AS A SOCIETY, as a culture, as a people most of us crave unity.
In our families we’d like to set the bar a little higher than simply coexisting.
We seek love because that is why we were created whether we recognize this or not.
A long time ago, let’s say ninth century B.C., the land of Israel was split into two kingdoms.
God tells the prophet Ezekiel several hundred years later that “Never again shall they be divided” (37:22).
Obviously division, and with it acrimony, are not in the designs of God.
Jesus, centuries later, weighs in as well.
In John 17, in his prayer to God the Father, Jesus pleads to the father for unity.
“And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one” v.22.
Jesus said this three times so it is hard to miss.
There are roughly 40,000 non-Catholic denominations worldwide, and this number continues to grow.
Virtually all claim to be guided by the holy spirit, a “spirit-filled” church, as I have heard it.
Who am I to say?
There is a lament (as I have also heard) among non-Catholic Christians on the lack of unity.
Some are friends, some are family.
They look at me like this is an unsolvable problem.
I see it as more of an unwillingness to seek, and speak, the truth.
Why are there so many different churches, all claiming to be guided by the holy spirit, yet teaching different things?
This is a question I asked myself a long time ago.
There are a few things unique to the Catholic Church that you will find nowhere else.
One of them is authority.
“Well, where is that in the Bible?” a young man asked me not long ago.
Most Christians are very aware that Peter denied Jesus three times following his arrest, just as Jesus had said Peter would.
A fallible man, this Peter was.
Yet Jesus saw something in Peter that said “leader,” giving him responsibility, earthly ownership of the kingdom.
In the final chapter of the Gospels, John 21, Jesus allows Peter to redeem himself by asking him three prophetic questions: It is clear that Jesus wants to make it very clear what Peter’s ultimate mission is, even telling him how he will die.
It is an awesome exchange and it is not hard to imagine the wondering, intense look that must have been on Peter’s face.
In Matthew 17 when Jesus tells Peter that he will give him the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” he is granting Peter authority of a divine nature, fallible man though he is.
This authority, which also includes the “binding and loosing” of sins — sacramental confession — is given to all the Apostles in John 20:22 as well.
These commands and the authority Jesus bestowed were made manifest at Pentecost and immediately clear in the Apostles eyes as the holy spirit descended upon them — they had authority and chrisms, and Peter was their leader.
Pope Francis is the 266th leader of this same Church — an unbroken line, beginning with Christ proclaiming to Peter that “upon this rock I will build my church” on to this present day.
If you happen to belong to a church that is still trying to figure out what it’s core teachings are, the Catholic church did the heavy lifting a long time ago — centuries, even millenniums ago — and we know that Jesus is the same “yesterday, today and forever,” so this is not going to change.
Comforting to most, problematic to others, with God’s gift of free will you can either walk by or enter, the one holy Catholic and apostolic faith, our Catholic faith.
“Do this in memory of me” Jesus commanded, and so this is what we do.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Mike Acheson is director of religious education at Queen of Angels Roman Catholic Church in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim. His email is [email protected]