Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Focus on the Lord, Not the Lunkheads

During the last few decades, I’ve met countless people who have stopped going to Mass or have outright left the Church. There are many reasons for their decision: the clergy sex abuse scandal, the hypocritical behavior of Church leaders, the inefficient and inept bureaucracy of the Church, the Church’s seemingly harsh and heartless stance on certain social issues, etc.

Here’s a question you can ask any Catholic — current or former — and you’ll be guaranteed to get a “yes” answer: Has a priest ever said or done something to offend you?

The point I’m trying to make is that even though I take my Catholic faith seriously, I totally get why someone would leave the Church. It’s an undeniable fact that the Catholic Church and the people in the Church have done some pretty terrible things over the years.

I suspect when Jesus founded His Church with these words, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,” in the back of His mind the Lord was thinking: “Well, the Church is necessary to spread the Gospel all over the world for countless generations, but it’s gonna be a bumpy ride because I’m entrusting this divine message to a bunch of lunkheads.”
The Church was never meant to be perfect. If it were, then folks would be tempted to worship the Church rather than God. So, in His infinite wisdom, God delivered His perfect message of forgiveness and salvation to a group of sinful people. He knew this would be the best method for preaching the Good News far and wide and over centuries of time, but He surely understood it was a risky proposition. Just as giving human beings free will was risky, God knew that giving His divine message to a bunch of, well, lunkheads, was risky, too. But it was a risk He was willing to take.

For people who are angry with the Church in general, or offended by a Church leader in particular, I think the problem might be that they are focusing only on the Church’s bureaucracy or on certain members of that bureaucracy. They may have lost sight of Who founded the Church in the first place: Christ the Lord.

For me personally, the more I focus on Christ rather than bureaucratic Church wranglings, the more peace I have. And when I ask myself, “What would be a better method of spreading the Good News throughout the centuries instead of a large, centralized organization?” I come up blank. If at the very beginning the Gospel message was spread and shared by zillions of small groups — with no central authority — the basic doctrines of the faith would’ve been so corrupted and diluted, they would have been unrecognizable by the third century, let alone in our day and age. 
So yes, the Church can be rigid and bureaucratic, and leaders of the Church are sinners, just like you and me. They are tempted by the allure of pride and power, along with being susceptible at times to discouragement and cynicism. But the Church is still the most effective way of spreading the life-changing news of Jesus Christ to a hurting world over the span of multiple millennia.

I’ve spent quite a few paragraphs so far bad-mouthing the Church and its leadership. But the fact is, no worldwide organization has done more to help people in need than the Catholic Church. In the U.S., no organization, except for the government, spends more money helping the poor than the Catholic Church. And the Church does it all with freely donated funds, not tax dollars coerced from people with the threat of arrest and imprisonment if they don’t comply.

And let’s not forget one of the most fascinating aspects of the Church: her saints, both those who are widely recognized and the countless ones who fly under the radar. There is something about Jesus’ call to “love your neighbor as yourself” that inspires millions of people to sacrifice for others. It’s a beautiful thing.

In conclusion, if you are currently struggling with the Church, I completely understand. It’s almost as if the Vatican has an official Department of Honking People Off. (I was going to use a different word, but this is a family-friendly forum, so I’ll go with honking.)
Try instead to focus on the founder of the Church: Jesus, the all-merciful Lord. As that ad campaign says, “He gets us.” Jesus knows our struggles, and His message is what counts the most. The Church is merely the vehicle to spread that message.

If you keep your eyes on the Lord, everything else pales by comparison, even all the lunkheads. 

No comments:

Post a Comment