Why Going to Church is Essential to Life in Christ

Photo of St. Peter’s Square by Hiltonius

Life in Christ is a journey with all the thrills and excitement of an epic adventure. It has been compared by many to the climbing of a mountain. It can be dangerous yet exhilarating, challenging and fulfilling all at the same time. But the spiritual life is not like a walk in the neighborhood park. It’s actually more like climbing Mount Everest.

Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth. No other summit can compare. It boasts many challenges, but to reach the top and live to tell the tale is one of the greatest of all physical achievements. Many dream of being able to, but few actually do. The majority of us just read about it or look at pictures on the internet. It is something only for the elite.

When you’re climbing Mount Everest there are a few must haves if you expect to make it to the summit and back alive.

Three Things You Need on the Journey

1. An Experienced Guide

Having someone to show you the way is absolutely essential for successful reaching the summit. And when you are looking for guide you want to find someone with lots of experience, who has climbed the mountain multiple times. They’ve got the credibility and the life-experience that you don’t. It sets you on the right path and keeps you from having to learn the hard way.

When most people think of the Church they think of the priests and the nuns, the pastors and the pope. Although they are an important part, they are only a very small part of the Church. You and I, every baptized believer on the planet is a member of the Church. If that sounds massive, add in all the people in Heaven or on their way. The Church consists of all of us, the living and the dead, the sinners on Earth and the Saints in Heaven.

What a gift it is to be able to have so many role models to look up to. They’ve walked the path before you and I. This isn’t new to them. You can be assured of their desire to help you, for they’ve been perfected in love. They live to love which means they want to see you succeed.

The Church also has the necessary leadership to help shepherd your soul. That means there are men who have been specially ordained to serve you, to lead you, to minister to you. They have committed their lives to getting you to Heaven. They make great sacrifices so that they can help you grow in virtue, faith, and holiness. Although they aren’t all perfect, the majority of them do an amazing job of helping us to take great strides towards a deeper relationship with God. Why not take advantage of such great gifts?

2. A Team of People

Nobody climbs Everest alone. You need a team of people for many reasons, namely motivation and support. If you get into a dangerous situation they can lend a hand. When the going gets tough you are much more likely to continue climbing when you are part of a group who all share the same goal—reaching the summit.

Going to Church isn’t just about socializing. If that’s all you’re looking for when you go to Church, then you need to make some changes. However, the Church is made up of men and women who for the most part all share in the same goal of making it to Heaven. For this reason, going to Church and being around these like-minded people is a good thing. It helps to keep you motivated and remind you what it’s all about.

When you try to go it on your own it’s easy to questions yourself and your motives for pursuing a relationship with God. On the other hand it’s also easy to begin to make God in your image instead living as His creation.

The common objection of people who don’t feel going to Church is necessary is that the people are all hypocrites and sinners. This is true. The Church is full of sinners. I am a sinner. Even the pope is a sinner. And so are you. Recognizing that is the first step in the right direction. And being around other people who are also broken and in need of God’s love and mercy is beneficial in the sense that it reminds us of our own sinfulness and need for God.

When you are doing your own thing it becomes too easy to explain away your sins, to feel you have no need for God or His ministers. All families are dysfunctional or at least have their fair share of problems to be had. The same is true for the Church. She is holy, because she belongs to God.

3. Resources

Climbing Everest is expensive. It costs thousands of dollars to purchase the right gear, the plane ticket, and all the other necessities. But the worst is the permission to climb the mountain which has ranged from a few thousand dollars to more than $70,000 per person. For most people, this is not something they will ever be able to afford.

Belonging to the Church comes with its benefits. You have access to invaluable resources that you just can’t get on your own. You’ve got the community which we’ve already mentioned who honestly can’t do without if you are serious about your faith. But even more than that you have something even greater, the sacraments.

The sacraments are a great gift and you can’t get them outside the Church. They aren’t just milestones in religious education. Each of the sacraments are designed to help us grow in relationship with God in a different way.

Baptism, of course, is the entry point. It’s the official commitment we make to join the team. Through baptism we become members of the family, children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. Confirmation is a special strengthening in the Holy Spirit that equips us to be live as faithful disciples and to go and proclaim the Good News of God’s love to the world. To receive Holy Communion is to commune with God on the deepest level possible this side of Heaven. He nourishes us with the very flesh and blood of His Son Jesus Christ.

Reconciliation, which is more commonly referred to as confession, is the system God has set up for us to be forgiven of our sins and brought back into relationship with Him. It’s like the parents who tell their children as they go off to college that their door is always open. They know that no matter what they are always welcome in their home. The door is unlocked all they have to do is open it and walk through. Anointing of the Sick provides God’s healing touch for those who are in need of both physical or spiritual healing.

Then there is the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Marriage is God’s great gift through which we are perfected in love. And Holy Orders is the way in which God ordains His faithful ministers to be the shepherds of His flock.

When you’re on your own you have none of these great gifts. You just don’t have the resources that you do as a part of the Church. God is waiting to lavish His love on you.

“A Catholic is one who believes that this Jesus remains alive, active, and accessible in and through His Church.”

~ Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan