The Church that Jesus started. Let us honor what Jesus started by staying true to the Catholic faith AND opening our hearts to our brothers and sisters, to all those whom we encounter in the world. I believe that the Catholic faith is the one that Jesus started, that its origins and its succession is from Christ. I believe that Christ chose twelve Apostles, and many disciples, and it is to these people that he entrusted His teaching. The twelve in particular were given the task, the enormous responsibility, of passing Christ’s teaching on to others whom they trusted. So much of this was passed on through word of mouth and by experience. The tradition of memorizing essential teachings and gravely important conversations was much more accurate and commonplace during the time of Christ. Whole books of the Torah were memorized by students, and the sayings of Christ were memorized and repeated, preserving the very words that Jesus spoke. This is what Christ did, he had much, if not all of the Hebrew scriptures memorized in His mind when he spoke to others. It was these familiar words that resonated with the people of His time and continue to resonate with us today. He went into the world, and then sent His apostles into the whole world, to meet others and to dialogue with them so that everyone whom they encountered might know God, might know His love, even if they did not understand or come to believe in Him at that moment. Respect and honor. No one person has ever elevated the dignity of humankind more than Jesus Christ Himself. The Apostles were imperfect, struggled with ego and pride, were sinful men, and yet through them Christ worked to bring His message. Through them and to this day, He brings about the Kingdom. Even in our brothers and sisters who have broken off from the faith, Christ continues to work, although in a less unified way. Christ wanted and wants communion among us, for us to be one in the Holy Spirit. You can envision a father and his children, wanting them to enjoy each other’s company, to play together, and to grow together. He knows and knew all of the things that have transpired since his Ascension, how the Church has become fractured, how some of His followers have chosen a different path. He is still present through all of this. The Catholic Church can trace a most delicate thread and the strongest rope, a chord bound with so many billions of people which continue to connect us to Christ. The fathers of the Church, Clement of Rome (d. A.D. 97), Ignatius (d. 110), Polycarp (d. 155), Justin Martyr (the Church’s first major lay apologist; d. 165), Irenaeus (d. 202), Cyprian (d. 258), Athanasius (d. 373), Basil (d. 379), Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386), Ambrose (d. 397), John Chrysostom (d. 407), Jerome (d. 420), Augustine (d. 430), Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444), Pope Leo the Great (d. 461), and Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604) all showed us just how connected they were with Christ by their teaching and their lives. We can follow this teaching and see its progression over the years through other theologians who have expanded, deepened and fleshed out their work. There are so many faithful who desire and desired to plummet the depths of Scripture and the life of Jesus that a profusion of truly wonderful insights and discoveries have been made to verify and vivify the Catholic heritage. Many, many people who read their works find the very words of Christ, the very Truth that Christ proclaimed, to be present and revealed. This very often leads to a deep conversion of heart from other denominations, like Dr. Scott Hahn, and brings people back into the fold. I had the opportunity to take a class on St. Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the Gospel of John at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary from his oldest son, Dr. Michael Hahn, and I can attest to his knowledge and deep devotion. The Church itself is always looking back to the source of life, the source of our faith, and it rigorously reasserts the origins of the Gospel imperative, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15), the same good news Christ shared with us. There will always be dissension and disagreement, especially about things we deeply care about, and when imperfect humans fail to live up to the standards Christ Himself set out for us, the regret, despair, and division increases. This can be very much like the story of the Prodigal Son who goes his own way only to squander the gifts his father gave him. Sometimes that “son” or “daughter” leaves and finds a life of their own, away from their home, or their parents. They form new relationships and adopted families. There is something irretractable, some hurt, something that was broken that is too hard to fix or it wasn’t really that persons shared belief in the first place, they may not have received the teaching in a deep and meaningful way. What makes one leave and empowers that person to stay away is of great interest to the Church. The Church wants to heal all wounds. This may not always be possible in the moment as is the case of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation cited in this video, and those injurious actions have profound and far reaching consequences for both parties. The Catholic Church has made great strides to find those things we hold in common and to affirm them in writing. There is still much work to do. For those who are interested in going into all the world, to the whole creation, and uniting it, this is and always will be a daunting task, but this is exactly what Christ asks us to do. For this, we must rely upon the grace of God, and the tools He has given us. I pray that all our prayers, our voices may become more attuned to each others needs as we continue to work together toward building His Kingdom on Earth.
- Fr. Chance