When my children were babies, and my husband and I would go on vacation, we were never without a map. How many of you can remember the huge paper map with all the tiny squiggly lines, seemingly going nowhere, that one had to navigate whilst driving? Today we have undoubtably, the greatest invention of the 21st century, the GPS! Gone are the days of struggling to follow all of those squiggly lines, whilst keeping our eyes on the road, and our hands on the wheel! Even more impressive, is the GPS's re-routing abilities, lest there be something up ahead that should delay our ETA. The GPS, (I don't think anyone can deny), is a most valuable tool that aids us in reaching whatever destination we so desire, and helps us to reach it in record time.
We as Christians, have something much like the GPS in helping us on our journey to God's kingdom. That GPS is the Catholic Church, which has been given to us by Jesus Christ himself when he said to Peter, "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16: 18-19 NAB)
Because Jesus is God, he knew that in 2,000 years the world would still be turning, and His children would still be in need of learning. He provided for us, in His church, everything we could possibly need in order to know, love, and serve Him in this life, and to spend eternity with Him in heaven. Unfortunately, because of original sin we are wounded. This wound prevents us from recognizing God in the ordinary everyday circumstances of life, and most tragically in His beautiful church that He has given us for our surest means of salvation, just as the religious leaders of the day failed to recognize Jesus, as the Messiah, in a poor carpenter from Nazareth.
This wound is what also caused the great division, and the many divisions in all of Christendom that has led to over 39,000 different Christian denominations today. This is a travesty to say the least. Jesus prayed, "so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me" (John 17:21 NAB). Satans tactic has always been to divide and thus conquer. Jesus has already won the war, but the battle rages on. This battle is not for the triumph of the Kingdom of Heaven, for that has already been established by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The battle that rages on, is for the soul of mankind. We, God's children, are being pursed by an adversary who has nothing left to lose. He has been cast out of heaven with his demons, and his time on earth is short. The only satisfaction he can obtain, is in leading as many of God's children astray as he possibly can, within the timeframe he has left, which isn't much.
What better way to divide God's children through Human words which foster doctrinal confusion, misunderstanding, or even hateful rhetoric against the true church. How clever as to make us question that the sacraments are mere symbols, and do not bring about the true transformation that is promised, when we receive with a contrite heart (See John 3: 3-5 NAB). How diabolical to assure us that confession to a priest is unnecessary. The priest, God's servants upon whom he breathed His Spirit, and commanded them: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained"(John 20:22-23 NAB). Hearing God's words of absolution through His minister, brings about an interior restoration that our words alone cannot bring. It is not that we cannot ask God in prayer for forgiveness, or that He does not hear us, for we know that He does. The sacrament of reconciliation is not for God, it is a gift He gives to us, that we might know our sinfulness, experience true sorrow, repent and be saved. It is easy to see why Satan wishes for us to revile this very powerful sacrament.
Satan relies heavily on man's propensity towards pridefulness. This pride that tells us we do not need a church, we do not need rules and regulations, we do not need a confessor, and we certainly do not need a Pope! We need look no further than the Old Testament if we wish to understand that all of these things are in fact exactly what we need, and they are exactly what God has always given to his people. God called Moses, who would lead God's people on a journey through the desert to a land filled with milk and honey. God told Moses that his brother Aaron would be his spokesman, and that Moses would be as God to him (see Exodus 4:16 NAB). God from the very beginning has proved that He is a God of order, not chaos in which each person is left to their own opinion. There is a hierarchy within God's kingdom where many who are first will be last, and the last will be first (see Matthew 19:30 NAB).
Jesus even spoke of the seat of Moses when He said, "The Scribes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but do not practice" (Matthew 23:2-3 NAB). Jesus himself acknowledged the seat of authority which God established, to lead His people into right worship before God on this earthly journey. He rightly condemned these leaders who unfortunately were not practicing what they preached, but not once did Jesus claim that the seat of authority did not or should not exist. He reiterated that the people should continue to observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but to refrain from following their example.
This seat of authority which God established in the Old Testament, Jesus reestablished in the New Testament when he conferred upon Peter the threefold command to tend His sheep (See John 21:15-17). The pope safeguards all teachings, written and oral, pertaining to the faith and morals of the people of God, and these doctrines cannot be changed. Without this safeguarding of sound doctrine, we would easily fall victim to a false Gospel; a gospel meant to tickle our ears, and put our God given conscience to sleep (see Romans 16: 17-18; 2 Peter 2:1-22 NAB). This sleeping of our consciences can clearly be witnessed in the Christian who accepts abortion as healthcare, or the Christian who erroneously believes that marriage should NOT be exclusively between one man and one woman, or the Christian who believes that euthanasia is exercising the mercy of God, when in reality it is acting as though one IS God.
The Catholic Church is not the enemy. The Catholic Church is a treasure trove of mysteries, that allows for us to capture in this life, a mere glimpse of the heavenly realms (See 1 Corinthians 13:12 NAB). She wishes to bring all of her children home, especially the lost and confused. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that outside of the Catholic Church there is no salvation. I would encourage one to read the Catechism, paragraphs 830-848, so that one may understand the context of this statement. It is not to say that one who is not Catholic cannot be saved. It is speaking of the one who knows that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God, through Christ, would refuse to enter it or to remain in it (CCC 846).
My brothers and sisters in Christ who have left the Catholic Church, or for those who do not yet know her, I can only pray that you might consider the possibility that she is exactly who she claims to be. This world is passing away, and what we perceive to be of utmost importance is nothing more than a distraction from the evil one who wishes to reroute God's children to another destination. The confusion, misunderstandings, and relativistic outlook our culture has clearly adopted regarding faith and morals make for a most difficult and tumultuous journey. We need to be confident that we are on the right road. There are over 39,000 different denominations, all of which claim to possess the absolute truth of the Gospel, but there is only one Church that has not a man as her founder, but Jesus Christ himself, who also promised that His Church would still be standing when He returns (see Matthew 16:18 NAB).
The Catholic Church possesses the fullness of truth, which belongs solely to her, as the historical church founded by Christ over 2,000 years ago. She is our modern day GPS in a world that has too many maps. Maps are good; they may even get us where we need to go, if we are experts in geography, but for those of us who could use a little help along the way, the Catholic Church is a Godsend. Her precepts illuminate the way we must go. When we are rerouted by the enemy, she calls us to repentance, and through her sacraments our broken spirits are healed. Like the GPS, that unceasingly leads me back to that route I sometimes loath to take, instead of allowing me to take that much anticipated shortcut, Holy Mother Church leads me back to the narrow way that might seem harsh, but is always the surest and fastest route home.