Catholic Q&A

I agree with the teachings of Jesus Christ, but I feel uncomfortable with the Church. The statues displayed inside a church and the rituals held there, seem like a world that I am not allowed to be a part of. Is it permissible to be a disciple of Jesus but not be a member of the Church?

This is a painful question for us Christians. Even in the so-called Christian nations of the West, there are growing numbers of people, especially among the young, who “approve of Jesus but dislike the Church.” I guess this is because the organization, liturgy, and customs of the Church are somewhat out of touch with the modern world. If that be the case, it is unfortunate that the Church is hindering the invitation of Jesus Christ, the message of joy addressed to all mankind.

However, the more we learn historically about the Gospel of the “Kingdom of God” that Jesus proclaimed, the more we realize that it was not merely a call to each individual. Rather, it was a call to “God’s people” as a whole, an invitation to gather people together as God’s people. In this regard perhaps we have been invaded a little too much by the modern-day individualistic mentality. We tend to think of religion, faith, and so on as matters related to the individual human mind. However, Jesus first and foremost had in mind the people of God. We cannot possibly have a “Kingdom of God” without the “People of God.” According to Jesus, the ultimate salvation of human beings lies not in the fact that human beings are saved alone as individuals, but that they are welcomed into the fellowship of the children of God, within the life of God. The ultimate salvation of man lies in entering the fellowship of love, and becoming a member of the family of God. It is not just a fellowship with God, but a fellowship also of brothers and sisters who were made alive within the life of God.

Jesus has left the following words for his disciples. “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Hence, the belief that we are linked only to God or only to Jesus, is not really correct. Certainly, there are situations where we need to stand up for our faith, no matter how much people around may disagree with us. We may be faced with situations where friends in the world betray us, but Jesus alone is our faithful friend who will sustain us. Nevertheless however, there is in essence no other way of transmitting a living faith, than through a community of believers. Without the Church we cannot encounter Jesus, for it is within the Church that faith is provided to us and nurtured.

Since the Church is an assembly of weak people, there are indeed aspects to it that have nothing to do with the essence of the Gospel. Nonetheless however the Church also has certain fabulous treasures, that more than offset such deficiencies. We have the truth of the “Word” that was communicated by Jesus Christ, and the sharing of life through the “Lord’s Supper.” Hence, like branches that are attached to a vine, the disciples of Christ are united both to Him and to each other, bearing fruit in the sharing of life. If you acquire a grasp of this magnificence, your faith will never be shaken by even the slightest thing.

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