Spiritual Direction: If You Are Shopping For The Perfect Church: You Are Headed In The Wrong Direction
Martin Luther is and was a marvelous example of a person seeking to find the perfect church. He was a priest in the Church and saw the human frailties of man that had crept into the Church as practices that were not done in the best interest of the Church or its members. This was his alleged root cause of him looking elsewhere for a church but was it really true?
Was it true here refers to his reasons, not the Church. The issue here is not to knock the Church, but to look at the concept that the Church is more than the total of buildings and Church Leaders-it is actually the members of the Church that make up the Church. The Priest serves the members of his parish. The Bishops serve the Priests and their parishes, and the Pope serves the Bishops, Priests, and parishes. So when Martin Luther came up with his idea of the Priesthood of All Believers- he was actually looking at the concept that the real power of the Church is with the people in the Parishes. Now, with this intent, do we really have to leave the Church to find a Church? Should we shop around to find a Church? Should we start our own Church? No, No, No. The Church is not something that you need to shop for, it is something that is sacred and something that is so very important in this world and the next. In an actual sense instead of finding a perfect Church, we should be seeking to perfect ourselves through following the teachings of the Church.
Now, let us consider that the people are the real power of the Church. As Catholics, we have grown to wait on others to do our work or think for us. Is this what God really wants of us? Why did God give us a brain if we do not use it? Why did he give us hands if we do not use them? We are not robots, we were created in God’s image and we are longing to go live with him in the next life. How can we do that if we do not think and act for ourselves in this world? Can we let the Bishop do the priest’s job in every parish? Can we let the Pope do the Bishop’s job in every Diocese or Eparchy? No, No, we can not and we should not. This is not a call to go against the leaders of the Church. It is just the opposite; we need to help the leaders of the Church. When we are on the same team much more of His work gets done. The issue here is that we should try to do our part so they can do their part for God’s plan for us. It takes everyone working in unity for this to work. Are there going to be people you do not like? Are there going to be leaders who make mistakes? Of course, but the biggest mistake here is to throw away the Church for problems and then create a larger problem for you in this world and the next. Martin Luther tried this and what did this accomplish? When you seek to perfect the Church through man-made attempts you are going to just corrupt the Church. The Church was established by Jesus and he said He would never leave us until the end of time. If you think anything different and somehow feel that you can do better, what have you actually done? Have you not only called Jesus and God lairs, but you have put yourself above Jesus, can this be correct?
Martin Luther instead of helping the system from within chose to combat the system from without. He would not take guidance from the Church but instead without authority created his own church. He did not like the Pope because he thought he was not perfect. Let us look if we apply the same standards that he did on the Pope to himself (Martin Luther), what would happen to Luther. Martin Luther took it upon himself to take out books from the Bible yet at the same time say that the Bible is the Authority. I ask you, brothers and sisters, can a person do this? He did it. Should a person do this? He did this. Luther defended this action by saying that these books in the Bible were not scriptural. I tell you right now that this is not true. The Maccabees were thrown out of Luther’s Bible and without the Maccabees' revolt, the Jews would not have existed at the time of Christ’s birth. It is just this simple, no Jews-no Jesus, no Jesus-no Christianity. Brothers and sisters, does this sound important to you? Does it? Does this support the concept that the Bible is sole authority if you just took out two books of the most important part of the Bible? If these books were not important, it might be that the whole teaching of Martin Luther was horribly flawed. Might it be because of his misunderstanding of the Scriptures, we might not have even had the New Testament part of the Bible, because Jesus would not have come without the Jews living on earth, would he? Martin Luther wrote some really nice hymns, he might have been a great priest who became disenchanted with the Church, but he was wrong for leaving, creating problems that resulted in the death of millions of people since he left the Church. Overall, we will be judged by our actions and deeds- do you want to think a little more now about your actions and deeds?
The next time you are tempted to think about Church shopping think bout this: what is the real purpose of the Church? Is it a building that we spend some time in each Sunday, or a place where a community gathers to worship and praise our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Is it a place of contention or a place of contentment? If you feel like it is a contention, maybe you need to change yourself and not your Church. Maybe you should live by the principles that Christ taught us and maybe you should seek the Kingdom of God in both this life and the next one. Amen