Restoring the Church’s Beauty

Catholics are not angry at the Catholic Church that was established by Jesus Christ.  They are angry at the corporate bureaucratic institutional Catholic Church that keeps redirecting it.  Perhaps we can transform our anger by joining Pope Francis who is leading us to restore the beauty of the Church in Christ, even when it’s not so beautiful.

In The Holy Gospel According to Matthew (Mt 16:18), Jesus said to Peter, “You are the rock upon which I will build my church.”  Scholars tell us that what He meant by “church” was a collection of people who follow His way of living and way of loving.  The Gospels were written in Greek but, as best we know, Jesus spoke Aramaic and probably a small amount of Hebrew and Greek.  So we don’t know exactly what He said or intended—but we have a good idea.  The word used in this passage, “ekklesia,” means a body of faithful people.  It does not mean a structure like cathedrals or basilicas; it does not mean a hierarchy with dicasteries and chanceries; it does not mean layers of laws to observe or endless rubrics to follow; it does not mean a tribunal that judges or condemns.  In fact, Jesus consistently spoke against things like these, chastising those who gave them undue importance.  He definitely meant to set in motion a church but it wasn’t to be a corporation, court, or bureaucracy.  It probably wasn’t even to be an institution but a wake up call to His own church to reform, to do better than it was doing.  As I read it, Jesus was calling forth a people who could follow His message of love and courageously bring that message to others.

I love the Catholic Church and want it to more closely reflect Christ’s message and mission.  I believe that by doing so, it will open heaven to us.  At the same time, I realize that we need structures and systems to gather us, unite us, direct and guide us, but unfortunately, in our church today, corporate responses sometimes seem more important than Christ’s response and the laws of the institute seem to be valued more than the law of love.  I hear from countless Catholics who also love the church but don’t want it to be hijacked by modern-day Pharisees, legalists that lack compassion, or those more concerned with protecting institutional procedures than with carrying out Christ’s mission, i.e., those that self-reference the institute instead of referencing the Lord.  Jesus challenged these kinds of people because in their minds, words, and actions, the structure and form became more important than God and eventually replaced God.  While these folks continually judged and condemned, He welcomed sinners along with saints while reminding us that no one is without sin.  Sinners, when welcomed by Him, got a better chance of salvation.  It should follow, then, that when sinners are welcomed by the church today, we will all walk closer with Him toward heaven.

Like those in Jesus’ religion long ago, we in the Catholic religion today can also do better.  Catholics are not angry at the Catholic Church that was established by Jesus; they just want us to get back to that church and stop defending, promoting, and referencing the institution that periodically veers away from it and from Him.