Friday, March 18, 2011

Why am I Catholic? (Part II: Pope)

I say the "Pope" because I believe, from the start, Jesus wanted all his followers to be one Church: "I pray ... so that they may all be one, as you Father are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us" (John 17:20-21).

When we listen to Jesus’ words to St. Peter with a humble heart and an open mind, we understand how important it is for Christ that we are united. In the beginning of Jesus' ministry he told Peter: "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" (Mathew 16:18). And at the end of his ministry, he told him: "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? ... Feed my lambs. ... Simon son of John, do you love me? ... Tend my sheep... Simon, son of John, do you love me? ... Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17). We will always be Christ’s: “my sheep” and “my lambs,” yet it is his choice that we are lead on earth by one person whom he assigns, so that we may always have unity.

It is to Peter that Jesus said: "Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32). It is also to Peter that Jesus said: "I will give you the keys of 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" (Matthew 16:19). We must humble our hearts and acknowledge that these are the words of Jesus to whom he has chosen to lead his church united in love.

Our Lord Jesus is aware of the human weaknesses of our Catholic Church. Nothing has changed much in human behavior since he lived among us. Did he not handpicked twelve apostles, teaching them, doing miracles in their site? All of them, save John, left him when he was arrested, however all, save John, died martyred for him. As much as Peter loved Jesus, he denied him three times, did he not? Yet Jesus brought him back to him asking him to lead his Church three times empowered by his love for Christ. Another example of corruption in our Church starting with the time of Jesus, is Judas who would have been forgiven had he trusted in the mercy of Christ and the sovereignty of God even through death. Another Church leader would be Thomas who denied himself to have faith on the words of his colleagues, yet Christ brought him back to him and Thomas made the most aggressive faith statement in the New Testament about the divinity of Christ: "My Lord and My God" (John 20:28).

St Paul who was later chosen by Christ as an apostle to the gentiles, had begun in ignorance persecuting the Church until he encountered Christ who identified himself with the Church with the words: "Why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:4) The point is that Jesus is aware that his Church is made of people who struggle but he assured us that the doors of hell will not overcome it (Matthew 16:18) because the grace of God is sufficient in human weakness: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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