be not afraid!
It’s been a challenge for faithful Catholics in these last decades, maybe longer. The sexual abuse that has occurred is such an abhorrent episode in the Church’s history that has brought such pain to the victims and their families, and has deeply wounded the Catholic faithful. It’s a period that may forever leave an imprint on those who’ve been impacted. It’s a period that still needs healing and reconciliation; such of the type where the peace that comes can only come from Jesus Christ, aided by the sacramental life Jesus leaves us in and through the Catholic Church.
Yet as Catholics we don’t turn our back on Jesus because of Judas.
We are Catholic not because we are a human institution. We are Catholic not because of the clergy. We are Catholic not because of the Sunday homilies or the music. We are Catholic because of Jesus Christ.
In his October 2011 Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, Pope Benedict XVI wrote:
What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end.”
Pope Benedict XVI
A decade later those words are as true as ever and a prophetic clarion call to all Catholics.
As we embark on a new year, let us resolve to live out our baptismal promises as Catholics. For faithful Catholics, deepen your faith. For Catholics who’ve stepped away, let not another day pass, Come Home. Let this be the year that all Catholics – faithful and fallen away – resolve to be a light in the darkness.
This begins with remembering who we are.
We are Catholic because we believe Jesus founded a church, as Jesus himself declared to Saint Peter (Mt 16:18). We are Catholic because we believe the church is the pillar and bulwark of truth (1 Tim 3:15). We are Catholic because we are members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and we believe that Jesus left a Church that would be His light to the nations, one not to be hidden under a bushel basket (Mt 5:11-16). We are Catholic because we know that this church would also be a visible presence in the world that would call all people to Him and the church Jesus founded. We are Catholic because we believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church (Eph 2:20; Acts 1:2; Jn 6:70; Mt 16:18, Mt 10:1-5; Rev 21:14) professed by Christians throughout the ages in the Nicene Creed.
We are Catholic because of the new and eternal covenant Jesus gave to his Apostles on the night he was betrayed; when in the Upper Room before he departs to begin his Agony in Gethsemane, at the Last Supper, Jesus institutes the Sacrament of the Eucharist (Mk 14:22-24, Lk 22:19-20, 1 Cor 10:16, Jn 6:53-57, 1 Cor 11:23-30). We are Catholic because of the sacramental life.
We are Catholic because we understand the origins of the Bible, and we read it in the same light of understanding that the Apostolic and Early Church Fathers, and others down through the centuries, read Holy Scripture; for we agree with St. Augustine that the “New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” We are Catholic because we understand Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are the two lungs that breathe the fullness of life into the Christian faith. We are Catholic because we know trying to live out this faith with only one lung is inviting a life of labored breathing. We are Catholic because we breathe in the fullness of life that God breathed into His Church (1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15, 3:6; Jn 21:25; 2 Pet 1:20; 3:15-16; Rom 10:17; 1 Cor 15:1-2).
Brothers and Sisters, be not afraid!
A purely human institution would have fallen because, in our sinful humanity, no human institution could survive for these 2,000 years. Yet the Catholic Church is divine in origin because our foundation – the cornerstone that the builders rejected (Ps 118:22; 1 Pt 2:7-8) is in Jesus Christ, cemented onto the Rock of Peter, and passed down to us to this day through apostolic succession (Eph 2:20; 4:11; 1 Cor 12:28-29; Acts 1:20, 25-26; 14:23; 1 Tim 3:1, 8; 5:17; 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 2:2; Titus 1:5).
As God called Noah to his ark to make anew the family of God, we are called to the Barque of Saint Peter to renew the face of the earth. His Church sails through space and time, guided by the Holy Spirit. Through wind and wave, amidst storm, trial, difficulty, and disappointment – in joy and suffering – we must remain aboard this instrument of God’s salvific work, which administers the sacraments to be received in a world broken by sin. Like the manna from heaven during the desert wanderings, we are being fed along our journey on the Bread of Life in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
We are Catholic because the sacraments feed the soul. We are Catholic because we belong to this Home for Saints, we belong to this Hospital for Sinners.
All power in heaven and earth has been given to Him, and Jesus will be with his Church, always, through the end of the age (Mt 28:19-20) – thanks be to God!
Peace be with you!
Disciple of Christ | Son of the Church
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Where Peter is, there is the Church. Where the Church is, there is Jesus Christ. Where Jesus Christ is, there is eternal salvation.”
Saint Ambrose (340-397 A.D.), Doctor of the Church
Saint Pope John Paul II, pray for us.
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family, pray for us. Amen.