Hello brethren. Fellowship was awesome today. For those who missed it or were busy with the induction for the new teachers, please find below a summary of what we discussed which was my reply based on a disturbing video clip I circulated on the forum about the Church of Christ and which posited that the Catholic church is man-made like all the other churches and is just another denomination.
DIVERSITY BUT UNITY
The notion of the Catholic Church being just another denomination struck to the core of my being, as this went against all I knew about the Catholic Church being the only church that is NOT MAN MADE. I had to delve into the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) to arm myself with the scriptural references.
CCC 813 talks about the Church being one because of her founder. It says that Christ is the principle of the church’s unity. Well, we all know that so I read on. CCC 814 talks of diversity of God’s gifts and diversity of those who receive them. I became perplexed cos this what the point which always supported what friends of mine who are not Catholic would use to explain away the schism and the need to be all under Catholicism. I was curious why the CCC would highlight this diversity so I read further.
CCC 791 states that we are of one body but that the diversity does NOT AFFECT UNITY since there is only one Spirit. It talks of the “mystical body which triumphs over all human divisions”. This is supported in Galatians 3:27-28 and Colossians 1:18
It also went further to explain that the richness of diversity is not opposed to unity but that UNITY MUST BE MAINTAINED as stressed in this deep passage Ephesians 4:3-7
“Make every effort to keep among you the unity of Spirit through bonds of peace. Let there be one body and one spirit, for God in calling you gave the same Spirit to all. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God, the Father of all who is above all and works through all and is in all..
CCC 815 talks of bonds of unity of which CHARITY is the most effective. It however makes bold to document that there are VISIBLE bonds of communion and it is these which highlight the differences between the Catholic Church and others. The bonds of unity are:
1. profession of faith received from the Apostles
2. common celebration of divine worship especially the sacraments and
3. apostolic succession through the Holy Orders keeping the fraternal concord of God’s unity
It is indeed a shame that this unity of the Church of Christ has been wounded which is acknowledged in CCC 817. The CCC even goes far to admit that the wounds were caused by BOTH CATHOLICS AND NON-CATHOLICS due to human sin.
CCC 820 stresses the importance Jesus placed on the unity of his disciples which is supported in John 17:21-23
“May they all be one, as you Father are in me and I am in you. May they be one in us…that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in them. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity…”
CCC 821 then list things to do to achieve unity in response to people who feel the need to recover unity which is considered a gift and a call of the Holy Spirit. Some things listed struck me, as I was often unsure about going outside the church when invited, as I would put on the superiority bravado that everything I needed was in the Catholic church. Well, CCC 821 listed the following which made an impression:
1, fraternal knowledge of one another
2. ecumenical formation of the faithful
3. dialogue among theologians and meetings among Christians of DIFFERENT CHURCHES AND COMMUNICATIONS
4. collaboration among Christians in various areas of service to mankind
Surely, this can not be done if one is confined to the Catholic church and its novenas and its societies and its events alone. We need to go forth as the final blessing at our mass mandateS us to do. CCC 822 makes us realize that this move towards ecumenism “transcends human powers and gifts” and dare I say, also human understanding as I try to persuade my non-Catholic friends of the need to be unified but they misinterpret it as a move to consolidate power by the Catholics.
I once went to a program which they often term non-denominational or inter-denominational. Therein, one of the speakers from the Pentecostal Movement churches in the US asked the audience whether they would join a revival if it started from a mainstream/ orthodox church as he was convinced that it would. They replied in the affirmative and he asked again, as if questioning their sincerity. I am of the firm belief that everything is cyclical. The church started with God’s spirit being breathed on the Catholic church and it is going to end with God’s outpouring yet again on the Catholic Church. It is already happening thanks to the renewal of the 1960s which brought about the Vatican 2 Decree on Ecumenism and evangelical movement.
ROLE OF PETER
Vatican 2 Decree on Ecumenism states that Peter is the head of the apostolic college and Jesus entrusted the blessings of the New Covenant to establish the Body of Christ. Now this is a point that was never raised in the video clip I circulated. It is quite amazing that the scriptural references when Jesus was talking to Peter alone were not mentioned. Instead the presenter chose to focus on the Council of Nicaea that Constantine convened between the Romans and the elders of the Church. He maintained that this was where the Church of Christ got corrupted, as what happened at Nicaea was the simple juxtaposition of the Roman structure of governance with the emperor at the top with the new structure of the Catholic Church with the Pope. He maintains that this was never the plan as the true Church of Christ consisted of elders with the only head being Jesus Christ and not the Pope. Now, this would make sense if one ignored Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 16:18-19 and John 21:15-15.
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church…I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”
“…Simon, son of John, do you love me…Feed my lambs…Simon, son of John, do you love me…Look after my sheep…Simon, son of John, do you love me…Feed my sheep!”
It now make sense why Jesus asked ONLY Peter this and why he stressed this three times. After all, there were other disciples present and a single reference would have sufficed. The importance for ONE PERSON to be the head to pastor his flock cannot be dismissed as was done in the clip which presented the Catholic church as just another denomination which was man-made as a result of the Council of Nicaea.
CCC 880 states that St Peter and the apostles constituted the apostolic college which mirrors the Pope as Peter’s successor and the college of bishops as the apostles’ successors in the Catholic Church. I am often confronted with arguments that the Pope is not infallible and that St Paul confronted Peter when it came to matters of the faith and it was refreshing to see that CCC 883 and CCC 884 addressed this. It states that the college of bishops can exercise power in an ecumenical council but this must have the Pope’s consent which can be seen in the submission of Paul to Peter in the New Testament.
Upon delving into the CCC and scripture, it became clear to me that the bible can be used to support any position you seek. It was even mentioned at fellowship that the devil even used the bible so it should not surprise you when other Christians use same to question your faith that the Catholic Church was indeed established by Jesus and is not man-made. In order not to be swayed by such, we must do our bit and build up our faith and avoid senseless academic arguments as cautioned by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:23 and Titus 3:9.
It was also advised that we should never shy away from evangelizing by our actions in gatherings where you find yourself being the only Catholic. Do not shy away from making the sign of the cross nor of exhibiting the gifts which the Holy Spirit deposited within you. My non-Catholic friend once called me “a closet Pentecostal” and I took offense to that and called him “a closet Catholic” because the Catholic church is the first Pentecostal church and universal in nature and practice
CCC 819 goes as far as admitting that sanctification and truth can be found OUTSIDE the Catholic church by the Spirit of Christ using non-Catholics as a MEANS to salvation. However, it maintains that FULLNESS OF GRACE AND TRUTH has been entrusted to the Catholic Church. This is where my non-Catholics friends start their onslaught about me having a Catholic superiority complex. Perhaps I do, but I honestly don’t see how else to explain the attention Jesus gave to Peter and the adherence of the Catholic Church to tradition that St Paul and even Jesus himself mandates us to protect and continue.
CCC 837 enlightens us on who really is a Catholic. This was useful to me and should be to all of us if we are to stand firm in our Faith. You are a Catholic if you accept ALL the means of salvation given to the Church along with her ENTIRE ORGANIZATION. This position is distinct from the similarities mentioned in CCC 838 of those churches whom the Catholic Church is joined in many ways ” but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety.” The question of why the disunity has already been answered – sin. The solution has already been proferred in the movement towards ecunemism and bonds of unity.
The question we must ask ourselves now is this – Are we truly Catholics and why? After all – isn’t it just another church?
May God enlighten us each day to KNOW Him and infuse us with the zeal to know our Faith and His Will for us in Jesus name. Amen