Friday, May 23, 2014
My Sunday morning routine includes listening to the local radio broadcast of a Protestant preacher while I get ready to go to Eucharistic adoration and eleven o’clock Mass. Heath Hyatt is the lead pastor at the Church of the Heartland located a few miles from here. He is very engaging and I enjoy his message very much. At times, I have wondered if he isn’t really a Catholic in disguise. Rarely would his sermon conflict with anything preached in a typical Catholic homily. People like him make great Catholics and we need them to bolster our own faith communities.
A few weeks ago, his sermon touched on Christian unity. He mentioned the Apostle’s Creed where it says the Church is “one”, but then added the caveat that there are many Christian churches, but we are all Christians. He told his congregation they would not say they follow Heath Hyatt. Rather, they would say they follow Jesus. That’s true. Of course they would say they follow Jesus. But is it really true when Jesus established an authoritative Church that they reject?
I thought of 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 where Paul speaks of divisions in the Church at Corinth. In that passage, some say they follow Apollos, some say Cephas, some say Paul, and some say Christ. Paul warns them that in the name of Jesus Christ, there should be no divisions among them, and they should be perfectly joined in the same mind and purpose or judgment. Despite the divisions at Corinth, I think we can assume Peter, Paul, and Apollos were likely preaching very similar messages at that time in salvation history. What would Paul say to the Christians in America today where numerous divisions exist in every community and messages often vary?
I recently came across a website gallery titled, “Things to look for when choosing a church.” Thing number 3 is, “A Doctrine You Agree With”. It reads as follows:
Whether you're aware of it or not, every Christian church follows its own specific doctrine that dictates its goings-on. Some churches believe that baptism is the only way to get to heaven, while others rule baptism out entirely. Some strictly adhere to Biblical principles concerning the banning of women and homosexuals from teaching in the church, while others allow them to do so.
Make sure to do your research and find a church with a doctrine that you agree with! Otherwise, you could find yourself at odds with the behaviors of church leaders and find yourself drawing away.
Who determines the doctrine of all of these independent Christian denominations? That depends on who is in control. Often, it is the pastor alone. If a person chooses a church based on criterion number 3, isn’t that person actually following the pastor or leadership of that particular denomination?
Doctrine is declared truth. It is not something dependent on one man’s opinion. Doctrine is absolute, not relative. If a so-called doctrine is specific to a certain church and disagrees with the so-called doctrine of another church, at least one of them is wrong. Choosing a church based upon whether you personally agree with a specific teaching is foolish. Only one church can declare truth guided by the Holy Spirit. Only one church can make a reasonable claim to being, not only one, but also holy, historically catholic and apostolic.
Pastor Hyatt mentioned that when we do have disagreements among Christians, we go to the Bible. I did not hear him say that the Bible says we take our disagreements to the Church. (Matt 18:15-18) Which Church? The only one given authority by Christ tracing back 2000 years, the pillar and foundation of truth. (1 Tim 3:15)
If this Church is out there, and contains all truth and the actual Body and Blood of our Savior Jesus Christ as it claims, how can so many walk right past it without a thought? And how can many who do give it thought, stand in opposition and defiance? To answer those questions, we have to look within ourselves.
Joshua Bell is an amazing concert violinist. Born in Bloomington, Indiana in 1967, he began taking lessons at the age of four. At seventeen, he played at Carnegie Hall with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Bell is now an internationally acclaimed virtuoso. His instrument is called the Gibson ex Huberman, handcrafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1713, and valued at about 3.5 million dollars.
In January of 2007, Bell performed at Boston’s Symphony Hall before a packed house where good seats went for $100. Three days later, in a social experiment contrived by a Washington Post columnist, Bell performed in street clothes during rush hour at a D.C. metro station. Of the 1097 people who passed by him, only seven stopped to listen. He collected $32.17 during his 45-minute performance, including $20 from the only person who recognized him. Hardly anyone realized what they were missing.
Raising awareness of our surroundings requires some introspection. It is amazing what we can miss when hurriedly navigating through our daily routine. Millions of people pass by the many Catholic Churches in the world every day without realizing their God is truly present only a few feet away. If only they would stop to appreciate who awaits them inside. Even faithful Catholics struggle to appreciate the gift of Christ Himself veiled in the form of Bread in the tabernacle. Yes we believe, but our insipid dispositions often negate any noticeable impact on our lives.
Getting in the right frame of mind is not easy. One can say, “I never cared for the violin” or “I’m not into organized religion” or “I’m comfortable where I am” or “I don’t have time to read.” Excuses are plentiful. Growing in faith requires effort. It requires taking time for meditation, quiet prayer and learning. We Catholics are blessed with the Real Presence of Our Lord in our churches. How difficult the challenge to share this treasure with our non-Catholic friends when we fail to appreciate it ourselves.