There’s been a lot of discussion lately about how bad religion is, so bad it seems that some claim Jesus hated it. According to one singer, “All religion ever made of me was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet.”
Well I’m a sinner but I think Christ has actually helped me untie stones from my feet through the Catholic religion.
If instead of being helped you’ve been hurt by religion, I am sorry. Maybe it was the members of that religion, not the religion itself. Religions are made up of people who regularly make mistakes but it doesn’t mean God’s not there.
Here are some reasons why I believe Jesus is not only OK with religion, but is working through it to heal, unite and sanctify His people.
1. Jesus started one.
When Jesus tells St. Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my Church” in Matt. 16:18, He doesn’t sound very anti-religion. He’s starting His own religion as a fulfillment of the one He practiced all His life. He doesn’t call for abolishing any of the Jewish law. (Luke 16:17)
2. It helps many people in need.
Contrary to claims that religion doesn’t help the poor, the Catholic Church is actually the largest non-governmental provider of education, health care, and human services in this country. It helps families and communities to combat hunger and homelessness, overcome poverty and dependency, build housing, resist crime and seek greater justice. It also offers relief and development in more than 80 countries.
3. It is all of us together.
There are times when it’s extremely comforting to know that a lot of people are going through the same things I am. My religion is not a building, although we have some beautiful ones. It’s people who love each other because they love Christ, and want to spend eternity with Him. It’s holy men and women who lived during the past 2,000 years and continue to help me through their prayers and support. And it’s knowing that in every country in the world I will find others who believe as I do. Because of God and my religion, I am never alone.
4. It does what Jesus told us to do.
At the Last Supper He said, “Do this in memory of Me.” (Luke 22:19) If He’d wanted us carry out His wishes alone, He would have given the Apostles one-on-one instructions instead of calling everyone together. St. Paul reaffirms this in I Cor. 11:24
5. Through it, Jesus feeds me when I’m hungry and heals me when I’m broken.
The Lord could come directly into my home and give me communion and absolution for my sins but instead He does it through others–men in directly line from the Apostles who had the original assignment.
6. It promotes peace.
I’m sure some wars have been fought because of Christianity, though it’s not always clear if the Church has been directly to blame. What I do know is that people in my religion work tirelessly for peace. At Vatican II, the Council Fathers exhorted “Christians to cooperate with all in securing a peace based on justice and charity and in promoting the means necessary to attain it, under the help of Christ, author of peace. (Pacem in Terris)
Through history, a total of 43 popes have brought peace and settled disputes between warring factions. You don’t hear much about that. One of them was Pope St. Leo I who faced Attila the Hun in 452. Words were exchanged near Mantua, Italy, and afterwards Attila promised to withdraw his forces from Italy and negotiate peace with the Roman emperor.
7. It is about humans searching for God.
I’m searching for God, too, so that makes the Church a good fit for me. Even though Jesus started this religion, He left it for humans to run with the Holy Spirit’s help. I am imperfect and broken and so are all the other members of my religion. But together we are stronger (Ecc. 4:12) and we are doing what the Lord told us to do. (See all four gospels.)