The Catholic Papacy’s apostolic succession is one of if not the oldest institution of succession in the history of the world. How did a Church with a First Pope who actually denied even knowing Christ during his lifetime, along with a gang of other misfits who were mostly uneducated, poor, working class and simple people launch a revolution and institution that would change the world as it was known and mold our world into what it has become today? Can we even begin to imagine what our world would be like today, if Christ had not come, and established his Church 2000 years ago?
So, how did we get here from there? How did the Church become one of the oldest and longest reigning institution in the history of the world? Who brought us to this point and how, and at what price?
Who are those pivotal players, some of whom are the brightest and smartest individuals who have ever lived? How can our lives be transformed in the same way theirs were?
Furthermore, why is the very Faith that our past and ancient Christian brothers and sisters died for, and often very torturous and grizzly deaths, now a Faith that most Catholics can’t even bother to find time for one hour each week? Why is the Religious institution that Christ created and left in the very capable hands of his apostles now witnessing a vast exodus of members to more modern and emotionally driven messages and congregations?
It is in many ways because of Ignorance, an ignorance of the Faith and the fascinating story that got us to this point. We have lost our story, and because we have last our story, we have lost the value that is embedded and hidden within that story. It is a value that can lead us to peace of mind, and a state of joyous contentment. As Catholics, ours is a story that can lead us to a deep, meaningful and loving relationship with the Creator of the Universe. I think that it is often very difficult for us to fathom that the Supreme Being who made the sun, and the stars, the oceans, the dinosaurs and even you and I, is interested and actually yearning for a personal and very intimate relationship with each of us as individuals. That Being wants to be our Dad. He longs to comfort us, to guide us and to transform our daily lives into lives of amazement and supernatural beauty, excitement and adventure.
Why do we turn our backs on this? Why do we not embrace this unbelievable opportunity? I think that we do this precisely because it is unbelievable. It is beyond our comprehension, and because of that, we doubt, we question, and we hide. It is scary to put our faith into something that is not obvious and tangible. It is much easier to reach for the things that have a material substance and value, and not so much an intangible and immaterial value. We like what we can see, and what is pleasing to the senses, and we like what is easy. Reaching for the stars, quite literally, is not easy. It is a big stretch to reach that far. So, we look for the paths of least resistance, the paths that lead us to something that we can easily achieve and hold on to. We search for an existence that we can understand. That is not God. God is so big, and so awesome, that our minds will never be able to wrap around the extra ordinariness of Him. Even trying to, is difficult and takes effort, and does not yield an instantaneous result. It takes work, commitment and dedication, it takes love. We cannot love who we do not know, and true love requires all these aspects of self-sacrifice and surrender. Most of us, just don’t want to do it. It is too hard and doesn’t seem like much fun, the reward doesn’t seem worth the effort, because after all, we will all reap the rewards in the end anyway. Certainly a God who loves us will not condemn us to eternity without him. Why would those who aren’t interested in seeking the Kingdom of God right now, here on Earth, so ready to do that in the next phase of our existence?, Simply, we won’t be. What we value now, will be what we reap in eternity. God certainly is not a tyrant, he does not force his love on us, he does not force any part of his being on us. He won’t even force salvation on us. He simply longs for us to approach him, seek him, and find all that he offers us according to our own free will and desires. If some of us do end up living in eternity without God, it will be because that is what WE chose, and God respects those choices. He gives us every opportunity to choose him, and if we turn away, for what we deem a better offer, that is what we will reap forever. It is pretty simple.
The thing is, God is addictive. Once we start the journey toward Him, Grace kicks in and propels us forward. Learning about God, and then coming to know him and then love him is an amazing odyssey. We are so blessed to have many opportunities to learn, and come to know our God. There are ministries and prayer groups, websites and blogs, retreat opportunities, local parishes, and many retreat opportunities, DVDs, books, radio and TV stations. It just takes a bit of commitment, discipline and desire to know and love God. The means are quite literally right at our fingertips.
I would like to challenge each of us to start on that journey, and utilize just one of these options this Advent and New Year to advance that journey to God. The New Year will offer many new and exciting opportunities. We just need to learn our story, and then finish it as Saints greeted in Heaven by our Eternal Father, as good and faithful servants, who have completed a job well done!