We have talked over the last three weeks about Why believe, why be Christian, and today I would like to preach about why be Catholic.
I want to ask you a very serious question. Why are you Catholic? ... If I was to approach you and ask you to say in a short sentence why you are Catholic, what would you say? If a neighbor came up to you at HEB and said, I know that you are Catholic and I have been wanting to ask you, what does this mean to you? Or if a coworker after seeing some ashes on your head on Ash Wednesday ask you about your Catholic faith, what would be your response? Why are you Catholic?
If I was to pull a late night talk show, street cam, and go around interviewing Catholics this question, what answers do you think that I would get. Probably, well I was born Catholic, well not really, but. My mom made me, ok. But, now you are a 70 year old man. Perhaps someone say that they like the ceremonies or rituals. They probably would not be able to answer well. We Catholics historically have done a very poor job in being able to speak personally why our faith is important and I think this is horrible. We need to change this.
So, I came up with one sentence, which is very long, complex, and obtuse and listen to it well because I want you to repeat it after me.
I am convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who died on the cross and rose from the dead, and a lived relationship with Him is the only way to happiness on earth and in heaven for eternity, and I am convinced that Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church as his visible Church which has continued unbroken from the days of the apostles and through which Jesus Christ is truly encountered in the sacraments and through which Jesus’ authority is demonstrated through the teachings and governance of the bishop’s united with the Pope.
Okay now its your turn to repeat it after me.
In my own word’s simply its this. Jesus is God. He died and rose for us. He made the Church. He gave His power to the
Church. We meet Him in the sacraments of the Church. The Church lives this power through the Pope and Bishops.
To continue the late night talk show theme -- I would like to give you my top - ten reasons to be Catholic.
So here we go Father Jason’s TOP 10 Reasons to be Catholic!
(With a drum roll)
- Number 10 - Celebrate good times, come’on!
Think about it, we love to celebrate. We say 1 day for Christmas or Easter is not enough we half to have 8 straight days of celebration. We have feast days like All Saints, Annunciation, St. Patrick’s Day. And during these days we are encouraged to have good tasting foods and drink. Yumm! And we haven’t even started to talk about our weddings. After all we are just following after our Master - Jesus Christ who turned water into wine.
- Number 9 - Dude, Its really big Man!
The Church is universal. It spans the world. Go any where in the world and the Catholic Church is there. It incorporates persons of all races, ages, genders, language groups. I can say that I have a brother in Kenya or a sister in Columbia. We are not concerned with just what happens to the people here in Corsicana but we are a global family. And the cool thing about this is that we have a common language, our liturgy. Where ever we go in the world, we can go to a Catholic mass and know what’s going on! That’s Catholic!
- Number 8 - Church is BOLD
We are counter-cultural. We are radical to the secularists. We are bold and we are not afraid to speak our minds. We do not follow the fads of the day. We are not all going to wear Aeropostale or Hollinger just because everyone else is. Remember, in the 1970’s when every other protestant denomination okayed contraception and only the Catholic Church has adamantly maintained that contraception hurts marriages by perverting the goodness of the sexual life. The Church speaks out and says, No. Think of the new Alabama law that it so radical that if a priest hears a confession of an illegal immigrant, he will have possible legal repercussions. The Church says, no. Think of abortion. The Church says, No. And the Church has done this through the centuries and have even had major persecutions as a result. On thing you have to admit. The Church is bold!
- Number 7 - Shh! I have something to Confess!
One of the most underutilized gifts in the Catholic Church is the sacrament of reconciliation. I have long said that if Catholics weren’t chicken and actually went to Confession, then they would put a lot of therapists and counselors out of business. Think about it. Getting rid of the guilt and the weight of unforgiven sin can only help you live a more integrated free life. And its for free! Who doesn’t like something for free?
- Number 6 - We got Tradition, yes we do. We got Tradition, how about you?
As an Aggie we talk about tradition all the time, but this is nothing compared to the Tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. Our Tradition goes back to the very founding of our Church by Jesus Christ. You can say that it goes beyond that because of all the Jewish traditions that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Our Church is now founded after a reformer but God himself. We have an unbroken link all the way to the apostolic church. All the development of doctrine and praxis from the Church of the Apostles to this day is what we call Tradition.
Many of our protestant brothers and sisters will say, where is confession in the Bible. Where does it say that Mary was conceived without sin? And I say to them two questions. Where does it say in the Bible that all questions of faith are answered in the Bible and where does the bible come from? The Bible did not come from the sky on a gold platter. Its not like the Muslim claim where they say the Koran is the exact words written down of Allah transcribed perfectly by Muhammed.
No, we say that the words of the Bible are inspired by the Holy Spirit but written through the human conduits of the Apostles; their thoughts, experiences, and emotions. And the Bible came together through the tradition of the Church. In the first 50-150 years after Christ, the letters of the Apostles and Evangelists were gathered, prayed upon, and discerned by the Church, and gradually the Bible came together as the inspired word of God. This happens from what we call Tradition. The Bible is a part of this Tradition!
- Number 5 - Got Pope?
We have the Pope! This is an amazing gift! We have recently great Popes Pope Benedict, John Paul II, John Paul I, Paul VI, John XXII, and Pius XII all have been quite saintly gifted men. This has not always been the case. But, recently yes. But the papacy is not about the quality of the men, but the authority that they have.
Remember in John 6 when Jesus says that you must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have life within him. Well, this caused many disciples to leave. Jesus turns to Simon and says, Yo Petey! Are you going to leave too? St. Peter responds and says, “Lord to whom will I go? You have the words of ever lasting life.” Jesus responds by saying, “Simon, you are the rock, and on this rock, I will build my church. You have the keys to my kingdom. What you bind on earth will be bound in heaven. What you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Jesus gave Peter his keys. This is a symbol for authority. Haven’t you ever noticed that the man with all the keys is really the one in power - or he opens the door for the one in power. : > Well, Jesus gave St. Peter the keys. He gives his full authority to St. Peter and to his other apostles to act in his place by shepherding, by teaching, and by making holy. These apostles ordained other men to do the same and we have this succession all the way to this day where Pope Benedict and Bishop Kevin act in the person of Jesus Christ.
This is so important because it protects us against the whimsies of personal desires. I am not going to teach you what I like. You know that I cant go to someone and say I want you to be the priest today. No, the absolute truth is ruled through the authority of the Church. This is a great gift that we receive.
- Number 4 - We do death well!
Everybody is going to die and the Catholic Church gives the best support for those who are about to die and for the funerals. We have the sacrament of annointing of the sick to strengthen and heal someone who is sick. We have viaticum as the Holy Communion for the person the one last time before they die. We have the most beautiful funerals and burials filled with symbolism and meaning. And we have ministries designed to care for people after death. We look death in the face and we are not afraid to face the fear. We dont gloss it over but help people and loved ones to embrace it. It is part of our life and the only way that we can go to the Father’s house!
- Number 3 - Communion of Saints and the Virgin Mary
We have the Saints! Enough said. One of my favorite rap songs that I have made up is the “Aint know party like a Catholic Party, cuz a Catholic Party dont stop.” Well I can imagine the Saints rapping to Our Lord Jesus. Perhaps they are break-dancing too.
We acknowledge that they are there in heaven! This includes those who we may know, like our parents and grandparents. The great news is that we can still talk to them and them to us. A saint is a human person who is one with God in heaven. While one with God, they have not lost their identity with God! Therefore, we can still talk to them and communicate with them and they with us! This is most true with Mary, who is our Mom. We talk about Mary all the time as a person who is drawing us to her son. She has been given this special grace to spend heaven helping us to get there. That is why she appears throughout the world to thousands of people. She is talking to us so that we can know her God.
I remember asking this question to one of my friends. I asked her why she is Catholic and she said, “L’amor de Eucaristia y l’amor de la Virgen Maria!” The Love of the Eucharist and the Love of the Virgin Mary. Yes the Communion of Saints and St. Mary is a great blessing in the Catholic Church
- Number 2 - EUCHARIST
Where else can you hold the God of the universe
in your hands? Many people will have this as number 1, but I placed something as important there.
The Eucharist is everything for us as Catholics. It is the meat and potatoes of a good meal. Think about it. At the Eucharist we are present at the death of Jesus Christ. When I say, this is my body given up for you, and raise the host into heaven, we are present at the point when Jesus was crucified. We are kneeling there with St. Mary and St. John.
The Eucharist is the reason why I am Catholic. I remember when I learned about Jesus Christ truly being present in the Holy Eucharist and when I went to Mass next, I made that declaration. I am a Roman Catholic. I knew that this is the Church that has the Eucharist and thus, I must belong. There is no other Church that has the Eucharist. Well, except for the Eastern Orthodox churches. But there is no other Christian group that has the Eucharist and knows it to be the body and blood of Jesus Christ!
At every Mass, we get to receive Jesus Christ into our bodies and souls. That is what happens when we receive the Eucharist. We receive Jesus Christ!
- And Number 1 - Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ died for our sins and on the third day he rose again.” God so love the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believed in him might have eternal life.” The best thing about being Catholic is really the best thing about being Christian, a life lived with Jesus Christ.
Many people think that Catholics are not Christians. Many Catholics when asked if they are Christian, they will say no, I am Catholic - Why? Why? We are Christians! We are followers of Jesus Christ who founded our Church and who we continue to meet in the sacraments of the Church. We are Christians! We are Catholic Christians!
My friends when someone comes to you and says, “Why are you Catholic?” What will your response be?