Relentless Love of God
"What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4)
We all know at least one person, either a friend or family member who has left the Catholic Church. Perhaps, it was even someone from our parish who was faithful in attending Mass each Sunday and was an active member of the parish, and now has disappeared from the pews. As members of the Church we share this incredible pain as we watch with tear-stained eyes and grieving hearts God’s children and our brothers and sisters in Christ walk away from the Truth, and distance themselves more and more from the Mystical Body of Christ.
How can we remain connected to the Head without being members of His Body? The Head is always a part of the Body. We cannot have Christ without the Church, therefore, we cannot love Christ, and hate the Church. There exists a real intimacy and love between Christ, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride. Christ has cleansed Her by the washing away of Her sins by water and the word as to sanctify Her, and present the Church to Himself in splendor, Holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:25-27).
“He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, .” that in all things he himself might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1:18)
There is no denial that there are Catholics who have been hurt by members of the Church; whether it be by bishops, priests, religious sisters, or even the laity, but the fact is that we are not Catholic because of the people in the Church. We are members of the Catholic Church because we believe in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and that the whole truth exists within the Church, and the Catholic Church alone. It is tragic that often fallen away Catholics who have been hurt by members of the Church keep themselves away from the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
I have been incredibly hurt and have suffered greatly at the hands of members of the Mystical Body of Christ, but because I know, believe, and understand the Truth, I could never walk away from the Church. Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior died for me on the Cross to save me from my sins. The Father has given His only-Begotten Son to me; a weak and wretched sinner, to hang on a tree and die a horrible death so that I could rise with Him on the Last Day.
When I gaze at the Sacred Host I know that my Father in heaven loves me more than I could ever imagine, and that He would never want me to keep myself away from His Son and the Church. How can my pain and suffering be healed if I no longer come to Table and receive the Most Holy Eucharist? We receive inner healing by the worthy reception of the Precious Body and Blood of Christ, and it is our Lord, Jesus Christ, who becomes our Wounded-Healer.
I understand though, that for some men and women who have experienced some kind of trauma in the Church, it can be triggering to even step foot in a Catholic Church. When I first began going to Daily Mass again after being hurt by members in the Church, those who were supposed to be witnesses of Christ in the world as religious sisters, I could not get through a Mass without tears streaming down my face. And if I even saw a habit, an overwhelming feeling of wanting to run out of the church doors swept over my being like a tidal wave. But I would remind myself by keeping my eyes fixed upon the Tabernacle where I knew my Beloved was in the Holy Tent, that I was there for Him, and that He was there for me even at that moment when I felt absolutely devastated and completely betrayed by the Church.
The only way to help fallen away Catholics return Home to the Church, especially those who have faced trauma within the Church, is by being supportive, lending an ear if they want to share their story, and offering prayers for them. We are also responsible for helping them to understand how much God loves them, and to know that when they are ready Christ is waiting for them in His holy dwelling place for them to return to Him.
Let us pray for our Catholic brothers and sisters who are away from the Church, especially those who have been hurt by members of the Mystical Body of Christ, that in God’s time they may come Home.