I’ve started to spend more time reflecting on the disconnect between what I’m being taught at Mass and in the Bible in terms of love, mercy, humility, and service versus the public persona of Catholics. Considering the corruption known to exist within its walls, it’s not hard to find fault with the Catholic Church. However, I think it’s important to decide for ourselves if the actions of a few represent the whole, if we think the actions of those few nullify the works of love and mercy carried out by the faithful in the name of Jesus Christ, and to reflect on the basic beliefs that uphold the Catholic faith.
I attended a lecture at my parish last Tuesday where a gregarious Franciscan priest spoke on the ways evil divides and Christ unites. An audience member raised his hand and asked how the richest man in our city can walk into his apartment building past the homeless people sitting on the doorstep. Why doesn’t he give them money? Why don’t more celebrities have benefit concerts to raise money for important humanitarian causes? The man grew agitated listing off all the things other people should be doing with their excessive wealth. When he was finished Father collected his thoughts and replied, “This is what has to change in our church. You have no idea how many people ask me if I’ve volunteered with such and such a cause, or tell me I need to picket outside an abortion clinic. I tell them if they themselves feel called to those things, great! Do them! But don’t say to me, “Here’s the beat of my drum, go follow it.” We have to look inward at ourselves and pray on what God’s will is for us as individuals. He’s not calling me to picket outside an abortion clinic. He called me to revitalize an inner city neighborhood, so I did. The point is not to worry about what other people are doing, but instead focus all of your energy on what you are called to do.”
During the homily at Mass on Friday, Father mentioned his friends who are critical of the Catholic Church, and told us the response he gave to them. He explained that the Catholic faith is centered on the belief that God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins. He pointed to the large resurrection cross over the alter, paused, and said, “This is the heart of our faith.” We are called to be Christ-like by loving God and showing love, mercy, humility and forgiveness towards others. This belief system is carried out by 1.2 billion sinners. It’s vulnerable to the darkest sides of human nature. The corruption remains unjustified, but it doesn’t change the beliefs on which the Church is built that remain the source of good work done in the name of Jesus Christ across the world each day.
Through receiving Jesus at Mass, studying the word of God, and prayer, the Catholic faith has taught me about the infinite mercy Jesus has for us sinners, it teaches me to show others that mercy, to love God above all else, to love my neighbor, and to be a humble servant. If someone were to look at a picture of a priest giving the homily from the pulpit, the Catholic caricature might be that he’s preaching on fire and brimstone. I attend Mass several times a week, and I listen with great comfort only to teachings of God’s love for us, and the love we are called to show others. The Catholic faith is beautiful, and I will continue to work towards living it more fully each day.