Friday, 16 May 2014
There is a striking difference between Islam and Christianity. Not simply that we Christians hold to God as a Trinity of Persons in unity (baptise in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit); nor that we know Christ as God-the-Son-made-man (Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human, Jn.1v1&14; 14v28; Col.2v9, and therefore claims the Divine Name ‘I AM’ cf. Jn.8v58). Rather, the difference is in our understanding of God’s relationship with man. Indeed, our Catholic Faith tells us that God did not create us to be His submissive servants, which would be more the picture held by Moslems, but to be His dutiful children who share His Divine life.
To share that life with us even now God in Christ established one, true, universal and Hierarchical Church (Matt.18v15-18; Acts.8v55/Matt.20v28; 1.Tim.3v1-5; Tit.1v5-9; Vatican II, Lumen gentium #8). He did this in order to keep us united to Him by teaching us His Truth without error (28v19-20; Lk.10v16; 22v31-32; 1.Tim3v15); by giving us a premier earthly Pastor in Peter (cf. Is.22v20-23 with Matt.16v16-19; Jn.21v15-17; Lk.22v31-32) and by filling is even now with His Divine Life through our reception of the sacraments.
In Baptism God unites us to Himself when we are born (Rom.6v1); in Confirmation He seals us with His Holy Spirit (Acts.8v14-17; 19v6); in Confession He restores us to union with Him when we have lost it by grave, deliberate sin (Jn.20v21-23). In the Anointing of the Sick He brings us healing of soul and sometimes of the body (Mk.6v12-13; Jam.5v14-15); in Marriage He unites a man and a woman in a permanent, life-giving union as a life-giving sign of God’s permanent, life-giving union with His Church (Eph.5v21-23), while by Holy Orders gives us Priests to supply all these other Sacraments (1.Pet.5v1-4).
At the centre of all these sacraments and the source of all their graces is the Holy Eucharist. In the Holy Eucharist we meet Christ Himself, whole and entire, His very Person: “He who eats Me will draw from Me” (Jn.6v57). Holy Mass is the unending Self-Offering of Christ (Heb.9v12; 24-26; Rev.5v6); the offering of His Crucified and Risen Body (1.Cor.11v26-29; Rev.5v6) which we then consume to share His life by Holy Communion (Jn.6v53-63; Rev.19v9). Since the Eucharist is Christ; His Supreme sacrifice and the Heavenly banquet, anyone who is saved is saved by the Mass, hence it is of supreme importance in the life of the Christian.
To encourage our growth in holiness and support us in it, we also have the saints spurring us on as a great cloud of witnesses (Heb.11v32-40;12v1). Through their example we learn to pray; to do good and avoid evil; we learn to put ourselves in the shoes of others and seek to alleviate suffering wherever it is found. Justice and peace are not simply the concerns of the secular world but of the Church, who does all in the light of Gospel Truth and charity. As priests we seek holiness by service of the folk; as religious we seek holiness by active apostolic life or prayer for the needs of the world; as lay folk we seek holiness by engaging with the world and bringing Gospel value to bear in all spheres of daily life.
Though Non-Catholic Christian communities no longer possess all the saving resources God entrusted to the Church, they have yet held onto some of those assets (the Scriptures, Baptism, Marriage and the life of faith, hope and charity); as such, these communities channel salvation to souls by means of Catholic assets. Further, since God wills that all men be saved (1.Tim.2v4) He gives witness to Himself even to pagan cultures (Acts 17v23). All, however, are called into His Catholic fold (Jn.10v16; Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism #3) -the Lord’s Commission to make disciples of all the nations (Matt.28v19) is not negated.
Sadly, some Catholics abandon the Church and their Sunday Mass. Since The Church is Christ’s Body (Eph.1v22; 1.Cor.12v12-13) and Holy Mass contains Jesus Himself (Jn.6v53-63), the Sacrifice of the Cross which saves us (1.Cor.11v26) and Heaven in adoration of God at His heavenly banquet (Rev.5v13) they are depriving their soul of much needed grace. Simply put, to come to Mass is to come to heaven; to ‘miss’ Mass is to miss out on heaven. As I often say to our children and their parents, “We don’t have to die to go to heaven where we hope all our loved ones are present with God, we only need to come to Mass, which is heaven on earth”.