Cases for the Catholic Church: Authority

I’m starting a series of posts on why all Christians should be Catholic. I plan on writing a number of different posts covering different angles of this ecumenical issue. This first one is on authority.

Let’s not even take the idea of “church” for granted. Why should we join a Christian church in the first place? How do we decide which Christian church to follow? Don’t you think that Jesus would have helped us out a little bit more with this crucial decision?

Any bible believing Christian would notice that Jesus founded a church. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

Let’s look deeper into that verse, highlighting significant points:

Point #1: JESUS founded the Church. God founded the Church. Not a human being. It wasn’t “made up” by people who wanted positions of power. Jesus founded the Church so that it would play a role in establishing God’s kingdom on earth, offering salvation to all of humanity and sharing the good news of the Gospel.

Point #2: Clearly, Jesus founds A Church. One Church. Not 30,000, but 1.

Point #3: We can also notice that Jesus founds His Church on a single person, Peter. Peter is the leader of the Apostles, charged by Jesus to “feed my lambs” and “tend my sheep” (John 21:15,16), shepherding/leadership/servant roles to oversee the Church throughout the world. Peter of course went on to become the first Pope, the Bishop of Rome. This line of succession of the Popes continues today as they lead the Church.

Point #4: Jesus guarantees that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. So.. no matter what, the Church will stand. It will not be destroyed. It will not falter in the faith. God’s got this.

So there’s a bunch that we can get out of one verse, and it answered the basics of the our original questions. We can infer from scripture that Jesus founded a Church led by Peter, the first pope.

How about a few more questions on authority:

What gives someone the authority to start their own church? Since Jesus founded one Church, what need is there for any other churches? Jesus founded one Church with no divisions (1 Cor 1:10). He founded the Church as one body with one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God (Eph 4:4-5). He founded a Church that is one as the Eucharistic loaf is one (1 Cor 10:17). St. Paul warned against those who create dissensions against what he originally taught the Christians (Romans 16:17) and urged them to be in the same mind and thinking the same thing (Phil 2:2).

What gives someone the authority to determine doctrine? Obviously we can’t just change the doctrine of the Church to be whatever we want it to be, but have to make sure that it squares with God. How is this done? Well, we know that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15). Jesus gave His authority to the Apostles to in Matthew 18:18, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” An example of this was during the first ecumenical council, the council of Jerusalem, in Acts 15:28-29, even highlighting that it is by the Holy Spirit (God!) that the decision was made, which the Church received at its “birthday,” Pentecost. The Church is even shown to represent God in the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11, where St. Peter says “You have lied not to human beings, but to God.” So in sum Jesus gave the Church an authoritative voice in the world representing God, and it can make decisions on doctrine at a council where all Apostles/Bishops are gathered together. (This is very basic, I’m sure I missed some points here.)

What gives someone the authority to interpret the bible? Can anyone do it? If so, how can we explain all of the different interpretations of scripture? Obviously, I’ve been quoting scripture to back up my claims so far. People might argue with my interpretation of scripture. But ultimately I do not interpret scripture myself but learn from how the Church interprets it. We see this in scripture itself in 2 Peter 1:20-21: “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.” This means that only by the Holy Spirit can scriptures be interpreted properly, and the Magesterium (teaching body of bishops) of the Church has helped us with this throughout history.

Other Cases for the Catholic Church:
Universality
Sacraments

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You Can Tell the State of a Church By…

Whether the members are inviting new people to join them in encountering Jesus.

That’s huge. This is a very simple and easy point… and yet…

IT’S SO HARD!!!

The point of the Church is not to just keep to itself. The point of the Church is not to just take the babies baptized into it and hold their hand until they are buried. The Church’s goal is to set the WORLD on fire with the love of God. If there are people who haven’t heard of Jesus yet in your city or town, then you have a job to do. The point of the Church is to send the members of the Body of Christ (you and I!) on mission.

The point of us “pewfolk” isn’t to just to sit and stand when we’re supposed to. WE ARE THE CHURCH. If your next door neighbor hasn’t heard the Gospel, who do you think is more to blame: your priest or you? Just because we aren’t from a 3rd world country doesn’t mean that our churches can’t be missionary churches. We have to stop accepting complacency in church. In the business world, boards of directors don’t give high fives to CEOs for breaking even, and let’s be frank: our churches aren’t even breaking even. Just because church is “religion” doesn’t mean that everyone should receive a gold star for showing up. Our faith isn’t something that is “nice,” it is something that SAVES LIVES FOR ETERNITY. So let’s see churches strive for a growth mindset. You know, every once in a while we see mega-churches have success, and I think that that’s because they have pastors whose very careers (and paychecks) depend on being able to gather believers in. They do have a growth mindset and a sense of urgency. Do we see that in Catholic churches? Do bishops and priests have that same urgency? Jesus is the director of the board in a sense, and He expects us to “go and make disciples.” Jesus wants the best for the world, He wants as many souls as possible to encounter Him at Mass.

“When the Church does not come out of itself to evangelize, it becomes self-referential and then gets sick.” – Pope Francis

Bishops, Priests, and Deacons have a high calling. Their job is to take care of the flock, their local church. Their job is to make sure that we’re receiving the sacraments (ok not the deacons) and getting instruction in the faith. In many churches, this is lacking. In these cases I have much more compassion for the “pewfolk,” who probably are not only clueless on what to do, but have difficulty even understanding what they believe. In these cases, we need better leadership and catechesis from Church leadership. Praise God, I think that this is improving slowly but surely.

But once a lay Catholic has a firm understanding of the faith and is practicing it, that’s not grounds for sitting around and calling it a life! If we truly have encountered JESUS CHRIST at mass, in confession, in prayer, in scripture, etc., then there shouldn’t be a BRICK WALL thick enough from stopping us from sharing that encounter with everyone that we know!

Now if only he yelled out, “HAVE YOU HEARD OF JESUS?!”

As a leader in the Church, you can see whether you’re doing your job well if you see the laity in your parish taking initiative themselves in sharing the Gospel with others and bringing them along to mass, parish events, and getting them involved. If you see that, then you know that you are successfully sharing Jesus with your parish.

As a layperson, if you have encountered Jesus and have decided to live for Him, then it’s time to take the next steps to fulfill the great commission:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20

Who are the people closest to you in your life? Family, friends, coworkers, fellow students, etc.? Have you shared your faith with them? Have you asked them about their own faith journey? Being vulnerable and kind with them will encourage them to open up with you themselves. The goal isn’t instant conversion, but some sort of growth in understanding Jesus and the message of Christianity. When you think the time is right, then make an invitation. Invite them to mass or some other parish event, depending on where you think they would be comfortable first. Keep making friendly invitations even if they decline, sometimes it takes years for people to try out faith. Don’t pester them, of course. You have to use your own judgement. If you aren’t completely sure how to share the Gospel I’ve got a handy overview for you.

So do you see new people showing up at your church? Go for it and invite new people yourselves! Jesus loves you, but He also loves everyone else who isn’t attending and encountering God!

Pope Francis Favela WYD

“I want the Church to go out into the streets, I want us to defend ourselves against all worldliness, opposition to progress, from that which is comfortable, from that which is clericalism, from all that which means being closed up in ourselves. Parishes, schools, institutions are made in order to come out … if they do not do this, they become a non-governmental organisation, and the Church must not be an NGO” – Pope Francis, WYD 2013

Suffering

In many modern day philosophies, suffering is the ultimate evil, and freedom to do whatever you want is the ultimate good.

We are always hearing people give advice like “just do what makes you happy,” or people saying “it’s my life, I’ll live it how I want.”

But how does this selfish, me-first, mindset play out in reality?

  • The hook up culture alienates men and women, turning them more into goods or services to be desired and used than human beings.
  • Men have zero faithfulness to women so that if they ever get pregnant, they just get out of the picture.
  • Why raise your child in poverty when you could abort and get rid of “the problem”?
  • Many marriages are only measured in months, because they didn’t “sign up” for the hard times, too.
  • If grandma/grandpa is really sick and probably going to die, it’s much less painful (and cheaper) to euthanize instead of paying to have them lay on a hospital bed for another year.
  • If little Bobby in the hospital has an illness and can’t be cured, doctors can euthanize him, even as a child.
  • Hard pornography is available everywhere as is prostitution, without anyone ever thinking about whether the women actually want to be doing what they are doing and sticking up for them.

When it comes down to it, it seems like our culture has no balls. Is anyone willing to stick up for what they believe in anymore? I mean really. We consistently take the easiest way out for EVERYTHING. If we ever have the option to make something in the law less burdensome for us morally, it’s bound to pass through. All in the name of “freedom” or “liberty” or “progress” or “happiness” or “painlessness.” Is this a strong culture? Is this the type of society that we should be proud to be from? Does this bring out the best in humanity, or does it lead individuals down a spiral of mediocrity and selfishness?

This is yet another reason why I love the Catholic Church so much. Is anyone else protesting the moral evils of our time as much as the Church? Has anyone else even had the balls to speak up against popular culture?

When it comes down to it, the idea of avoiding suffering at all costs isn’t even possible. Life doesn’t give us that “option” to control. Suffering is a part of life, and you better find a life philosophy that makes some sense out of it, or even gives you hope through it. We never know if we’ll take another breath, or what’s around the next bend in life.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been in agony. I got injured playing basketball, and my leg ended up swelling up from hematoma. Can’t walk. Can’t sleep. Constant pain. Sounds fun right?

It didn’t destroy me, though. As a human person, suffering is a way of life, and my Catholic Christian religion takes this into account. At every church that I ever go to, right there in the middle behind the altar is a crucifix, like this:

crucifix

Seeing a crucifix reminds me of how God doesn’t just love me, but He loves me enough to be tortured and crucified for me. When I am in agony, I know that He is in agony with me too.

Jesus even desires that I offer up my sufferings for Him and for others. It is a great way to sanctify the difficulties of life.

As a Christian, I understand that life isn’t perfect, but at the end of time all things will be made right. I have heaven and the resurrection to look forward to (hopefully, pray for me!), so I really have nothing to lose in this life as long as I’m all in for Jesus.

I’ve found some joy in my sufferings in being able to offer it up for my family and friends, the students that I work with, the mission trip that I was going to go on, etc. It has also revealed how much love my friends have in helping me out by making me food, getting me water, helping me get around, and more. By serving me, they are serving Jesus in a sense through me. Remember the passage, in Matthew 25:

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” – Jesus

Those selfish philosophies? They have no way to explain how to deal with pain and struggle in life. “Just do what you want” doesn’t work when you’re in agony. You can’t will yourself to stop hurting. Instead, we have to toughen up and move on. Those philosophies also especially fall short when someone else is in need. As a Catholic Christian, I am called to serve those in need and love all. Just because a person or relationship isn’t convenient doesn’t mean that I should just drop them. We are faithful and loving within the bounds of the relationship.

I think I rambled a bit too much with this one. I’ll clarify my points to try and salvage it:

  1. Philosophies that do not incorporate suffering and pain are insufficient
  2. Doing whatever gives you pleasure in life is selfish, our culture needs to put more value on selfless love
  3. There actually is hope and purpose in suffering especially for Christians because of our faith
  4. God bless you, hope you’re having a great day 🙂