I will be doing a large group teaching for Confirmation One tonight. Some will be my personal testimony, some will be didactic. The subject is "The Catholic Church.
What follows here is my didactic teaching from my notes. I will be handing out to the kids a sheet with the actual bible quotations on it. I looked in the CCC but it wasn't organized in such a manner that I thought I could make it comprehensible.
What were some of the things that convinced me that 1) God wanted to found a church based on the salvation offered through Jesus His Son and 2) that this church was to be found in union with the pope and the magisterium of the Catholic church. (The Magisterium is the Church’s teaching authority).
· Timothy 3:15 “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth”
· Jesus called us all to be one (John 17:20-23)
· We are told to take disputes to the Church (Matt 18:15-17)
· The epistles tell us repeatedly that the Church is the Bride of Christ
So the church is a physical and visible presence of the body of Christ. The early Christians were very aware of this, and reading not only the New Testament but the writings of the earliest of the Church Fathers further convinced me that Jesus has intended that there be one universal holy and teaching institution to further His work on earth and to try to bring all humanity into His Kingdom. OK, then, is this church still present on the earth? And if so, where?
· Jesus specifically appointed Simon Peter to be the Rock on which he would build the church. He gave him the keys to the kingdom. (Matt 16:18)
· This church had various offices – Apostles, Prophets, and teachers. (1 Cor 12:28)
· Jesus specifically gave His apostles the power to ‘bind and release’ (to forgive sins in His name). (Matt 18:18)
· He gave them the power to call upon the Holy Spirit to bring Him into the Eucharist, to bring His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity to the altar. (1 Corinthians 11:23-27)
· The Apostles had the authority to name others to the office of Apostle (Acts 1:20-22)
· They were commanded to bring the word of God to all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Matt 28:18-20)
· The Apostles were given the authority to call down the Holy Spirit upon these others (Acts 19:5-6)
· The priests of the church were commanded to anoint the ill and to pray over them, to heal their illnesses and to forgive their sins. (James 5:14-16)
So if there were to be that church desired by Christ, it would have persons who fulfilled the role of apostle, who could trace their call to discipleship in an unbroken line from the Apostles. This group would recognize that Peter was the anointed and appointed leader of the Church on earth, and that the successors of Peter continue that role. This church would maintain that the anointed successors of the apostles have the right and the duty to baptize, to confirm in the Holy Spirit, to forgive sins in the name of God, and to bring Jesus to be with us in Communion. This group would be able to teach with authority through the gift of the Holy Spirit. It would not be organized as a democracy but rather as a monarchy with Christ the King delegating and designating others to do His work. It would be a Divine institution such that no human act, no matter how horrible, how heinous, could destroy it.
In my study of history, I found only one group that even claims to meet all these requirements. That is the church whose father on earth can show an unbroken chain of anointing that goes all the way back to Peter, whose apostles and disciples (Bishops and Priests) can all show an unbroken chain of anointing that goes back to the Apostles actually called in person by Jesus Himself when He walked the Earth. It is here. It is now. Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, is the latest in that chain.
All those who acknowledge Jesus as Lord and who follow the Scriptures have a part of the Truth. But every group that broke away left behind something, and many of them added non-truths to their practice and beliefs. The fullness of truth, all 7 Sacraments, authoritative interpretation of Scripture, inspired Holy Tradition – all these are only found in those Christian groups in union with the Magisterium. It is not for you or I or for any human being to judge those Christians who are not Catholic – or even non-Christians. We can not say that they are unsaved and going to Hell – only God can do that. But we do have a responsibility to speak up for the truth, and to be able to “account for the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15,16) We also have the responsibility to pray, in the words of John 17:21, ”That they all be one, ….that the world may believe…” The present disunity among Christians is a scandal that causes many to look at all who call themselves Christian as being hypocrites.
Well, why do we need a Church, anyhow? Can’t we each call upon the Holy Spirit to help us to understand scripture and to know what is needed for salvation? In Acts 8:26-40, the story is told of how an angel of God sent Philip, one of the first deacons ordained by the apostles, to teach scripture to an Ethiopian. Philip asked the Ethiopian, who was reading from Isaiah, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The man answered, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”
It is The Church's responsibility to guide us in the right understanding of what God requires of us, and how we can best return to Him the love that God showed each of us in creating us."