1st Sunday of Advent: Why am I Catholic

Well, here we are at the start of Advent, only 27 days away from Christmas. In just 4 weeks we will gather to celebrate that central point in human history when God Himself crossed the seemingly infinite chasm between heaven and earth to become like us in all things but sin. As we begin this Advent season and look forward to Christmas, we are invited to stop in amazement at the fact that God would become a man. The one who is all powerful, who made the earth, who made you and I, choose to enter into His creation and to experience all the trials and tribulations of life. Why? Because He wants to be near us. He wanted to build a bridge across that chasm so you and I can spend eternity with Him forever in heaven. Have you stopped to consider how almost unbelievable it is that the God of the universe would come to be with us? But Jesus didn’t just come into the world nearly 2,000 years ago only to leave us to our own devices to figure the rest of history out. No, he tells us in His last words on earth “behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”[1]

God became a man, He was born in a stable, suffered and died on the cross, rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father for you and I and He wanted to be certain that saving work continued. So He makes a promise that He will be with us always.

  So how then does Jesus remain with us? Well, let’s back up to the 16th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus turns to Peter and says “you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”[2] While Jesus was still here on earth, He knew that He was going back to the right hand of the Father and He wanted us to have access to Him, He wanted to journey for thousands of years with His people. So, what did He do? He founded a Church on a particular person, Peter.

  Furthermore, Jesus prays elsewhere in the scriptures for unity, praying “for those who will believe in me through their word so that they may all be one … so that they may be one as we are one.”[3] Well the scriptures are clear, Jesus founded a Church. When Jesus left this earth to sit at the right hand of the Father, from whence, we are reminded, He will come again to judge the living and the dead, He left us a Church to guide us back to the kingdom of heaven and He promised that it would prevail and He prayed that all people would be united in that Church.

So, it begs the question then, with all these churches in the world which church is it. You know historically, the Catholic Church is the only Church that can trace its founding back to Jesus Christ? It’s very simple, open your bible and you see that Jesus clearly founded the Church on St. Peter giving him the power of the keys and the promise to remain with the Church forever. And this wasn’t just meant for Peter. No open your bible and read Acts of the Apostle. How does it begin? Well, you recall that Judas, after He betrayed Jesus committed suicide so the Acts of the Apostles opens up by the apostles gathered together to choose Mathias as Judas’ successor.[4] They go on find a successor because this message must continue, this Church that Jesus founded must go on. Why? Because it is how Jesus remains with us.

Have you stopped to think about it, that every Sunday or everyday if we wish, that we gather in this church, we actually celebrate Christmas? What happened at Christmas? Jesus entered the world. What happens at every Mass? Jesus comes into the world in the Eucharist and if we are open, He comes into our own hearts. My friends, Jesus said He would be with us always and day in and day out, in thousands upon thousands of places in the world, Jesus fulfills that promise in His Catholic Church.

Has the Church had its problems? Certainly, we have been imperfect throughout because the Church founded by Christ has been entrusted to humans. If you read the history of the popes you see that we have had numerous immoral popes. But you hear Jesus promise to Peter, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.[5] In fact, the fact that our Church has had many wicked leaders, only strengthens my faith that it truly is divinely inspired. Afterall as Catholics we have a belief that when the pope speaks on matters of faith or morals, he cannot make a mistake. What we call papal infallibility. For 2,000 years, no pope has ever contradicted another pope on a matter of faith or morals. That doesn’t happen by human authority.

So given all that let me ask a question. Why are you Catholic? I hope as you stop and ponder that question you can, in your way, have a very personal testimony where you can share how God has been able to touch your heart through the Gospel, but most importantly through the Church. But, if we are going to take all of those witnesses together, I think we have to summarize that answer very simply, I am Catholic because Jesus left me this Church to stay connected to me. I am Catholic because Jesus promised He wouldn’t abandon me and left me a Church to journey with me as I walk towards the kingdom of heaven.

At the end of the day, being Catholic is just about being humble; having the humility to say Lord this the way you promised remain with me and I want nothing more than to be with you. Therefore, for all the good and the bad, for all of the challenging teachings, for all of the imperfect leaders of the Church, Lord I am willing to stay and engage because that is where you meet me.

And so, as we begin this 4-week journey of Advent, as we begin these 4 weeks of preparing to receive Christ at Christmas, it starts by committing ourselves to the Church, to the place the Jesus left us to encounter Him. Do we have the humility to be faithful? Do we have the humility to say Lord it is your Church; I am willing to follow wherever it goes? So, was we begin this season of Advent it is the opportunity for us to pray for that gift of humility, for that gift of faith, for that gift of faithfulness; to commit ourselves to that Church that Jesus found on St. Peter that continues on down until today, the Church where Jesus comes day in and day out to meet us? Afterall if we want to celebrate Christmas, if we want to celebrate Christ coming into the world, we also have to celebrate day in and day out the way He comes into this world, right here in this Church that He left us.

[1] Matthew 28:20

[2] Matthew 16:18

[3] John 17: 20-22

[4] Acts 1:15 – 26

[5] Matthew 16:18

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