Reason # 33 – All the Gifts There are many gifts that Christ gave to his Church as he established it. Among these are: Scripture, Apostolic Authority, Seven Sacraments, Tradition, infallibility (no errors in faith and morals), indefectability (will always be here), Saints, Mary, the Liturgy, and so forth. Only the Catholic Church can claim to have all these. Many of them we have already discussed in some detail. This is not to say that other denominations don’t have any of these gifts, but only the Catholic Church has all these gifts. A certain non-denominational chapel many have good music, and preaching but does not have the priesthood, the Eucharist, devotion to Mary and so on. A certain Protestant Communion may have a lovely liturgy but has not confession, or apostolic authority.
Only the Catholic Church has all the gifts which Christ gave and intended for his Church to have. Now if you have a job to do, don’t you want all the tools? If you have a problem to solve don’t you want all the experts and resources? Come home to the Catholic Church. There’s work to do and and a soul to be saved (yours). You need all the resources you can get. So do I.
Reason # 31 – The Church is Catholic– The word “catholic” means “universal.” One of the most remarkable things I experience about being a Catholic and a priest is this universality of the Church. I experience it in two ways.
First, the Catholic Church is everywhere. On every Continent, in every country, in most towns and even rather small communities. Mass is conducted in most of the languages that exist on this planet and displays an enormous cultural diversity as well. There are over 1 Billion Roman Catholics on this planet.
Secondly, the Catholic Church is not only every place it is in every Christian time. We go back officially 2000 years right to Jesus himself. There has never been a time since Christ when we did not exist. Every now and then you may hear complaints that the Catholic Church doesn’t change and update fast enough. Well, generally for this I am grateful. It is true, one might wish that we could learn to use certain technological things of modernity like the Internet more quickly. But, as a rule, we hold an ancient wisdom that “remembers long.” So, even as we gain strength from our cultural diversity, we also gain stability by our ancient roots.
So the Church is “catholic.” That is to say, we include every people, nation and time. Why does this mean you should come home? Well, in a word, “enrichment.” It is enriching to be part of something bigger than just me, my neighborhood, my country, or my time. I benefit from the rich experience of over one billion currently living and many more billions who have gone before. And the enrichment has more to it than just how we dress or speak. It has to do with wisdom, knowledge, experience, and prayers that are multiplied not just by people currently living but even of those who are now beyond the veil. (I’ll say more of that in a future post). Imagine the effects of these prayers and this collective wisdom.
Come home to a rich feast, spanning the globe, stretching across time. Even just here in the Archdiocese Mass is celebrated in almost a dozen languages and liturgies encorporate a rich diveristy of things ancient and new. Haven’t found what you’re looking for? Search a little more among the Catholic Parishes and communities. You’re bound to find what you’re looking for in the “universal” Catholic Church.
Here’s a little video sampling of the universality of the Church. Our gracious host, from Eastern Europe(?), quickly ushers us around the planet to ponder what the Church and Catholics are experiencing in those locales.
Reason # 30 – You really want to. – Many Centuries ago St. Augustine wrote this classic line in his Confessions: Our hearts were made for Thee O Lord and they are restless until they rest in Thee. We have talked before in this blog about our desire and that, if we are honest, we will see they are infinite. But a finite and limited world cannot give infinite, unlimited desire.
All the things we think we want are really just symbols pointing to a greater desire: God. Deep down you know he exists and it calling you. Somewhere, in the depths of your soul he is calling to you and your soul is calling for him, yearning for him. God has written his Name in our hearts and our hearts seek his face.
Come home to the Lord. Let him minister to you in Word and Sacrament. Let Him, who alone can satisfy, begin to satisfy your hunger and your thirst. Come home. You know you want to. All your other desires are really about this one desire, to be with God.
Enjoy this beautiful video and music of Psalm 42 which says it better than I ever could.
Reason # 29 – The Winning Team – OK, I’ll admit it. I cheated. I looked at the end of the book and read the end of the story. Guess what I found? Jesus wins! It’s right there in final pages, in the Book of Revelation:
The Devil who had led them astray was thrown into the pool of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Next I saw a large white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the lowly, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, the book of life. The dead were judged according to their deeds, by what was written in the scrolls. The sea gave up its dead; then Death and Hades gave up their dead. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. (This pool of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God). He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away.” The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
Do you get the Picture? Jesus wins, the devil and the world and wicked loose. And Jesus unites himself to his Bride (the Church) forever. Now here’s the point, Get on the winning team!. If you could go to the race track today with tomorrow’s newspaper, you’d be a fool to bet on any other horse that the one announced as the winner in tomorrow’s newspaper. So here we are. We have tomorrow’s newspaper today. It says Jesus wins. Well then, why bet on the World or the Devil? Choose Jesus, unite yourself with his Bride the Church. The Scriptures are clear, Jesus and the Bride are the winning team. But make sure your name is in the book! You can sign up today at any Catholic Parish. Just knock on the door and say, “Sign me up for the Christian Jubilee! Write my name on the roll.” If you had once signed up but your name’s been blotted out, just go to the nearest Catholic Church and ask for the location of the confessional. So here it is, Jesus and his Church, the Bride are the winning team, the Devil and World are big time losers. Who you gonna choose?
Reason # 28 – The Doctor is in – Alright, I got some news for you. It’s difficult news, but I’m sure you can take it ! Here it is: your condition is grave, so is mine. We’ve got some serious stuff wrong with us! You might say we’ve got a few issues! Yes, I’ve got your spiritual “medical chart” and mine open and I’m looking at the test results and the numbers don’t look good. We’ve tested positive for a number of things: It says we can be dishonest, egotistical, undisciplined, weak, immature, arrogant, self-centered, pompous, insincere, unchaste, grasping, judgmental, inpatient, and shallow. It looks like we’ve tested positive for being inconsistent, unfaithful, immoral, ungrateful, disobedient, selfish, lukewarm, slothful, unloving, uncommitted, and just plain sinful. Further tests indicate the presence of fear, indifference, contempt, impurity, hatred, laziness, cowardice, and anger. Likewise, greed, jealousy, revenge fullness, disobedience, hardheartedness, pride, envy, stinginess, selfishness, pettiness, spite, self-indulgence, lust, careless neglect, and prejudice. Our “spiritual” medical history indicates that we have sinned against justice, modesty, purity, and the truth. We have committed sins against the human person, the children and the young, innocent and the trusting, the frail and elderly, the unborn in infants, weak and powerless, immigrants and strangers, and those who are disadvantaged. A set of further test results indicates that we have failed to give witness to Christ, we have failed to join our will to God or give good example to others. We have failed to seek God above all things, to act justly you show mercy, and to repent of our sins. We’ve failed to obey the commandments and curb our earthly desires. We have failed to lead a holy life and to speak the truth. We have failed to pray for others and assist those in need; neither have we consoled the grieving.
Well, you can see that we’re kind of in bad shape. You might say that I’m exaggerating but I suspect, if you’re honest, that you like me have committed many of These sins if not most of them. Without a lot of grace and mercy we are in very bad shape! Indeed, I will say he simply that we are doomed!
But here’s the good news: the doctor is in! Jesus! Likewise, the doctor has a cure:
Daily reading of scripture
Holy Communion EVERY Sunday
Frequent Confession, at least 4 times a year, more if mortal sin is a problem!
Frequent doses of the Catechism, the lives of the saints and devotions such as the rosary, and novenas.
Good company and custody of the eyes and ears.
I hope you can see the connection to coming home. We need help; we’ve got stuff going on that will kill us eternally. But Jesus has a hospital: the Church, and Medicine: the Sacraments. Likewise there is spiritual “medical” advice available, the Word of God, sermons, the teachings of the Church and the presence of encouraging doctors and nurses such as the priests, religious, and fellow Catholics. Whether you and like to admit it or not we need regular check-ups and serious medicine. And Jesus is guiding his Church to give skillful advice and distribute powerful medicine. Do you think of the sacraments that way? Many simply think of them as rituals but the truth is they are powerful medicine. I’m a witness. After twenty-five years of seeing the doctor, Jesus and letting him minister to me through Sacraments, the Word and his Church a wonderful change has come over me. I’m not what I want to be but I’m not what I used to be.
Come on home. The doctor is in and you know you need him! Reach out for him what ever your struggles. He’s waiting to minister to you especially in the liturgy and the sacraments. You can’t do it alone. Join us every Sunday at the “holy hospital”, the Church. The Doctor is in!
Reason 27 – The Prayer of Christ. The scene is the Last Supper and Jesus is praying. At two critical moments his prayer focuses on unity. He prays to his Father in these words: And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are. (John 17:11). So, central to Jesus prayer that fateful night of the last supper was that we have unity.
But how would this unity come to be? Is Jesus just praying for a kind of moral unity where we are all nice to each other and “get along” ?? As you might suspect, Jesus has a little more in mind than a mere moral unity. He actually has a plan as to how this unity will come to pass. It is Luke’s account of the Last Supper where this plan is spelled out most clearly. In a sadly comical moment in the Last Supper a debate broke out among them as to who was the greatest! (cf Luke22:24). Imagine, Jesus knows this is his Last Supper and that he will die the next day and he has to endure this sort thing. He goes on to teach the Apostles that authority is for service, not greatness and personal power. And then, in the midst of all this competition and division Jesus announces his plan for unity. He turns to Peter, calling him by his personal name, Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus warns that the devil would try to divide (“sift”) the twelve and the Church. What is Jesus’ solution? He will pray for Simon Peter and through his prayer for Simon Peter, the Church will be strengthened in its unity. Please pay attention here, Jesus’ plan to unify his Church is to pray for one man, Peter, and through that one man strengthen his Church in unity against the devil who seeks to divide it. Note that Jesus is not unaware of Peter’s weakness for he refers to it! Peter would have to turn back after his three-fold denial. But it is not Peter’s human strength that is to be the source of unity but, rather, Christ PRAYER for Peter that will unite the Church. Peter strengthens unity in the Church because of Christ’s prayer for him personally.
Down through the many centuries Christ Jesus has unified his Church by praying for Peter and his successors, the Popes. We follow Christ plan for unity only by staying united to Peter and his successors. Every other path breaks away from Christ’s plan and divides the Church. There is an old Latin teaching: Ubi Petrus ibi Ecclesia (Where Peter is, there is the Church). In the Nicene Creed one of the four marks of the Church is that it is “one” (I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church…). But as I have tried to show you, we cannot fulfill Christ’s prayer and plan for unity if we are not one with the Pope. Only the Roman Catholic Church fulfills Christ’s prayer and plan for unity. Every denomination and individual who refuses unity with Peter’s successor, the Pope, exists apart from Christ’s plan for unity.
How does all this amount to a reason for coming home? Well let me ask you, “Do you want to fulfill Christ’s prayer for unity?” He prays that we all be one. This is an explicit prayer he made to his Father at his Last Supper. He laid out the plan. Do you want to be part of his plan for unity? Then come home. We cannot have unity without you. Neither can you have unity without us and without Peter’s successor. In the end the only way we can answer and fulfill Christ’s prayer is to be together in one Church, with Peter’s successor the Pope as the head of that Church. The devil wants to divide you and me. But Jesus is praying for the Pope, and through those prayers alone can we ever hope to have true unity. I invite you to consider fulfilling Christ’s prayer and plan by coming home to Catholic Church which he founded and unites through his prayer for the Pope.
Reason # 26 – This Really is Home– One of the bewildering aspects of Christianity is all the many different denominations that exist. They all claim to be authentically Christian and read the Bible accurately but all of them have differences that cannot simply be ignored. Now the truth cannot come in different versions. If one denomination says, “The Eucharist is the Body of Christ” and the other says, “It is not, it is only a symbol” , both cannot be right. How to sort all of this out? Which of these many denominations, saying many different things, speaks for Christ?
Well, would it matter to you if I said that only one of the contenders was actually founded by Jesus Christ? You see, the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ. Of all the Christian denominations only the Roman Catholic Church goes back to the time of Jesus Christ and was directly founded by Him. (I will say here too that the Eastern Orthodox Churches also stretch back to the time of Jesus and the Apostles so one may argue that they too have antiquity on their side but, I will point out in another post, they do not have unity with Peter, an essential quality of the Church Jesus founded.) The many other Christian “Protestant” denominations are actually fairly new and were founded by men, not Jesus. Martin Luther founded the Lutheran denomination, John Calvin the Presbyterians, KIng Henry VIII founded the Anglican (Episcopalian) denomination and so forth. Even the oldest of these denominations goes back only to the mid 1500’s. That means that the Catholic Church existed for more than 1500 years before any of the Protestant denominations came to be. Generally these denominations are called “Protestant” because they were “protesting” some teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther for example left the Church for what he considered to be very good reasons but the fact remains that he left the Church founded by Jesus to set up his own operation. Others did the same. After many of these denominations were underway, they began to divide off from each other so that, ,these days, there are many forms of Baptists, different Synods of Lutherans and so forth. All of them 500 years old or much less (Many Pentecostal denominations are less than 100 years old). Some argue today (perhaps with a bit if exaggeration) that there are almost 30,000 different Protestant denominations.
OK, so here’s the choice, A Church more than 2000 years old founded by Jesus himself or a denomination founded by man and rather a new operation at that. But before you answer let me also tell you that in founding his Church Jesus made some promises to the Church: That it would be founded on Peter, that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt 16:18ff) that Jesus would be with it all days until the end of the world (Matt 28:20), that he would anoint the Apostles with the Holy Spirit so that they would remember everything he told them (Jn 16:13), that he would give them and their successors authority to forgive sin(Jn 20:23), to bind and loose (Matt 16:19) and teach with authority such that whoever heard them would be hearing him (Luke 10:16), and that he would lead his Church to all the truth (Jn 16:13).
My point is finally this, If you are going to come home it is here, the Catholic Church. The one Church founded by Jesus Christ. The one Church that stretches back to Jesus himself and received powerful promises from Jesus. The one Church that cannot teach error for then the promise of Jesus that “the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church” and that he would “be with it all days till the end of the world, ” those promises of Christ would not hold firm. I did not say the Church was sinless (I know that because I am in it 🙂 ) but the Church cannot formally propose error for our belief. The Church may not always live the truth perfectly, but the Church teaches the truth perfectly by Christ’s own promises. This is home. This is the Church Jesus founded and secured by his promises. Come home, it’s right here.
Here is a video that explains how one man, a Protestant Minister found his way home through some of things we’ve discussed:
Reason # 25 – Don’t block your Blessings! There are just some things you can’t get unless you come to Church. Some folks say they can pray at home just fine. Maybe so, but that’s not all we do or get at Church. Obviously you can’t receive Holy Communion at home and Jesus warns that you need it: “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and Drink his Blood, you do not have life in you.” (Jn 6:53). We’ve already discussed that earlier.
But it is also true that you cannot get the other blessings of the Mass at home alone. For example, at the beginning of Mass the priest prays a prayer of forgiveness of sin after we call to mind our sins. This forgives venial sins only but don’t tell me that isn’t a blessing. At several points in the Mass the Priest, speaking in the person of Christ says, “The Lord be with you.” Guess what that means?! It means the Lord is with us who are gathered. These sorts of greetings by the priest are not just empty words, they convey and bestow a reality. Standing at the Altar the priest, once again acting in the person of Christ says, “This is my Body…this is my Blood.” Guess what happens? Jesus becomes sacramentally and perfectly present. When the Priest lifts up the sacred Host and Chalice, guess who you see? That’s right, it’s Jesus. Try that at home. At the end of the Mass, the priest says, “May almighty God bless you: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Guess what happens? God actually blesses you. Again, these are more than ritual words. They actually convey what they announce.
There are many other blessings at Mass: there is fellowship. I know how much I count on my parishioners to bless me, encourage me and correct me. Many parishes (like mine) also have great choirs. Many parishes (like mine) have great preaching 🙂 ! Good company, good teaching, great blessings and the greatest of all: Holy Communion.
Now don’t block your blessings. Come and go with me to my Father’s House. The following video is a bit grainy but you’ll enjoy this invitation anyway.