Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Roadshow Treasure!

Appraiser: Tell me what you've got here - first of all, how did you come by it?

Guest: Well, it was handed down through our family. I got it from my parents, my mother mostly. We grew up with it in our house and never thought too much about it. As I got older, I thought there might be more to it than what my parents had realized. They seemed to take it for granted that everyone had one, or at least something like it, and one was just as good as the other. I moved out of the house when I was about 19 and I guess you'd say I left it behind - didn't even miss it really until I got a little older.

Appraiser: We see a lot of these come through the Roadshow. As you say, most people have it and just take it for granted. They assume theirs is real or at least, serves their purpose, and don't give it much thought beyond that. The fact is, most are not original. They are copies, and in many cases, copies of copies. And the more they are copied, the more different they become from the truly authentic. Most people just assume theirs is original and authentic, and for the most part, they go through their entire lives not knowing any different.

Guest: I honestly never knew if ours was real or not. In fact, I didn't know whether there is a way to tell. Many claim authenticity, but they can't all be true because they differ in many ways. I don't know how to tell and that's why I'm here!

Appraiser: You are right about that. They can't all be true if they conflict with one another. Well, there IS a way to tell, although many people don't want to admit the truth when they hear it. Even when you show them theirs was developed much later, they don't want to hear it! Now, I can tell you how we can determine if yours is real.

Guest: That's why I came.

Appraiser: Okay, then. First of all, what do you call it?

Guest: We always just called it the Church. Mom always said, "We're going to Church," and that's what we called it.

Appraiser: That's fine. Some people call it their religion, some have a specific name for it, but most use the term Church even though what they specifically have is not necessarily what we would call the true Church. One of the characteristics in determining the authenticity is its unity or oneness. There is only one Church.

Guest: One? How do you know that?

Appraiser: From Scripture. We know the Church is the Body of Jesus Christ. He had only one body. I can give you several references if you want to research it yourself. You might want to read Romans 12:5. Also look at 1 Corrinthians 10:17, and 12:13 where this oneness is emphasized. Rather than a series of Christian Churches all having differing beliefs, Jesus established just one universal Church. By the way, the Greek word for universal is catholic.

Guest: But how do we even know the Scripture is true?

Appraiser (laughing): Well, we will have to delve much deeper into this if you want to go there, but let me explain it briefly. The short answer is because this Catholic Church says so, but of course, logic prohibits us from using a circular argument to prove the Church from Scripture and Scripture from the Church. Therefore, we must go outside the circle and prove the existence of the Church first, and in fact, the Church does pre-date Scripture and we would not have the Scripture were it not for the Church.

Guest: But again I ask, how do we know this?

Appraiser: You might be surprised to learn that we know quite a lot about what was happening 2000 years ago. We have ancient manuscripts including the some of the writings of the earliest Christians. These documents of antiquity have been scrutinized very carefully to determine authenticity. We have strong evidence that a man named Jesus lived, that he claimed to be the Son of God, that he was a miracle worker, that he died a horrible death by crucifixion, and that he rose from the dead, and was seen by some 500 witnesses afterwards. We also have evidence that he established a Church and promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide it to truth, and gave the Church authority to bind and loose in His absence. He also said the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

Guest: But aren't you just quoting Scripture? Isn't this the circular argument again?

Appraiser: No. We are not assuming the inspiration of Scripture yet at this point. These facts are based strictly on the historical record.

Guest: I thought ALL Scripture was inspired.

Appraiser: It is, but how do we know that?

Guest: Doesn't Scripture itself say so?

Appraiser: No, and it wouldn't prove anything if it did. Many early Christian writings claimed to be inspired. It fell upon the shoulders of the 4th Century Bishops of the Catholic Church to determine once and for all, which of the disputed early Christian writings were inspired and therefore should be included in the Canon of Scripture. Without the Bishops of the Catholic Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we would not have a Bible. People don't realize that you can't know infallible Scripture without an infallible Church.

Guest: So how can so many people try to prove errors of Catholicism by quoting Scripture?

Appraiser: Ironic, isn't it?

Guest: But, don't many other Churches claim to be the true Church Christ established?

Appraiser: Yes, and now we are getting back to how we discern the true Church. Let's examine the identifying marks of yours carefully. If we now accept Scripture as truth inspired by God, we know the true Church is ONE Church. It doesn't make sense to have a series of different denominations all claiming to be the Christian Church, but teaching contradictory doctrine. So, unity of doctrine is the first mark we look for. We also know the Church is Holy.

Guest: I would think many churches . . . or denominations . . .

Appraisers: Ecclesiastical Communities, we sometimes call them.

Guest: Okay, Ecclesiastical Communities. I would think many Ecclesiastical Communities could claim to be Holy, and the Catholic Church has certainly had priests and bishops whom one would never consider to be holy!

Appraiser: True, but don't confuse the universal Church as the Bride of Christ with the actions of her individual members. Paul writes about the relationship between Christ and the Church in his letter to the Ephesians. You might want to read in Chapter 5 where he compares the relationship between husbands and wives to that of Christ and the Church. Read verses 21 to 30 where we get this imagery of the Church as Christ's Body, being holy and without blemish. Contrast this with John chapter 6, verse 70 where Jesus refers to one of His chosen apostles as the devil. Those apostles were the first bishops of the Church, chosen by Jesus Himself. Yet, one of them was evil. That does not mean the Church as a Divine Institution is evil. There's a big distinction there!

Guest: But, that describes many churches . . . or Ecclesiastical Communities. (I can't get used to saying that!)

Appraiser: Well, maybe so, but they don't have the primary source of holiness which is grace conveyed through the Sacraments, and especially the Holy Eucharist. John Chapter 6 says unless we eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, we have no life within us. (verse 53) That's a pretty strong statement!

Guest: And only possible in the Catholic Church?

Appraiser: Yes, and let's talk a little more about that term Catholic before we run out of time. We said before that the word Catholic means universal. That's the third mark we look for. Jesus intended His Church for everyone. He told his apostles to make disciples of ALL nations (Matt 28:19-20). The Catholic Church has been doing this for 2000 years. We know the term Catholic was in use to describe Christ's Church at least as early as the 2nd century when Ignatius of Antioch was using it.

Guest: It still seems to me that many ecclesiastical communities could make these claims.

Appraiser: Well, they can make the claims, but the claims won't hold up to scrutiny! I might suggest you take time to read the Church Fathers, early Christian writers who describe belief and practice when the Church was in its infancy. Compare their beliefs to those of the various ecclesiastical communities of today and compare them to the Catholic Church. And even if you still believe any Christian communities can claim to be holy and universal, I think you'll be hard pressed to accept any claim to be one and apostolic. The fourth mark, being the Apostolic continuity of succession, should be the clincher.

Guest: And what does that mean exactly?

Appraiser: Jesus appointed the apostles to be the first leaders of the Church. Those leaders had successors which we now call bishops. By apostolic, we mean the true Church will have a continuous unbroken line of successors from the first apostles down to the bishops of today. Even that apostle we talked about earlier who Jesus called the devil, had a successor. You can read about his selection in the first chapter of Acts beginning around verse 15. You can also read some of early Christian writers who list the successors to Peter, the apostle who was given primacy over the others by virtue of being given the Keys to the Kingdom by Jesus.

Guest: But still, can't at least some of these so-called Ecclesiastical Communities still have the four marks? Say the Lutherans for example. Didn't Martin Luther just remove some of the dirt that had tarnished the Church?

Appraiser: No. While he removed the dirt, you might say he also removed the patina, and in doing so, what made the Church so valuable, that being protection of truth by the Christ-granted authority, was lost. Once the authority and the teaching of that authority was denied, only the Bible remained. What's the pillar and foundation of truth?

Guest: The Bible.

Appraiser: Is it? Read first Timothy 3, verse 15. The Bible says the pillar and foundation of truth is the Church of the living God.

Guest: So, without the Church, we lose the pillar and foundation of truth.

Appraiser: Absolutely. The ecclesiastical communities can have much truth, but not the fullness of the truth. They have the Bible, which they got from the Catholic Church by the way, but they have to interpret it for themselves since they no longer trust the authority which gave them the Bible in the first place. Do you see why I call these other so-called churches knock-offs?

Guest: I do now.

Appraiser: I don't mean it disrespectfully. Some of them are very beautiful. On the outside, they may appear more attractive than the Catholic Church to some. But once you understand what's missing - the authority, the truth, the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation, the Mass itself, and all the other graces, the whole Communion of Saints - I could go on and on. There's really no comparison. The provenance is critical to the value.

Guest: So, what is this worth?

Appraiser: Well, you owe a great debt of gratitude to your mother for bringing you up in the Catholic faith. All four marks that we look for are here. I've talked this over with a number of my colleagues. How can you place a value on a one of a kind gift from Our Lord, Jesus Christ? It's beyond value - by far, the most valuable thing we have ever had on the Roadshow.

Guest: My God, I had no idea. All these years, I never gave it any thought. I never knew what I had. All the times in my life - all those years - I just didn't know! Thank you so much. You have given me a whole new appreciation for my Catholic faith. I'm not going to keep it hidden away now. I want to put it on display for everyone to see in the hopes others will learn to love it and cherish it as I will from now on.

Appraiser: You'll want to take good care of it - frequent confession, Holy Communion, daily prayer - do all those things and your faith will increase in value.

Guest: Thank you so much.

Appraiser: Thanks for bringing it in.

Guest: I wish my mother could have heard this.

Appraiser: She knows.