Catholic Renewal

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Matthew 16:18.  St. Peter has just told Jesus that he believes He is the Christ, the promised Messiah, and Son of the Living God.  Jesus then promises to build His Church on St. Peter’s faithful leadership and assures him (and us) that “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”  Those words of our Savior give us comfort and hope in a time when it feels as if the Church is under attack from all quarters.  But one look at our history shows that we’ve always been under attack of one kind or another.
Emperors and dynasties have opposed and persecuted the Church.  Governments have outlawed the Church, arrested, tortured and killed our leaders and our members.  Over the centuries, Catholics have been forced to worship in secret.  Even today this is true in some countries.  We’ve seen our church buildings burned and our property seized.  We’ve been denied the right to assemble together, to pray, to vote, to own property.  We’re being told today that what we know to be true isn’t true.  Our own government seeks to deprive us of the free practice of our faith.  We’ve seen this before.  And we’ll see it again.  Because we are His Church–the Mystical Bride of Christ.  We are wedded to Jesus and we have to walk the way of sorrows, just as He walked.  We can’t expect to avoid suffering. 
When you look at the history of the Catholic Church, we shouldn’t even still be around.  As often as the world has sought to destroy us from the outside, we’ve tried just as hard to destroy the Church from the inside.  Corruption, greed, pride, lust —you name it, we’ve done it.  And despite all the scandals, His Church goes on.  Even the foulest Pope couldn’t lead the Church away from Her Spouse.  This is because of His promise to us:  that the gates of hell shall not prevail against us.  Over our history, whenever we’ve been persecuted either by outside forces or by our own sinfulness, God has lifted us up again and again.  The Councils of the Church came together to discuss and define the truth of our faith.  Our popes and bishops, led by the Holy Spirit, reformed and renewed us in the face of each threat.  Great saints and teachers have “appeared” when we most needed them, leading us always to the Gospel, to Jesus.  In dark days, the Light is brightest, showing His people the way.  These days are no different.
We have to keep our eyes fixed on Christ, just as His Blessed Mother does.  Our hope is in Him, never in ourselves.  Our bishops need to constantly remind us of just who we are—the Spotless Bride of Christ.  Our pastors need to fearlessly proclaim the gospel of Christ crucified each Sunday.  We need to hear the truth, not what is politically easy or expedient.  We’re hungry for the Eucharist, for the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Living God.  We need Adoration.  We need to see our pastors and bishops standing up for the truth and leading us to fulfill our destiny as the Church Triumphant.  This present trial will pass and the Church will go on.  Someday we’ll look back on this struggle and say – “that was when the Catholic renewal in America began.”
But no renewal within the wider Church can begin unless our own hearts are renewed.  Lent is a time of such renewal, of repentance, confession, fasting and conversion: of turning away from sin and returning to the Gospel.  We’re all in this together.  We need one another.  Jesus founded a Church, not a self-help movement.  He wants us to walk together, helping one another along the way.  We have so much to be thankful for this Lent.  Two new Cardinals for America and come October, seven new saints for the Church, including a native American.  We can choose to make this Lent a journey of renewal and hope.  We can look to Christ’s promise to be with His Church, His Bride, until the end of time and know that “greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world” (Psalms 23:4).  We are greatly-loved, Divinely-led, and purchased with the Blood of the Lamb.  We will go on.  The Church will go on, walking with Christ towards the New Jerusalem.
“You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church.”
                                    —The Gospel of St. Matthew, 16:18

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