Church. We hear that word so often, but what does it actually imply? The meaning of the word “church” as defined by the Catechism, is derived from the Greek word ekklesia, which means “those who are called forth.” The Catechism goes on to say that the Church is “where the Spirit flourishes.” (CCC 749 & 751) These descriptions paint an image of life, movement and mission for God, but today’s world perceives the Church as archaic and outdated. But in contrast to this modern worldview, there are convincing reasons why God’s beloved Church is truly alive.
To begin, let’s go back, all the way back. Christ Himself instituted the Catholic Church over 2,000 years ago. Since then, it’s had its ups and its downs, but it’s been alive for two millennia. Human institutions simply don’t last that long. How long did the Roman Empire last? About 500 years. The United States of America? So far, only 250. Empires have risen and fallen, heresies have come and gone, but the Catholic Church has been standing through it all by the divine will of God. And what has been the main event constantly occurring throughout those 2,000 years? The Holy Mass.
The Mass is being celebrated all over the world, every day of the year except Good Friday. Right now, somewhere, Jesus is taking on the form of bread and wine and being received by the faithful. It’s interesting to think that this continuous sacrifice of the Lord has a real effect on society and the salvation of souls. St. Padre Pio stated that,
“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without the Holy Mass.”
In this way the Mass is like the heartbeat of the Church; it never ceases and it provides life and love.
But Mass isn’t possible without priests; they play a vital role in the Church. Priests take on persona Christi when they forgive sins or celebrate the Eucharist. This amazing gift of Jesus becoming present in the priest gives testament to the fact that the God is truly active in the Catholic Church. He is not merely observing the Sacraments happening from up above, but He is acting through the priest.
Does this mean priests are completely immune to sin and fault? No. They too, are human. Unfortunately, there have been recent scandals involving not only unspeakable acts but also cover-ups by church leaders. Not discounting the seriousness of this matter or of other sin within the Church, and though I believe those guilty should be locked up for their offenses, the fact is that there has always been sin and corruption when power is involved. But it’s important to remember that the Catholic Church is not defined by the actions of its members or even its leaders. Rather, the identity of the Church is in God’s love, just as our own personal identities are in God. “God has made an irrevocable decision to love her [the Church] and does not forsake her despite all the sins of her members” (YOUCAT 121)
This points to another aspect of the Church that sets her apart from other institutions: Divine providence of its existence. The Lord wills that his church be a source of life for all, and He isn’t letting anything stop Him. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said to the first pope, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” These may be dark days for our church, but remember, God is on our side.
God being our founder and keeper brings with it some very good attributes, one being consistency of teaching. Not only has the Catholic Church kept sacred tradition and the Magisterium and the list goes on, but we also haven’t changed our moral compass on the issues that matter. An example would be contraception, an issue Catholics are hotly criticized for being against. But the early Christians opposed the practice, and all Christian denominations until about the 1930s were united against it. These days, the Catholic Church is the lone ranger in opposition to contraception. I won’t get too far into the details and explanation, but this stance is rooted in truth, and the Church won’t deny truth, even when others do. Again, we see that by resisting the common yet misguided belief, the Church is truly living. As W.C. Fields said, “A dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to float upstream.”
We have seen how our Catholic Church is alive and thriving through her rich history, her Sacraments and clergy, her unwavering defense of truth, and her divine connection. This is a beautiful reminder that we are the church, happy to be.