Are there any married men here? How would you feel if I humiliated your wife? You know, making fun of the clothes she wears, her habits, what she talks about, saying that she’s unintelligent, has no experience, unfaithful. Is that OK?
The reason I ask is that God also has a bride. Her name is the Catholic Church. And you might say, Oh Father, that’s just some image – not according to God. ‘Bride’ is the way God thinks about the Church. That’s what we heard in the first reading: Come here and I will show you the bride the Lamb has married. Is that clear? The Church is God’s bride. He gave his life for her. He has married her. He gives his naked body to her and to no one else. That’s what we are receiving in Holy Communion – and that’s why people not in full communion with the Church don’t receive Holy Communion: they’re not God’s bride.
This is one reason why, whatever we may think of her, we love and respect the Church. She is God’s bride.
A second reason we respect the Church is because she comes from God. The Catholic Church is God’s gift to the world. That is also what the Word of God says to us today. In the spirit, he took me to the top of an enormous high mountain and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. St Paul says the same thing in the second reading: You are God’s building. Jesus says it again in the Gospel: So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. In other words: we respect the Church because she is God’s creation, given to the world in order to save it through herself.
And there is a third reason we love the Church: she is holy. The holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond. So this holiness is not a weak kind of niceness: that is no good to anybody. Rather, the Church is holy like God is holy. Of a powerful, saving holiness that evil, evil people and the demons dread. This is what Jesus says: The gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven. So in other words – if you want to be protected from evil, freed from sin, become holy and pure – go to the Catholic Church.
But Father what about the mistakes and even evil that has been done by some throughout history? Surely its better to make my own way with Jesus rather than follow these old priests? Well, number one, there are growing numbers of young priests – so follow them if you like. And number two: these old priests, the apostles and their successors – Jesus himself has put them there, as foundations of the Church. The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And it’s not to you Jesus gave the keys to bind and loose: it was to the twelve and their successors. Jesus hasn’t got a problem with that: why do you? I mean, he has given each of us plenty of gifts – but we don’t look after them properly do we? But Jesus trusts us. And we think that is OK. Jesus also trusts them – so maybe that is ok too.