His Body and His Bride

In his sermon on the feast of St. George, Pope Francis made a wonderfully bold claim: It is not possible to follow or even find Jesus outside of his Church. Now, this is not a popular claim at all. It is currently in vogue to possess a personal religion, a “me and Jesus” faith that is completely indifferent or even antagonistic to any visible entity known as the Church. For all practical purposes, the individual is the entire Church. This ecclesiological understanding is perfectly suited to the relativistic age in which we live. We can have our cake and eat it too—we can have Jesus on our own terms without submitting to the inconvenient authority of a visible Church.

But the Catholic Church has always taught that the Church is the body of Christ, and if you reject the Church, you reject Christ. You cannot have Jesus without his Body. That is unthinkable.

What is interesting to note is that Pope Francis’ sermon was about evangelization. Pope Francis seems to be addressing the deadly cancer of religious indifferentism, which is without question the greatest threat to apostolic zeal in our evangelization.

If, after all, salvation is not a matter of embracing the truth revealed by Jesus Christ and preserved in his Church, but is rather merely a matter of believing anything, so long as the belief is sincere, then evangelization does not matter.

But if, on the other hand, what Pope Francis says is true, and Jesus cannot be found outside of his Church (he is echoing many popes before him), we must be fervent in our evangelization.

If we are to be effective in this new evangelization, we must once again realize that bringing people to Jesus means bringing them to his Church—the Church that is, despite its flaws and its frailty, both His body and His bride.

Here are a few quotes from Pope Francis’ sermon.

And so the Church was a Mother, the Mother of more children, of many children. It became more and more of a Mother. A Mother who gives us the faith, a Mother who gives us an identity. But the Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother ChurchBecause it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: “Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy.” And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity that is not only a seal, it is a belonging. Identity means belonging. This belonging to the Church is beautiful.

The Church’s journey always takes place between the Cross and the Resurrection, amid the persecutions and the consolations of the Lord. And this is the path: those who go down this road are not mistaken.

Let us ask the Lord for this apostolic fervor that impels us to move forward, as brothers, all of us forward! Forward, bringing the name of Jesus in the bosom of Holy Mother Church, and, as St. Ignatius said, “hierarchical and Catholic.” So be it.

Read the rest here.

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The Poor You Have Always With You

“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”
-Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

There is a common and yet mistaken idea that poverty is solely a financial state, and that helping the poor consists primarily in providing them with food, clothing, and other material goods. In a way, this idea is understandable, for materials needs are the most easily seen and met.

But there is a second kind of poverty perhaps more devastating than material neediness, a greater and still more tragic poverty—the poverty of soul.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta saw this second kind of poverty most clearly, and spoke about it often. She knew what it was to work among the truly materially desolate in the slums of India, and yet, among these men, women, and children whom the world would pity, she saw many hearts full of joy, gratitude, and even contentment. In their utter desolateness, many were happy. Paradoxically, it was among the rich of the world, those who had everything materially, that she saw this second poverty in the form of depression, anger, hurt, isolation, loneliness and despair.

Jesus acknowledged that poverty would exist even among material plenty when he said, “The poor you will always have with you.” Some have twisted this into a financial prophecy of sorts, and have used it as an excuse not to help those in need—to their own condemnation, I might add, for the poor are Christ. But Jesus meant something more than the financially poor, although he certainly meant them also. He meant that the needy we will always have with us. And in the materially wealthy West, the needy most often are the emotionally and spiritually hurting.

As evidence of this, I daresay that many of us would be hard pressed to think of anyone we know who is without the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter—and so we think we do not have any poor toward whom we can show compassion. But this simply isn’t true.

I can say confidently that every one of us knows someone who is hurting emotionally—someone who feels abandoned, lost, lonely, doubting, despairing, or hungry for affection—but so often we are ignorant of it because we simply do not take the time to notice or to listen. And the hurting, in their isolation, often put on a mask of happiness so that their pain will not be discovered.

These are the poor and they are Jesus. If we are so self-absorbed that we do not notice, or we notice but do not care, we are quite literally abandoning Christ, and no amount of prayer or work in God’s name will matter to him if we are not serving with love the silently suffering around us.

How frequently, too, are the spiritually poor in our own families. Our husbands, wives, or children are hurting and craving affection, and yet they are the last ones we think of when we think of the needy. They are so close that we no longer see them. We must give ourselves to them with our time and attention.

This is love and it is not easy. In fact, in many ways, it is more taxing than meeting material needs. Distributing our money or possessions—paying the bills or donating to charity, for example—doesn’t cost us nearly as much as giving of our time and emotional energy to listen, and more importantly, to hear, with true understanding. Yet, it is what we must do if we would follow Christ.

Jesus solemnly promised, “When you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.” Let us then pray for hearts overflowing with compassion, so that we can hear and help with joy the hidden Christ veiled in the faces of our friends.

St. Augustine On the Nature of the Catholic Church

“We believe also in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church; for heretics violate the faith itself by a false opinion about God; schismatics, however, withdraw from fraternal love by hostile separations, although they believe the same things we do. Consequently, neither heretics nor schismatics belong to the Catholic Church; not heretics, because the Church loves God; and not schismatics, because the Church loves neighbor.”

St. Augustine, Faith and the Creed, 393 A.D.