Why Do We Need the Catholic Church and the Pope?
Jesus not only gave the apostles a mission, he established the Church and appointed Peter as his visible representative on earth
Given the extraordinary events unfolding before us, it only seems natural for us to reflect on why we need the Catholic Church and the Pope. The main reason that comes to my mind at this time is the teaching mission of the Church.
Cardinals in Rome as they prepare to vote for the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church
Given the extraordinary events unfolding before us, it only seems natural for us to reflect on why we need the Church and the Pope. Obviously, there is more than one reason, but the main one that comes to my mind at this time has to do with a practical matter: the teaching mission of the Church.
Jesus said, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Mt 28:19-20).
Okay, so exactly how is that done in the real world? Well, I know this much. According to various estimates, there are over 30,000 different Christian denominations in the world today. And there are hundreds of different interpretations regarding significant matters of faith, if not more. This is not how it is done.
We read in the Bible that dissension was a problem for the Christian community right from the start. There are many examples. I have listed a few as follows:
"I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles, in opposition to the teaching that you learned; avoid them" (Rom 16:17).
"There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will introduce destructive heresies and even deny the Master who ransomed them, bringing swift destruction on themselves" (2 Pt 2:1).
"Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh; such is the deceitful one and the antichrist" (2 Jn 1:7).
Such dissension over the centuries has created much confusion for Christians and non-Christians alike. What are people to think when Christians can't agree on the most basic elements of the faith? For instance, is Christ truly present in the Eucharist or not?
The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is truly present whole and entire--Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity--in the Eucharist, that the bread and wine are changed through a process called transubstantiation, and that this change can only be effected by a man who has been ordained as a priest by a bishop in the line of apostolic succession.
On the other hand, some Protestant denominations believe in a form of the real presence while others do not. Among those situated in the real-presence camp, some believe in their version of transubstantiation, while others believe in consubstantiation or in a "pneumatic" presence. Then there are those denominations that believe in a spiritual presence only, and those denominations that view the Eucharist as mere symbolism.
The Catholic Church also teaches that the Eucharist is a sacrifice, not just a commemorative meal as some Protestants believe. For Catholics, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is an unbloody representation of Christ's actual sacrifice on the cross. In his Apostolic Letter, Dies Domini, Blessed John Paul II said that Jesus unites His sacrifice with ours at each Mass and presents it to the Father, thereby continuing to redeem the world and transform it, through the one sacrifice which is not limited by time.
The Catholic theologian Scott Hahn has said that history and the Mass are linked. History is controlled from Christ's sacrifice at the altar in heaven. History is also determined by what takes place on our altars and in our hearts. Through our liturgical worship, we, in a sense, release God's action and judgment on the world. It is the key to history and the realization of the Kingdom in heaven and on earth.
Saint Pio said, "It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass." Saint Leonard of Port Maurice said, "I believe that were it not for the Holy Mass, as of this moment the world would be in the abyss."
These are important matters. If the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is what the Catholic Church says it is, then our participation in the Mass is the most important thing we could ever do for ourselves and for the world. If the Eucharist is truly the Lord Jesus made present, and we ignore this fact or receive the Eucharist unworthily, the offense would be unimaginably grievous.
In order to do the right thing, we need to know who is correct. How do we do that? We first need to ask ourselves, how do we reasonably fulfill Christ's teaching command in the real world? Clearly, we need an authoritative body, a recognizable institution like the Catholic Church. And that institution needs a leader, the Pope.
This is exactly what Jesus established when he said, "And so I say to you, ...
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