Jesus said to Nicodemus: “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
If the Lord had made it a little easier, how many disciples would he have had? The answer is...none! Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Many protestant denominations are dying a very slow and, in some cases, painful death. It surprises me how some Catholics continue to call for women priestesses, married priests, communion for the remarried, etc… If you want to see what the Church would look like if we did any of the above, take a look at the mainstream protestant denominations and weep. They are going, going, and soon to be insignificantly gone!
Is this what they want? Is this what they are striving for? Take a close look at our closest neighbor: the Episcopal Church. This denomination has gone the way of most denominations and non-denominations. It makes room for actively gay clergy; it seeks tolerance at all cost - even at the expense of the Gospel truth. The good news is that it has no shortage of priests or priestesses. The bad news is it keeps losing more and more followers.
The Episcopal Church claims to have 6,825 parishes across the United States. Over 2,000 of these parishes have a demographic with a majority at age 60 plus. In addition, more than 2,200 parishes (around one third) have an average Sunday attendance of 40 people or less. Another 2,300 parishes have between 41 and 100 people. It is clear to everyone that one third of all the parishes face immediate foreclosure.
The Catholic Church continues to grow in the United States, thanks in part to conversions and immigration. God willing, there will be an Anglican Ordinariate established in the United States this year. Hundreds of faithful, young and devout Anglo-Catholics and priests will be coming into the Church, continuing the trend of what author John Allen calls, the emergence of Catholic Evangelicals; that is, young, orthodox, vibrant, knowledgeable, and eager Catholics.
We need them! And they are coming. This year alone, 2011, many dioceses across the country have reported record number of young men entering their seminaries. Ten years ago there was talk of closing down Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas. Today, it is bursting at the seams. It has 70 young men studying for the priesthood. Last year, there were 56.
Why? It’s clear. The Vatican visited all the major seminaries and made recommendations. Dioceses cleaned up their act. Potential candidates are evaluated in a way better than before. But what is really happening is that the Church is being purified, renewed and reformed. It is becoming more authentic; more Christ-like. It is not making excuses for itself but giving its unconditional allegiance to the Holy Father and Church teaching. We have learned our lesson, finally!
This is the lesson: Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” This cross is the weight of fidelity. It weighs a lot! But when we sin; that is, when we seek to override the Lord or to eliminate the Lord, we quickly find that sin weighs even more and yields no benefits!
Allow the Cross to be exulted! Allow the Lord to be exulted! Allow the Way, the Truth and the Life be exulted. No more excuses! No more “we know better”. May the Lord bless our schools that they may be faithful in teaching and preaching the faith to Catholics and non-Catholics. May the Lord inspire us to proclaim his name at gatherings and at prayer services. May the Lord continue to give us protestors! Yes, protestors! For the day the Church no longer has protestors will mean the Church has become irrelevant and insignificant. May we never allow ourselves to be treated better than Christ! May we learn to pick up our cross, carry it faithfully and lovingly, and be nailed to it without fear or cowardice.
May God continue to bless what he sacrificed himself for: his Church, his bride, his people, his love, his Truth.
It's true, no one likes to carry their cross. It's also true that we love those who do it for us! “Do not forget the works of the Lord!” (Ps. 78:7b)