Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Need for Church

“And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” Ephesians 1: 22-23

We live in a very spiritual country. Even the most recent polls show that most Americans claim to be Christian and even more claim to have faith in some kind of “higher power”. And while the percentage of atheists has gone up in the last few years, it is still the vast minority of people. But is just being “spiritual” enough?

I think lots of people are drawn to the idea of God. We like knowing He is watching out for us. We are comforted by the idea of an afterlife in heaven. We think that positive thoughts and energy will aide us in healing from surgery or sickness. We want to believe that there is more to life than just amassing wealth or living the American Dream. This is even true for Christians who feel that all they need is a personal relationship with Jesus and nothing more.

But can we really have spirituality or even a personal relationship with Christ apart from the Church? Is it possible to have authentic Faith and Truth on our own? Is it possible to withstand the temptations Satan throws at us at every turn while trying to be a “Lone Ranger” Christian? I think the answer to all of these questions is “no”.

Why? God Himself is a community of Three Persons in the Trinity. While this is a mystery to behold and it is impossible to grasp the full knowledge of how God is made up of Three Persons, but still only one God, it is a reality of our Faith. And being made in the image of God, or in other words, with the capacity to love, we too, are created to live in community—in family. Frankly put, humans simply do not do well on their own. Even a recent documentary I saw on solitary confinement proves that we were made for community. After years and years of isolation with no interaction with others and no physical touch, many of the inmates developed mental problems or went insane.

The point is that we were made for one another, for family, for community. And the Church is the body of Christ. It is the family of God. And we need to be in it and an active part of it in some way. We do this primarily by attending Mass every Sunday, but for young people it can also mean being involved in your parish youth group (if you have one) or helping with service projects, etc. If we think we can simply live a “me and Jesus” Christianity, we aren’t going to last long. And if we think we can be “spiritual” apart from the body of Christ, then it is a hollow, superficial version of God’s plan.

I know at times it might seem easier to have faith or spirituality apart from the Church: Is the Church messy at times? Yes. Are there fights and imperfect people? Yes. Do we sometimes resemble the rest of the world instead of the people God is calling us to be? Yes. But isn’t this the same in any family? But St. Augustine once said, “The Church survives despite her members, not because of them.” While it is true that we will not find heaven on earth in our Church, in our Church we will find the way to heaven while on this earth. And this is something we all need.

Dear Jesus, please help me to recognize not only my need for You, but also my need for Your Church. Give me the grace to see that I cannot live the life You have called me to on my own, but only with the help and support of my brothers and sisters and the guidance and grace offered to me through Your Body. Amen.

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