Homily for Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 16, 2018
Why Be Catholic
There are about seventy million Catholics in the United States, making it the single largest denomination in the country. But of those seventy million Catholics, 52% of them – more than half – will leave the Church at some point. It’s often said that the largest denomination is Catholics, the second-largest is ex-Catholics. Why do people walk away?
A large reason is because they do not know why they are Catholic in the first place. They may not know what they believe or why they believe it.
The Gospel also features people walking away. They are faced with a difficult teaching – Jesus had just told them that they would have to “eat His flesh and drink His blood” in order to be close to Him. For this difficult teaching, people walk away. But some stay, and Peter speaks for them all when He says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”
Let’s be honest – it’s not always easy to be Catholic. Just recently there have been scandals in the news; reports of bishops and cardinals abusing their power and acting inappropriately. There are times that we might disagree with a priest or dislike the music or our fellow parishioners. Why should we stay Catholic when it seems like Stanwich Evangelical Church is doing so much better, with better music and better preaching and the people are far more welcoming and faithful to the Lord?
I wrestled with that same question as a teen. I loved the Lord, but found my parish to be less-than-inspiring. The music was mediocre, the priests were uninspiring (and one of them got involved in a scandal of his own), and the people were cold. So for a couple Sundays, I explored other Protestant churches. I was amazed at the difference! They were friendly, welcoming, with a real sense of family and a deep love for the Lord.
But…they lacked so much of the Truth. They did not have the Eucharist, or devotion to Mary, or the Pope, or saints, or even the full Scriptures (Protestants took out seven books of the Old Testament). I realized that the only reason to stay Catholic is because Catholicism is the truth.
Recently I was having a conversation with four wonderful, faith-filled Catholics. I asked them what they loved about the Catholic Church. They said, “Oh, you know, the feeling you get when you go to church.” Or, “It’s just that sense of community.” That’s all well and good, and I’m glad they felt good and loved when they came to Mass, but what if the feeling disappears? What if a pastor comes in who you can’t stand? What if you have a fight with members of the parish and all that “good community” dries up? Will you, like the people in the Gospel, simply walk away from the Catholic Church?
We remain Catholic because it is the Church that Jesus Christ founded. We remain Catholic because it is the Church where we receive His true Body and Blood. We remain Catholic because it has faithfully and without error handed down all of the teachings of Jesus.
We do NOT remain Catholic because we like Fr. So-and-so, or because we have an attachment to a building or a community or a feeling we get when we’re here. Fr. So-and-so might disappoint us, our building might crumble, the community might not be there when we need them, our feelings may disappear. But we can trust that the Church will lead us to Jesus Christ, and He promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail against this Catholic Church – and that’s reason enough to stay.
We should take the words of Peter as our own: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You – speaking in and through Your divinely-inspired Church – have the words of everlasting life.”