Category Archives: Christian Unity

Becoming One Flesh: Eucharist And Marriage

Dr. Scott Hahn recently posted an excellent Facebook response to a question about the Eucharist being closed to non-Catholics.  His answer reflected on his own spiritual journey from Evangelical Christian to Presbyterian minister to Catholic.  Each step in his journey brought him closer to understanding the sacramental aspect of both marriage and the Eucharist.  Each relationship is a “one flesh” union requiring fidelity and integrity.

As I reflected on Dr. Hahn’s answer, it occurred to me that perhaps a lack of understanding about the Eucharist and marriage contributes to the wide acceptance of contraception.  For example, if marriage is not viewed as a sacrament, it becomes only a symbol and loses integrity.  It can be manipulated according to the will of anyone desiring to make use of its symbolism.  If Holy Communion is only a symbol, it loses any need for fidelity.  Anyone can “join in.”  There is no need for full union between participants.  The Eucharist becomes merely a symbol of common feelings rather than a reality of a “one flesh” union.  Since everyone “feels good” about Jesus, they should all be allowed to partake of the Eucharist, right?

Ironically, few married people would be comfortable becoming one flesh with someone they were not fully united to in marriage.  That’s called infidelity and it is rightfully frowned upon by most married people.  We don’t let everyone “join in.”  So, why should we be ok letting people “join in” the one flesh union of the Eucharist if those people are not fully united with Christ’s Church?

And why should we let people partake of the Eucharist if they don’t even believe that what they are participating in is an actual, “one flesh” union?  That’s like being in a contraception marriage.  There are lots of “good feelings” that feel like bonding, but there is not a one flesh union taking place in the marriage.  It is a lack of integrity.  The marriage is only symbolic of the feelings they have about each other.  They do not take the marriage to its full realization of a one flesh, life giving union.

One of the best ways for the devil to mess up our relationship with Christ is to promote the following errors:

–          The Holy Communion is only symbolic.  The bread and wine are not transubstantiated into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.  We don’t need to become one flesh with Christ at Communion.  All we need is our good feelings about Jesus and the Bible.

–          Contraception is fine and even preferable.  Sex and marriage are mostly about bonding and “good feelings,” not primarily about becoming one flesh and creating new life.

–          Anyone that believes in Jesus should be allowed to participate in Holy Communion.  No fidelity to the Church or her Christ-given authority is necessary.

The two Sacraments of Eucharist and Marriage are intimately connected in such a way that an attack on one serves as an attack on the other.  A deeper understanding of one leads to a deeper understanding of the other.  “Becoming one flesh” is a critical theme that connects the two Sacraments in a unique way.

Catholics are not mean, snobbish “elitists” that refuse to let other Christians “join in.”  We simply hold to the understanding of Jesus and the Church Fathers who saw the need for covenantal integrity and marital fidelity within marriage and within the Church.

Holy Week: The Servant Is Not Above The Master

I’ve been reflecting today about Holy Week and the finale episode of The Bible series on the History Channel.  I’ve been thinking about what the world did to Jesus.  Jesus told His followers that they also would be hated and persecuted because of Him.  He didn’t hint that the world might do so, but He assured them that it would do so.  He also told his followers to expect, accept and embrace suffering.  The Apostles were virtually all killed for following Jesus.  The next 2000 years produced innumerable, Christian martyrs, including many of the first popes.

Why do so many present day Christians expect their lives to be free from suffering?  Jesus said that the servant is not above the Master.  The servant follows the Master.  The Master suffered for speaking, indeed for being the truth in love.  The Master did not suffer because He spoke things that made everyone feel good.  The Master did not suffer because He pointed out how fair and free from injustice the world could be.  He suffered because He testified to the sinfulness and injustice of the world.  He suffered because He pointed beyond this life and our attachments to it.

I’m not suggesting that Christians need to go out and pick fights or seek out ways to suffer.  But, I do believe that if we stand for truth when the world tries to feed us lies, we will not need to seek out suffering or persecution.  It will come and find us.  If it does not come looking for us, we’re probably not following Christ.  If we receive constant applause from the world, we’re probably not following Christ.

Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23)

Christians, are we prepared to be blessed?  Are we prepared to leap for joy?  Christ had His resurrection.  Ours is yet to come.  We are still in the world.  But, we are not of the world.  Speak the truth in love.  Then, be ready to follow the Master.

The Bible Is Not A Pastor

The election of Pope Francis has triggered some discussion with my non-Catholic friends.  Such conversations often reveal misconceptions about Christianity, Catholicism and the Papacy in particular.  I’ll try to make a few things more clear in “layman’s terms.”

There is a slogan that is used by many non-Catholic Christians, especially those from Fundamentalist backgrounds.  The slogan is, “No hope in the Pope!”  The meaning being that Christians should place their eternal hope in Jesus Christ, not in an imperfect man.  As a devout Roman Catholic, I agree with their premise.

The misconception is that Catholics follow the Pope instead of Christ, or that the Pope trumps the Word of God in some way.  Many non-Catholics believe that the Pope can make up whatever rules he wants, even if they contradict biblical principles.  They often think that “infallible” means “impeccable.”  Infallible is not the same as impeccable.  In other words, Catholics do not believe that the Pope is totally free from error or that he is free from mistakes.  Even Peter, the first Pope, made mistakes.  He also made some infallible statements and decisions when God gave them to him.  For example, when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” it was Peter who gave the infallible answer, “You are the Christ.”

Most of my non-Catholic, Christian friends go to church somewhere.  Those churches have pastors.  The people in those churches generally trust God to speak to them through the preaching/teaching of their pastors.  If they have questions about the Bible and its meaning, they typically ask their pastors for an interpretation.  Or, they read the Bible and make their own interpretations, or they ask a friend for an opinion.  If the preaching or teaching of the pastor is deemed incorrect, there are other pastors in other churches to choose from.  The trick is to determine whether or not the preaching and teaching of the pastor is properly aligned with the “final authority” of the Bible.  There are many pastors teaching many opposing things about the Bible while all claiming to be “led by the Holy Spirit.”  So, how can they know who is right?  Checking the Bible does not solve differences of opinion about the Bible.

The Bible is not a pastor.  The Bible cannot lead the people in the way that a shepherd leads a flock.  Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep.”  Jesus gave Peter (and his fellow apostles) a specific office of authority that included “binding and loosing” of things here on earth and in Heaven.  He also gave Peter the “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.”  By giving Peter this unique office, Jesus mirrored the Old Testament tradition of a king appointing his prime minister.  Peter’s office also needed to be filled upon his death, just as the empty office of Judas had been filled.  This is why we have a 2000 year succession of Popes and apostolic authority in the Church.

The Catholic bishops are the successors of the apostles.  There are more than twelve of them now because the Church is so large and global.  Yet, there still is only one head of the apostles.  There needs to be a “go to guy,” a pastor that all the Church is accountable to.  The Bible alone cannot fill this role.  There are too many varying opinions about how to discern and interpret the Bible.  Incidentally, no one even knew what books and letters to officially include in the Bible before the Catholic Church made that decision nearly 400 years after Christ.  The Bible is actually part of the Sacred Tradition handed down to us from the leadership of the Catholic Church.  Part of the Pope’s role (along with his fellow bishops) is to protect this Sacred Tradition (aka “The Deposit of Faith”) which includes the Bible.

Jesus, of course, is The Good Shepherd.  He is the Head of the Church.  Catholics worship Jesus and strive to follow Jesus.  Part of following Jesus includes following the earthly pastor appointed by The Holy Spirit.  Jesus promised that The Holy Spirit would guide His Church.  The Pope is simply an instrument of The Holy Spirit.  I have a pastor in my local Church, but he also is answerable to the highest, earthly pastor.  In this way, we heed the words of the apostle Paul “that there be no divisions among you.”  (1Cor 1:10)  When disagreements arise, as is often the case with human beings, the Church authority is there for direction and discipline (Matt 18:17).  Without that 2000 year old Church authority, Christians have no rudder to steer them on the drifting waves of conflicting opinions and divided denominations.

Infallibility means that God protects the office of the Pope from teaching error in faith and morals.  It does not mean that everything the Pope says is infallible.  Nor does it mean that the Pope is sinless or free from mistakes.  Infallibility is given to the Christ-established office of the Pope.  The man himself, like Peter, is just a man.  The Pope cannot contradict Sacred Tradition, including Scripture.  The Pope cannot add to or subtract from Scripture.  Catholics believe that God is powerful enough to protect the office of the Pope, just as God is powerful enough to protect the inerrant, inspired Bible that the Catholic Church compiled.  He gives us His Word and a pastor to guide us all.  Jesus is The King, and the Pope is His earthly Prime Minister.  What an awesome God we serve!

Jesus Vs. E.T.

There are lots of reasons I can give as to why I choose to be a Catholic Christian.  I can talk about the necessity of Church authority in a world of relativistic, secularized theologies and individualistic Bible interpretations.  I can talk about the historical consistency of the Church from Christ until today in an atmosphere of endless church splits and fragmentations.  I can talk about how the Catholic Church stands firm on issues of morality while other churches cave into public pressure and secular culture.  I can talk about the need for unity, community and guidance in a world of Jesus-and-me, church-hopping Christians who “don’t want to be told what to do.”  I can talk about 2000 years of sacred Tradition and the deposit of faith being preserved by the Catholic Church.  I can explain that, without the God-given authority of the Catholic Church, Christians wouldn’t even know if their Bibles should contain The Gospel of Thomas or The Gospel of John or the Book of James, for it was the Catholic Church that decided the answer.  I can appeal to both reason and faith from the perspective of Natural Law and theology, etc., etc.

To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, it’s hard to give a short answer as to why I decided to be Catholic, because there are at least 10,000 reasons all leading to the conclusion that Catholicism is true.  But, after all is said and done, the ultimate reason I want to be Catholic is because I love Jesus Christ, and I want to follow Him.  I want to be with Him.  But, as much as I love Him, He loves me even more, and wants even more to be with me.  I’m not content to have a long distance relationship with Christ.  It is not enough for me to only have Jesus “in my heart” and read His letters and listen to preachers talk about being with Him in Heaven some day.  I want to be with Him now.  Thankfully, Jesus wants this even more than I do, so He set up His Church to provide the means.

But it’s not all about me and Jesus.  Jesus loves us all the same.  So He set things up in such a way that we can all be with Him, and He with us, not just “in our hearts” but in our very physical presence and essence.  I used to imagine that Jesus did a kind of “E.T” thing.  In the movie “E.T.” the little alien creature goes back to space and leaves his friend Eliot behind in tears.  In order to consol Eliot, the alien points his glowing finger at his friend’s head and says, “I’ll be right here!”  In other words, “I’ll be with you in spirit, or I’ll be present in your thoughts, but actually, I’m leaving you.”

Jesus promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  He also said He would not leave us orphans.  On the road to Emmaus Jesus met the men who begged Him to stay, even though they did not recognize who He was.  Jesus did not point to their heads or their chests and say, “Don’t worry, I’ll be right here!”  No, Jesus vanished from their sight, but, as they requested, He stayed with them in the bread, and that’s how they recognized who He was.  Jesus can do anything He wants with His glorified body.  He chooses to be present with us in bread and wine, so we can all touch Him, be with Him, partake of the Sacrificial Lamb and be united in one Body with Him.  This is what Passover was foreshadowing.  We are saved by the blood of the Lamb, but we also physically partake of, and become one with, the Lamb.

Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit as the Church’s teacher, Comforter and power.  However, the Holy Spirit is not a substitute for Christ’s physical presence among us.  Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit to teach the Church what it needed to know.  One thing the Church needs to know is that Jesus is here among us!  He longs to be with us and become one with us.  The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life and unity.  If you love Jesus, don’t just read His letters and sing songs about Him.  Follow Him and really be with Him!

A Talk With The Youth

I’m back in the saddle again after a break from writing.  Sometimes I just run out of things to say.  A period of contemplation and soaking in of the life that surrounds me usually provides some thoughts to share.  The introverted side of me is always reluctant to speak for the sake of speaking.  So, I try to have something to convey that may be pertinent to someone.

Recently, I was asked to share my story of Catholic reversion with some eighth graders at a local Catholic school.  It was part of an attempt to capture their interest in upcoming youth events that may help them stay involved with their faith as they become more independent.

Afterwards, it occurred to me that, when I left Catholicism, the Protestants I was involved with wanted to hear my “testimony.”  They wanted to hear how God had worked in my life to bring me out of Catholicism and into their fold.  Catholics had little interest in hearing about why I had left.  Upon returning to Catholicism, the only folks that openly want to hear my story seem to be Catholics.  There are no Protestants approaching me and asking me to tell why I decided to leave them and return to Catholicism.  Now, it is the Catholics that want me to “testify.”

It would be nice if everyone had a listening ear.  It would be nice if everyone had a “teachable spirit” and a willingness to hear truth spoken in love (even truth that hurts).  But, I suppose it is human nature to take sides and dig in one’s heals and feel threatened or bewildered by opposing opinions.  We all want to feel secure in what we believe.  We tend to seek out like minds to confirm our beliefs, not opposing views that challenge them.

In telling my story, it is important for me to make clear the positive contributions that both Catholics and Protestants have made in my spiritual journey.  My desire is that all Christians heed the prayer of Jesus that we, as believers in Him, “all may be one.”  Therefore, in talking about my return to Catholicism, I try to avoid an “us against them” attitude.  Obviously, it would not make sense for me to be Catholic if I did not believe Catholicism to be true.  But I try to approach that truth as one would direct a thirsty soul to water in a desert.  “It’s over here.  Come this way.  Look at this awesome gift God has given us!”

I only had a few minutes to speak to the eighth graders.  After briefly explaining how I left Catholicism and found my way back to Jesus and His Church with the help of Protestant Bible teaching, I presented them with the following scenario:

“Have you ever loved someone so much that you just wanted to be with them?  Writing a letter wasn’t enough.  Talking on the phone wasn’t enough.  You had to be with that person physically.  You had to embrace and hold that person so close that you practically melted together and became one.”  I noticed many of them nodding their heads.  “That’s what the Holy Eucharist in the Catholic Church is like.  The Bible is like letters from God.  The presence of His Spirit is sort of like talking on the phone with a loved one.  But God loves us so much, He desires to also be with us physically, and melt into us and become one with us, and us with Him (after all, He did make us eternally spiritual AND physical creatures).  God makes this life-giving embrace possible through the physical presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  The Catholic Church is where this 2000 year old miracle takes place.  That was the biggest reason for me coming back to Catholicism, and it’s the biggest reason for you to stay.”

Yet Another Grain of Truth

Recently, my doctor told me to go on a gluten free diet.  No gluten.  No wheat.  Although it needs to be confirmed, my blood work shows I may have Celiac Disease.  So, I have been following doctor’s orders, and experimenting with gluten free products.

Some products are better than others.  One thing I have noticed is that my gluten free breads, cookies and pancakes don’t hold together very well.  They seem to crumble or separate rather easily.  The gluten in wheat apparently has a cohesive quality to it that other grains lack.

When faced with the “go gluten free” order from the doctor, I began to wonder what I should do about Holy Communion.  Although I had heard some vague mentioning of this issue, I never really paid much attention to it.  Now I have to, so I did a little research.  I discovered this article:  http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/why-wheat-bread

Previously, I had no idea how scripturally important it is to use wheat for the Eucharist.  Two points really struck me.  First, the sacramental substance really is important (like using only water for baptism and not milk or orange juice, for instance).  Secondly, the cohesive quality of wheat has so many spiritual and symbolic applications that never occurred to me until I read this article.  No other grain can fulfill the role.  Suddenly, I saw the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life in a whole new light.  When I hold a hamburger on crumbling, gluten free bread or watch the bottoms fall out of my gluten free pancakes and cookies, it reminds me of how important it is for all Christians to partake of the authentic, Holy Eucharist in unity.  We are not supposed to be divided into competing, crumbling denominations with our own versions of the Lord’s Supper.  We are supposed to worship in one accord with the Holy Eucharist holding us all together.

Thank God for the bishops that insist that Catholics must keep at least some gluten in our communion bread.  I love the authenticity of Catholicism and the Church’s steadfastness.  I’m not offended one bit that the Church’s suggestion to me is, “Receive Christ from just the cup, because both the bread and the wine are transubstantiated to become the whole Christ.”  Nor does it upset me in the least that completely gluten free wafers are not offered.  I would have it no other way.  I want the Church to remain authentic in every aspect.

Incidentally, those who ask, “Doesn’t the gluten disappear when the bread is changed into Christ?” are misunderstanding what transubstantiation is about.

Maybe I have Celiac Disease, or maybe I just have gluten sensitivity.  In any case, this experience has opened my eyes to yet another grain of truth in Catholicism.  The more I learn about it, the more I appreciate it.

None of Us Christians Do What the Bible Says

Imagine that there are two or three Christians having a discussion (or an argument) about doctrine (not hard to imagine).  How can they settle the dispute?  Someone will likely suggest that they open a Bible to see what it says.  The problem with that idea is that the Bible will not “say” anything.  The Bible will sit there quietly on the table waiting for someone to read it and interpret it.  Once it has been read and interpreted, some person (or persons) will do the “saying.”  Hence, opening the Bible will usually result in multiple, competing interpretations about what the Bible supposedly “says.”  Opening the Bible does not work well in resolving disputes or creating unity among Christians.

The fact is, all of us Christians base our doctrines and beliefs on what some other person or people say that the Bible “says.”  There are many voices to choose from, such as the Pope, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Charles Stanley, Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Thomas Merton, Beth Moore, Joel Osteen, (insert your favorite preacher here), or even our own, personal opinions.  There are over 30,000 Christian denominations whose differences are supposedly based on what the Bible “says.”

Consider what happened when Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”  Jesus got a bunch of different answers.  “Some say, Elijah, some say John the Baptist or one of the prophets,” etc.  When Jesus asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” it was Peter that spoke up and said, “You are the Christ.”  Jesus told Peter he was not only correct, but he was blessed because his answer was given to him by God, not by some person.  This was validation of the special anointing Peter had from God, not just some lucky guess on Peter’s part.

It is amazing that, in the midst of many voices and opinions, God decides what the answer is and appoints the person to say the correct thing.  God did not stop there with Peter.  In Peter’s anointing, Jesus established a unique office with authority.  When Peter died, the office was filled by another.  That’s who the Pope is.  Peter was the first Pope.  The other apostles also had special authority given to them.  Their successors are the Bishops.  The Pope is simply the head Bishop.  These men not only have the God-given authority to interpret the Bible, they also had the authority to say which books belonged in the Bible when it was assembled.

But why do Christians even need such an authority?  Why can’t we just open up a Bible to see what it says?  Because the Bible doesn’t “say” anything.  To quote G.K. Chesterton, “You can’t place the Bible on a witness stand.”  It sits there quietly on the shelf, waiting to be read and interpreted.  For example, is water baptism necessary for salvation?  Is the Lord’s Supper really Christ’s body and blood, or is it just a symbol?  The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible, so, is God really a Trinity?  Nowhere is it written in the Bible to, “Accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior and you will be saved.”  Who came up with that phrase?   Is that really how to be saved?  These are all interpretations told to us by various people.  But which of those people are occupying authoritative offices established by Jesus?

Of course, you and I can and should read the Bible.  Christians are supposed to read and study the Bible.  We just have to remember that both right and wrong conclusions can be drawn from it.  Even Peter wrote that there are things that are hard to understand.  We need the correct standard to apply things to.  That’s why we need the authoritative Pope and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.  Jesus formed it that way.  Humans can’t re-form the authority that Jesus formed.  That’s called fashioning God into our own image.  It’s backwards.  Despite good intentions to correct some abuses, the Protestant Reformation fractured and fragmented the Church rather than “re-forming” the Church.

The Bible is the Living Word of God, but it does not stand alone as a sole authority.  It co-exists with the life and authority of the Church.  The two cannot be compartmentalized and distanced from each other.  As Christians, we are not really going by what the Bible alone “says.”  We are either going by what the authority Jesus established says, or by what someone else says (even if that someone is ourselves).  In other words, every Christian either has a pope, or has become their own pope.  Yet, like it or not, there’s only one Pope that occupies the Chair of Peter and has his authority from Christ.  He and the other Bishops in union with him have much to say about what is written in the Bible.  Are we listening with humility?

The Ultimate and Original “Cloud”

Before there was an iCloud to pull everything together, there was the “great cloud of witnesses” that Hebrews 12:1 says we are surrounded by.  The Feast of All Saints reminds us of this cloud and how all Christians, whether in this life or the next, are intimately connected in one Body with Christ as the Head.

One of my favorite things about being Catholic is that we do not view the Church as being just an earthly group of believers.  The Church on earth is called “The Church Militant” because we are waging a war against evil and spiritual wickedness.  Scripture calls Satan “the god of this world.”  As Christians, we are “in the world, but not of the world.”  It is a spiritual battle for souls here on earth and we Christians are spiritual warriors.

There exists a state of being between this life and Heaven where Christians may be purged of anything that cannot enter heaven, anything that is not pure and built upon Christ.  1Corinthians 3:11-15 describes this state of purging as a fire that burns away the wood, hay and stubble of our lives, yet leaves us saved with our good works of precious stones, gold and silver.  Since eternity is not limited by our time constraints, and God is outside of time, we cannot place any sense of time on this state of being.  Yet, few of us are perfect and ready to enter Heaven “right now” in this life.  We will be different in Heaven than we are “right now.” This means that a change takes place somewhere in between this life and Heaven.  Catholics call this state of being Purgatory, because it is a purging process.  Since the purging process is not a pleasant one (it is not easy to relinquish things our souls tend to cling to), the Christians in this state of purging are referred to as “The Church Suffering.”

Christians that are in Heaven are called “The Church Triumphant.”  This is the ultimate goal of Christianity, to triumph over Satan, sin, death and the evil in the world and in ourselves.  Heaven is where we are finally joined completely with Christ and “see Him as He is, for we shall be like Him.”  On the day of resurrection, even our physical bodies will be glorified and present with Christ.  No more sin or death.  Triumph!

All Christians are united in one body of Christ.  The Church Militant, The Church Suffering and The Church Triumphant are all the Body of Christ with Jesus as Head.  This is why the “cloud” that surrounds us is so awesome.  It is connected to us.  We in The Church Militant are not separated from Christians in The Church Triumphant.  Far from being dead, they are more alive than we are!  That is why we can call upon them to pray for us and intercede to God on our behalf.  In the same way that we ask other Christians here on earth to pray for us and with us, we can call upon the Saints in Heaven to do the same, for we are all one Body of Christ!  I am so glad to be able to call upon our mother, Mary, the Saints in Heaven, my earthly Christian brothers and sisters, and, most of all, Jesus, the One Mediator who makes it all possible by allowing us to share in His mediation through His One Body.  Thank God for “the cloud!”

Have a blessed Feast of All Saints!

I’m Pro-Unity For Christians

When I left Catholicism in my twenties it was largely due to the influence of anti-Catholic, evangelical, fundamentalist sources I encountered.  It also didn’t help that my own spiritual formation and knowledge of Catholic teaching was lacking.  At the time, I thought I was being liberated from a complex religious system and replacing it with a simple one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ.  In my naiveté, I regarded Catholicism as a man-made obstacle to Christ rather than a God-made organism of Christ designed to lead us to him.  For a while, I took a rather anti-Catholic approach to spirituality and sharing of the Gospel.

My return to the Catholic Church was preceded by the realization that I had been taught many misconceptions and untruths about Catholicism, both from an historical and a doctrinal perspective.  I had mixed emotions because I felt relieved and deceived at the same time.  As I processed my transition back to the Church I realized I had to be careful.  It would be very easy for me to adopt an attitude that was decidedly anti-non-Catholic, or anti-Protestant.  What I mean is that I could easily have adopted a less-than-charitable attitude towards non-Catholic persons.  This became particularly apparent as I delved deeper into Catholic apologetics.  Debates on sensitive topics can quickly produce a lack of charity in people.

Obviously, there are non-Catholic teachings and practices I am “against.”  But, I never want to be “against” any person.  Genuine charity (godly love) desires the ultimate good for every person.  I believe that such charity resides within Catholic teachings.  What I am really against is division among Christians.  I am against a divided Body of Christ.  I am against any religious system where Christians function as something other than one flock with one shepherd.  Since the sixteenth century the one flock has become increasingly divided and multitudes of shepherds now lead in vastly different directions.

I am not “anti” anyone.  I am anti-division and pro-unity.  I am for all the scattered Christians finding their way home to the Catholic Church.  I am for Christians uniting under one banner instead of constantly finding things to protest and divide over.  I am for Christians learning authentic Catholic teachings instead of misconceptions and misunderstandings that keep them away from home.  I am for one flock with one shepherd.  Jesus already established the office of Peter to “strengthen the brethren” and to “feed the sheep.”  The one shepherd has always been successively present on the Chair of Peter.  What Christianity needs is for the flock to reunite under that shepherd.

We don’t need a unity that flattens out diversity and creates bland uniformity.  We need all the gifts, strengths and diversity of all the Christians that love Jesus Christ living in one accord.  Then the world will see the Church as it should be.  Rather than seeing many protesting, clustered, individualized churches competing for attention, the world will see one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.  They will see the love of Christ.  This is what I am for.  This is why I talk about and promote the Catholic Church, sometimes juxtaposed with other doctrines.  It is not just another denomination.  It is where the flock finds home.

Don’t Put Me On Display…Christian Love

There’s an old song from the 1960s called You Don’t Own Me, by Leslie Gore.  It’s been covered by other artists and used in movies as well.  One of the lines in the song says, “Please, when I go out with you, don’t put me on display.”  This line came to mind recently when I was thinking about how Christians are supposed to love each other.  Scripture says that the world will know we are Christians by our love for one another.  The world is supposed to see us and remark, “See how they love each other!”

The girl in the song is upset because her boyfriend uses her to put on a show.  He displays her as a trophy.  His public affection for her is designed to make him look good to others.  What others see is not real but a display.  It is an illusion.  Contrast this scenario with couples that genuinely and obviously love each other.  Their concern is for each other, not for how others perceive them.  They are in love.  They are friends.  They treat each other with respect and kindness even when they disagree or feel angry.  Upon observing such couples, one naturally notices their deep love.  Many will remark, “I wish I had that.”  Those around them notice the love, not because the couples tried to be noticed, but because the love between them is real and desireable.

Christians don’t need phony displays of affection towards each other.  We don’t need the “kiss of peace” in public and the “kiss of betrayal” when backs are turned.  We don’t need a false ecumenism.  Don’t pretend to love each other because it looks good to others.  Don’t pretend to love others so people will think you are a great Christian.  Really love each other even in the midst of disagreements.  Really love each other and it will automatically have an appeal to the world because the world is thirsting for genuine love.  The world has a void that only the love of God can fill.  Christians are called to demonstrate that love.  Don’t put your Christian sisters and brothers on display.  Love them, even when it hurts.  Seek unity.  Where there is division, there is sin.  Where there is sin, there is disobedience to the faith and to the love of Christ.