Swiss Guard at Pope Francis' Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square on April 16, 2017. (Credit: Lucía Ballester/CNA)
Life is not easy, and the Catholic Church cannot make it so, but it can make it better with consolations and grace and truth that never changes.
The world doesn’t get us. Sometimes we are ganged up on and persecuted. Often, we are misunderstood. Always, we are one, holy Catholic and apostolic.
We are unique, enduring, resistant to whims, unafraid to stand alone, and in love with the Blessed Mother. History is on our side and so is Scripture, even if we don’t always have it memorized.
We are members of the Church founded by Jesus Christ and yet, we are not better or more loved than any of God’s children — just blessed with all the gifts that God has to give. We are grateful yet challenged, for to whom much is given, much is expected.
Jesus comes to us in Holy Communion — for we “do this in memory of me.” And we go to him in Confession where the priest, in the person of Jesus Christ, absolves us of our sins. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”(John 21-23).
Despite accusations to the contrary, we are not snobbish to visitors at Mass during Holy Communion, for the Eucharist is for all who believe and are one with us. Otherwise, it is not ours to give. “For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves,” (1 Corinthians 11:29).
Some call our Church uptight due to reserving procreation for marriage and condemning contraception. Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae reemphasized that constant teaching which all Christian denominations once followed. And then there is the teaching that marriage, once validly begun, is until death. Because Jesus said so. No expiration date was given.
Our brothers and sisters in heaven pray for us and we pray for those in purgatory going through purification because nothing unclean will enter Heaven (Revelation 21:27). We understand that they will not get out until they “have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:26).
We preach good works, as the necessary response to being saved by the death of Jesus Christ. “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). We know we cannot save ourselves, but we have the hope — not the assurance — of salvation. “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus: 5-7).
We discern, not judge, for we hate the sin but love the sinner. And we defend life because it is God’s to create and to terminate in his perfect timing.
Scandals we know. The intentionally confused blame the Church rather than recognizing scandal as the antithesis of Catholic teaching. Thus, there is never just one victim, for the Church always suffers alongside, betrayed and defiled.
We are saints and we are sinners, and our worship services are full of both. Sinners are always welcome —no better place to be—for healing, and worship, and community.
We are the branches and Jesus the vine, so we cling to him through our Church, to keep his life flowing abundantly though us.
For those who believe, we welcome them to enter our Church, even though it is by way of the narrow gate. Because sometimes, the teachings are hard and we are always behind in the popularity polls. Regardless of the culture’s misunderstanding, our rules do not restrict, but rather give freedom. For freedom is not the ability to do anything, even to sin. If that were the case, as Pope Leo XIII taught, then God and the angels would not be free.
Life is not easy, and the Catholic Church cannot make it so, but it can make it better with consolations and grace and truth that never changes. And that is why we are Catholic.