Jesus Gave the Church Authority
There is something different about Christianity, something that sets it apart from any other religion, namely, Christ. Christianity is not just a set of rules, but rather a relationship with it's founder, who also happens to be God. Most religions are what might be termed as a sort of "stairway to heaven," a way to get to God, or to possess the divine, but in the case of Christianity it is the opposite. Our God has come to us and given us His divine life through His Church.
He gave us the Church with a hierarchy, leadership, authority, and all that jazz, which are all necessary in any type of organization. Of course, at first it was much simpler—as we see in the description of the early Church in Acts 2:42-47—with small groups of believers gathering in secrecy in each others homes. But by the grace of God it has become a family of believers that expands across the earth.
The bigger the Church has grown the more important that hierarchy has become. Someone has to teach people the truth. Someone has to let us know when we are stepping out of bounds. Someone has to enforce the rules. The fact is, we need leadership. We can all read the Bible and disagree on our interpretations, leading us to found our own churches, but what good are thousands of different denominations arguing over doctrinal differences, when Christ has prayed for us to be one.
“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”
Unfortunately, this is not the case and our current state of a continuously splintering Christianity into sects is not what Jesus wanted. That’s why we need a hierarchy. To teach the truth, to protect us from error, and to guide us to Christ through the sacraments.
The Church is an Invincible Superhero
The Catholic Church has continuously faced up against “the world, the flesh, and the devil” but as the awesome, divinely-inspired, evil-killing, superhero that she is, she always wins.
People started popping up with their own ideas about what we should believe, often times in direct contradiction of the true Christian belief, but they came and they went—often with the help of amazing heresy-squashing man-saints like St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Justin Martyr—and the Church still stands.
The Church is often criticized for it’s handling of heretics, which in some cases were imprisoned, tortured and executed. Take for example the story of Galileo, which Marc Barnes handles in his recent post “How to suck at your religion.”
Persecution & Evil Empires
Another one of the amazing proofs that Christ founded the Catholic Church is the fact that it is still around. For almost 2000 years the Church has not only continued to exist, but it has grown even bigger, which shouldn’t surprise us since Jesus did command that we take it “to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)” and “make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).”
In the early years of the Church, Christians faced all kinds of religious persecution—often torture and death—for believing in Christ. The primary enemy of the Church for the first few centuries was the Roman Empire, which also happened to be the world’s greatest power. The emperor even claimed to be a god. The powerful empire went up against the Church, shedding all kinds of Christian blood through crucifixion, human torches, and death-by-circus-animal shows in which they looked on with amusement.
The funny thing is that the center of this all-powerful empire—which has also fallen—is now the center of Christ’s Church. Just like the cross—a wicked instrument of barbaric torture—was used as a sort of a taunt by early Christians to their persecuters, so the Vatican has become a symbol of the God-given power that the Church possesses.
Even in our own day, we face religious persecution by our own government. But I have hope, because governments, states, kingdoms, and empires have all gone up against the Catholic Church and the Church still stands.
Scandals & Controversies
In recent years the Catholic Church has faced it’s fair share of scandals. The sexual abuse of young boys by priests definitely hurt the Church and, of course, there is no denying the evil of those men, but even that could not take down the Church. In fact, although some have left because of it, it has given the Church the opportunity to show the rest of the world how to handle such a situation.
People tried to use the sex-abuse scandal as a weapon to destroy the Church, but it’s not going to happen. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and the Church has definitely learned from her mistakes. Now the schools are being plagued with similar scandals and instead of people putting down and condemning the Church they can look up to her and learn how to deal with this sensitive issue the way we have.
Founded on the Rock
Jesus Christ started the Catholic Church. Bold statement, I know, but there is no hiding from the truth. However good or worthy of a man we think Simon Peter was—I often wonder myself—he was chosen by God to lead the flock (Jn 21:15-19). God tends to call ordinary people to do extraordinary things, that’s just His style.
“You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
The second part of this passage is something that I think we as Catholics often forget. Jesus promised that the Church would never die. Period. Yes, as we have explored already there will be battles and challenges, but the Church will always prevail. I love that! Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can stop fighting for the faith or let our guard down.
“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.”
We have to continue our mission as the Church, trusting that what Jesus has promised us is true. That is faith!