A Personal Reflection
“LORD, TO WHOM SHALL WE GO?”
Many of his disciples turned back, and no longer went with him.
So, Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”
Peter answered him: “Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn. 6:66-68)
President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) courageously and tenaciously believed in the well-worn adage: “United we stand, divided we fall.” For this, he was indebted to another prophetic visionary, John Dickinson (1732-1808), who lived only a few decades before him. Rallying the harried people of America, Dickinson said:
“Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all – by uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.” Stated briefly and succinctly, “In unity, there is strength.”
And this is precisely why Jesus ardently prayed in his Farewell Discourse: “The Father and I are one…that they all may be one, Father, as I am in you, and you are in me.” Unity is fundamentally essential in any organization for harmony, morale, stability and progress; much more in the Catholic Church – the Mystical Body of Christ.
The Historical Context
President Abraham Lincoln knew from the very beginning of his career that the nation, as he put it, couldn’t survive half slave and half free. But he saw more profoundly that slavery, as an institution, was repugnant to the very principles of the American democracy. And this he openly and unambiguously announced in his famous and historic Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth in this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Stated differently, President Lincoln was clearly articulating the principles that define democracy: freedom and equality.
The he added: “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” In other words, Lincoln knew what was at stake in a looming civil war was American democracy itself. He knew full well that slavery was a corrosive cancer that would undermine and destroy American ideals.
Any other person of lesser stature, both literally and figuratively, would have simply given up with the saving excuse, “I’m leaving the country. I’ve had it. This is a disaster. I’m giving up.” But Lincoln was made of sterner stuff. He had the courage of his convictions and would not take that option. On the contrary, he resolutely led the country down the other path – toward fighting – fighting for the ideals of American democracy. And for this he is hailed as one of the greatest and most inspiring leaders in history. “Where some see obstacles, others see opportunities.”
The Current Context
Something similar is at stake in the Catholic Church today. Christ Jesus did expressly say: “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you…they will do all these things to you on account of my name.” The Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, has endured centuries of persecutions, adversity, rebellion, heresies, schisms, scandals and controversies. But it has always emerged triumphant and glorious, because Christ Jesus, the Head, is our Risen Lord and triumphant Saviour, who unequivocally stated: “I shall be always with you, even until the end of time.” “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
As one and all are aware, the Catholic Church has been rocked by a series of shocking and alarming scandals in the recent past. The details have been exposed in glaring details by the media; and so, there is no need to repeat the embarrassing litany. In the face of these startling revelations, one could legitimately say, “I’ve had it. The Church is far too corrupt. I’m out of here.” That would be an easy option. But what is truly called for is the fighting spirit of Lincoln. “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
We are proud to be Catholic and to belong to the Body of Christ Jesus, because, as St. Peter reminds us: “Remember the price that was paid for your ransom; it was not paid in silver or gold or anything corruptible, but in the priceless Blood of the spotless Lamb of God.” Strictly speaking, this was not necessary. After all, God is Almighty – a mere wish would have been more than enough to bring about the desired effect. But “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that all who believe in him may not perish but may eternal life.” With God, it is all or nothing; and so too with us in the present crisis – after all, as one saintly priest reminded us: “We are on the winning side!”
We are Catholics, because in and through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus, temples of the Spirit and heirs to the kingdom of heaven – thanks to the marvelous and gratuitous Trinitarian love of God!
We are Catholics, because we are proud to be living members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church.
We are Catholics, because we can truly regard Mary, the Mother of God, as our very own mother. What an astounding privilege and singular joy!
We are Catholics, because we can share in the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus – a Sacred Banquet in which Christ Jesus is made our food, the memory of his Passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace, and therein is given us a pledge of future glory. Now we see with the eyes of faith; in heaven, we shall see God face to face in the Beatific Vision.
We are Catholics, because we enjoy the singular privilege of sharing in God’s own life in and through the seven Sacraments – each of which is a channel of God’s unfathomable love and precious life – they truly make us “divinized human beings,” even on this side of heaven.
We are Catholics, because we, the Church militant, are one with the Saints in heaven, the Church triumphant, and the Church suffering – the holy souls in Purgatory, who depend on our prayers to attain their heavenly reward. They are our best intercessors with God and our unfailing allies in the ceaseless war against the forces of evil that relentlessly persist in persecuting Christ Jesus and the members of his Mystical Body.
We are Catholics, because we, each and every one of us is a prophet, priest and king. When Israel got off the rails (as we read in the Old Testament – and this happened often), God unfailingly sent the Prophets, who courageously raised their voices – they did never mince their words – and urged the people to return to God. This, then, is our challenge as prophets – not to quit, but to raise our voices in defence of the Church to which we are proud to belong.
How, then, do we conduct this spiritual warfare? Many years ago, a prominent American Cardinal George rightly said: “Remember, at the beginning of the Church, there were no parishes. There were no schools, hospitals, institutions. There were EVANGELISTS.” In other words, there were baptized Christians and courageous prophets, whose sole task was to share the Good News and to stand up in defence of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. If we quit and run, who will be the prophetic voice for Christ Jesus?
This is not the moment to abandon the Church. This is the moment to stand and fight for the Church, for “United we stand, divided we fall.”
Fr. James Valladares PhD
(Please note that these are the personal thoughts of the author and do not, in any way, constitute anything official. Readers are at liberty to form their own minds. The sole purpose is to facilitate a united stance against an unsettling crisis, and is shared with humility, respect and honesty, without in any way belittling the colossal harm done by the recent crises in the Catholic Church. It is his hope that together we can carve a new future as envisioned by Christ Jesus – “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works, and give praise to our Father in heaven.”)