ comes again. Yet, that is not how love works. The very nature of love is to take what is shackled and set them free. Teach hate to love. Teach self-centeredness to be self-giving. Our Creator knows it is not good for us to remain in the depths of hell--which is what sin does to us.

Many of these souls look at the sacraments and just give up. They will remain at the entryway of Catholicism, not going very far into the rehabilitation. And that's okay. Some are simply more weak than others. God never kicks anyone out unless they are an arch-heretic who is poisoning the well, the source of Christ's love. And those are very, very few people in the history of the Church. They are usually bishops. 

The Church is here to draw people into holiness. It is the source of hope. We chastise only that a person may turn and walk in God's ways. We want no one to be lost. 

Those who trust Christ enough to begin the journey into His presence and into holiness always walk in unity with others. Many people wish to be alone, so they don't have to deal with other people's weaknesses. They don't want to fight and get hurt by others on the journey. Yet that is not how Jesus set it up. We, in fact, cannot make the journey without others. The saint and sinners are all packed together on this journey of rehabilitation, so that when someone needs help, Christ expects us to pick them up. 

We Become HIS Body
This journey brings us into perfection. It is our sacred sanctification. And we do it together. When someone rejoices, we all rejoice and share in the joy. When someone sorrows, we all sorrow together. 

We are learning to meet each others' needs unselfishly, and that is an important part of the rehabilitation of sin. We must have each other around to comfort, to extort, to teach and to learn together. Like gemstones, we must pound each other in order to shine and bring out the brilliance of what God has placed into each of us. 

God is bringing us into holiness together. Some, it will be harder for, and their perseverance and victory will be the great reward of all of us. And those who much has been given, much will be expected. Each will share in the other's glory, as well as share in the other's pain. And this is how love grows.

But as we walk and pray and study together in the road of sacraments set up for us by Christ Himself, we always must start with the most important of all steps: going to mass together to worship Him and received the manna meant for the journey. There, His life is poured into us, so that each step is really not us but Him. Never can we say "we did it." For it will always be Christ's victory because He infused us with His life, His grace, His mercy, His love so that each step will be fruitful, even if we don't recognize how His life is changing us.

Then there is confession, the anointing of the sick, marriage, holy orders: each one of these is given to us that we as His Body have the strength to continue on together. 

And we tend to dislike the idea of confession and yet learning to admit our faults, confessing them and asking forgiveness is one of the most important steps in learning the humbleness of sanctification. We learn to walk and simply trust Jesus in the sacraments. We must have faith in them and they will be miraculous. For they ARE His graces poured out for us. 

And Jesus is preparing in this earthly kingdom, a people who are slowly, century by century, coming closer to the place where God will come again and place the New Jerusalem, the capital of this kingdom her physically among us. 

We who have learned to love each other on this journey will run perfected into that Temple because we are now healed. We have learned patience and obedience, we have learned kindness and long-suffering. All along the journey we have become more like Him.

That is what the kingdom of the Catholic Church is for. That is why Christ set up His kingdom. For those who never leave the foyer of this kingdom and go into the main sanctuary, Catholics who never make use of the sacraments while on earth in this life-- all they have done is postpone the journey. It will be made, just after they have died. The Catholic Church calls this same journey after death: Purgatory.

The arms of the Catholic Church are always open for those who wish to escape, Christ never forces anyone to stay. But just remember, God is the good shepherd and He will always come and seek out His lost sheep. He never gives up, not on even one soul. It takes a lifetime of rejecting love that brings one to hate Heaven enough to choose hell.

What about the sheep outside the sheepfold? What about those who never come into the Kingdom of God--the Catholic Church? Jesus tells us not to worry, that there are others, in other sheepfolds that He has plans for. Never despair. Just because you do not see your loved one in the group of the travelers you are with, doesn't mean they will not be there at the end, perhaps before or after you. 

And if you fear that one of your loved ones has or will chose hell, pray for them. Not all do make the journey, but do not despair. Pray with all heaven that the one you love will have his eyes opened and see the greatness of the kingdom. 
At the end, there is a great banquet awaiting us, the great consummation of the ages.  Where there will be no more tears. No more sorrow. Our garments will be perfect, and spotless because Christ purified them on the journey. And at the end, He will fully open our eyes to see how each of us became one with Him as His everlasting bride.

That is the Church. That is the Sacraments. They are our life, our privilege. Our journey with Him in love.

No comments: