On my way to work, I was listening to a CD and it hit me. Of course I’ve known it intellectually for about 5 years or so, but it really struck me. Jesus created one Christian church. Matthew 16:18-20 “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. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Jesus’ church means the community that he will gather and that, like a building, will have Peter as its solid foundation. That function of Peter consists in his being witness to Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it: the netherworld (Greek Hades, the abode of the dead) is conceived of as a walled city whose gates will not close in upon the church of Jesus, i.e., it will not be overcome by the power of death.
Moreover, Protestants, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not, because of their belief in Christ, are part of that one church. They’re just dissenting members. They don’t believe all of what Jesus taught. They’re the openly dissident. Most Catholics today are dissident, too, while still claiming to be Catholic, members of the universal Church He created.
When you look at how the Protestant Reformation split off, first in Germany and then in England and on throughout Europe, and when you look at all the other splits off the main trunk of Catholicism, it’s always man thinking that God should have no part of that part of my life. In King Henry’s case, it was his private life, his marriage. In Luther’s case, it was Luther forming God in the image and likeness of himself. People tend to want to worship God the way they think they should worship God, rather than the way faithful Catholics worship Him-the way Jesus told us to worship Him.
A friend of mine, Richard Lane, says that Protestants are to be commended because they do so much with so little. They don’t have seven sacraments, they might have two, and they have a different understanding of what a sacrament is. Catholics, in general, do so little with what they have. Folks, we have Jesus and seven sacraments. And yet most Catholics don’t go to mass on Sunday, don’t go to confession, don’t receive the Eucharist (the sacraments they can receive regularly), don’t even believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (FWIW, St. Faustina often talks about seeing Jesus in some form on the altar at the consecration). Most Catholics also believe that abortion in certain cases is ok, that premarital sex and homosexual unions are permissible, and many believe that women should be priests.
Just as in Jesus time, there are a few close followers, a few real believers, and then there are the lukewarm, who are many. Here’s praying that, this Lent, many will come to follow Jesus the way He said to follow him.