You must have heard of Catholics who are no longer Catholics. You must have heard of former Catholics who are no longer believe in God. You must have heard about the sins and transgressions of priests, of bishops, of cardinals and even of the Pope. I am certain that you must have also heard about cases of sexual misconduct, abuse of minors, priest fathers, corruption in the church, political priests, criminal priests, liar priests. These beg the question – Why haven’t you left the church? Why do you still go to mass? Why do you stay Catholic?
The answer to the question – Why are you still here? And why do you stay Catholic can be answered by the Gospel for today. Why did the Lord return to the 11? Remember, this is a bunch of liars. This is a bunch of cowards. This is a bunch of men who promised to be faithful but abandoned Him. This is a bunch of men who are supposed to be courageous, who were not even able to defend the Lord from the attacks, from the verbal attacks, from the physical attacks. Thought they were faithful, they were BFF. But in the face of crisis, they all ran away. Jesus could be like any of us. And Jesus could say, for what you have done, I will just call on another twelve. Isn’t it possible? I will just call on others. I will entrust the Good News to others because in the face of challenges, you have forsaken me.
And the question that we ask the Lord is – Lord, why do you still return to this barkada (circle of friends)? Why don’t you send them away and put up a new group? Why? Why stay with them? Why bear with them? Why endure them?
There are two reasons why? Jesus chose to stay instead of canceling his friends because Jesus chose to mature, Jesus chose to grow. Only adults will be able to forgive. Only mature men and women will be able to forgive. The children, the adolescents, the teenagers, the impulsive youth will just cancel you, will just block you on Facebook, will just unfriend you, will just ostracize you, will just stay away, will just run away, will just block you off, will cancel you from my list. But when the Lord chose to stay with them is actually saying – If you are immature and you run away from me, why should I be immature and imitate you in your immaturity? So, what did the Lord do? Instead of rebuke, He forgave. Instead of acting the way the apostles have acted, He leveled up. He brought them to a deeper and higher level – the level of forgiveness.
So back to the question – with all the sins of the church, with all the sins of the men of the church, with all the people that were hurt by priests, by the snobbish bishop, by the materialistic priests – Why are you still here?
The answer is – I am here because I want to grow and mature. I don’t like to remain childish and write off. Can you imagine a child who is disappointed by the misconduct of his father or a child who is disappointed by his mother who is a gossip, a liar? Will the child just remain a child and say – I will leave this family because my parents are not good parents. If the child wants to mature, he will stay in the same family and then take up with maturity the power to forgive.
That is why resurrection and forgiveness come at the same time because there can be no resurrection without forgiveness. Resurrection raises the body that has been killed but forgiveness raises the soul that has been stained.
Is that all why you stay?
There is still a second reason why people stay. And it is what the Lord did to Thomas. With us, we may say – the church is ugly, the priesthood is ugly, the bishops are ugly…bleeding…sinful…very secretive and we know all about these. And with those woundedness, with those bleeding wounds, we would have enough reason to leave the church. If it were just me and I learned about these transgressions, I would be the first to leave the church. But why am I still here? Why?
Because the wounds of Jesus, although ugly, are testimony that the church is holy not because the men of church are holy. The church is holy because of the holiness of the Grace of God. Because if the Catholic Church was simply a corporation, it would have fallen already in its 2000 years of existence. With all the sins of the holy Pope, of bishops, of priests, of the laity, the church would’ve been destroyed by now. But it still stands to this day. We can it very clearly. This is not the doing of men. This is all by the Grace of God.
So, if you see the wounds of the church, the Lord invites us – Touch the wounds and through the wounds be able to see that it is Grace! Not toned muscles, not beautiful faces, not sexy bodies, not popularity, not intelligence that keeps the Church standing. It is the Grace of God.
Back to the question – Why do you stay Catholic?
The first reason is – I stay Catholic in spite of what I have seen because I choose to grow rather than to be childish. Because forgiveness is a great sign of spiritual maturity.
Why am I still a Catholic, in spite of the wounds of the church? In spite of the wounds that the men of the church have done to the Church? Why?
Because this itself is the proof. That with all the sins of the men of the church, the church remains standing. That with all the kings, emperors, and presidents that pronounced the fall of the church…the kings are long gone, the emperors are long gone but the church remains standing. This is the true testimony that this is not the invention of man. This is not the result of man’s success. It is because, in spite of the wounds and weakness of man, the Grace of God remains at work.
Why stay Catholic? For two reasons – the wounds of the Church are also signs that the Grace of the Lord are powerfully at work. The sins of the church people are also opportunities for me to mature and to grow and not to remain childish and infantile but to forgive.
Grace and Forgiveness. These are the reasons why the Lord returned to the eleven. And it is also Grace and Forgiveness which are the reasons why we stay in this Church, in spite of all the ugliness that we see. It is God’s work, not human work. It is forgiveness, not cancel culture.