I’ve observed a general feeling in much of the world today that looks at the Catholic Church as an outdated group with quaint, if not retrograde, beliefs that just can’t leave well enough alone.
“Who cares if people of the same sex want to get ‘married?’ How does that hurt me?”
“What’s the big deal with allowing divorced and remarried people (without annulment) to receive Eucharist? If it makes them feel more connected to the God, then why not?”
“Why shouldn’t a priest be allowed to report child molesters who confess to them? Wouldn’t it be irresponsible not to do so?”
I’m sure you could think of more questions like these that you’ve encountered in your discussions about the Catholic Church. We are cast as moral busybodies who cannot get with the times.
The thing is that I can completely understand objections like this. They make total and complete sense…IF the Church is just a Church made by man.
But of course, we know that it is not. It is the Church of God. And God uses live ammo.
I recently directed a play. In it, some characters handle a small, unimpressive little cylinder They grab it, shake it, and toss it without much thought. But then they are told that it contains something that could destroy a good portion of the Earth. Suddenly, they freeze and hold the item gingerly and with the greatest of care. Fear and awe overcome them as they cannot take their eyes off of this object of immense power, taking in the grave consequence of its misuse.
The Catholic Church is like that cylinder. If all we are can be reduced to some fallible humans mucking about with our silly traditions, then of course forward-thinking people might find our steadfast resolution to be folly in the modern era.
But the Church is founded by Christ, our Lord and God. And the Church’s teachings are rooted in His teachings.
And God does not play around with our souls.
Christ was insistent to spread his message. He told the Apostles, “Go, make disciples of all nations.” It cost all of them (with the exception of John) their lives in martyrdom.
If Jesus only wanted them to spread His message so that some people could feel slightly better about their connection to God, then that would make Christ cruel. It would have meant He thought very little of the lives of His Apostles, to have them pay so heavy a price for so meager a goal.
No, the more logical conclusion is that He asked them to give everything because everything was on the line. Salvation and damnation hung in the balance. People would either receive eternal joy in Heaven or everlasting torment in Hell based on the choice of the Apostles to preach the truth.
And that choice is once again presented to the successors to the Apostles, Pope Francis and the bishops. But it also applies to us. The choice is ours. Will we bring others never-ending happiness? Will we let others fall to damnation?
“Isn’t that a little extreme?” some might ask.
When two people of the same gender engage in sexual relations, they are living in a way that is against God’s design. It is impossible to find everlasting happiness against your own nature. Do we want misery for our brothers and sisters who are gay? Of course not!
Of those going to Eucharist in mortal sin, St. Paul wrote, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment* on himself.” (1 Cor 11:29) The Eucharist is not simply a symbolic gesture of unity. It is the real, full holiness of Christ Himself.
In 1 Samuel, a man named Uzzah died for touching the Ark of the Covenant while he was unworthy. How can we hope to escape punishment if we touch God Himself with unclean souls?
If priests could pick and choose what sins to reveal and keep secret, would anyone have confidence to bring their sins before them and be forgiven? Or would they rather die with their sins so as not to expose their shame? How many would lose their salvation should the seal be lifted?
The Church holds the line because the ammo is live. But the consequences of sin are often slow and hidden from most people, we might fool ourselves into thinking it doesn’t exist. But even if I don’t believe that cyanide will kill me, it does not therefore make me immune to the poison. Even if I believe the grenade I’m carelessly tossing is a dud, it doesn’t mean that, if live, it won’t blow up.
And the Church uses live ammo because Catholics must understand that we are in a constant state of spiritual warfare This is not a game.
There is a constant temptation to water down the truth. We are called on to be “reasonable” and “tolerant” and “open-minded.” All of these are wonderful qualities.
Is it reasonable to allow people we love to harm themselves?
Should we tolerate the damnation of our fellow man because we don’t want to offend?
Can we not be more open-minded to the ways in which we can minster to those who need salvation?
If we water down the truth, we may lead people into real, eternal harm.
Now, does this mean we always have to hit people over the head with a weighty sermon? No.
In my next article I will talk about the most important way to minister to those alienated from Christ.
Copyright 2014, W.L. Grayson