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Welcome to Working to Beat Hell - your source for tools to help you in the quest to beat Hell!

A bit about the name:
We live in a world of division. We see the world as consisting of Us and Them. This occurs on many levels ranging from politics (Republican - Democrat), to sports, and yes it has even invaded our faith life (Catholic - Protestant, liberal - conservative). These divisions often lead us to view the "other" group as our enemy. But the Council of Trent reminds us, our real enemy is the devil or Satan. Thus, rather than working to beat the Republicans or Democrats, the liberals or the conservatives, we should be Working to Beat Hell.

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If Jesus Is Our Savior, Why Do We Need The Church?
Fr. Brian Carpenter

It comes as no secret that a tenet central to the Catholic faith is the necessity of the Church. Yet, many Christians view the existence of the Church as something ad extra – that is to say, something that is not an intricate part of Christianity, but external to Christianity. Often they claim that the important thing is having a relationship with Jesus, not membership or participation in the Church.

This objection often takes one of two forms, the least intellectually honest of which is used by people who simply wish to be left to their own devices (or vices perhaps). Such people often claim to be spiritual but not religious, and contend that they can have a relationship with Jesus without going to Church. Such a notion however speaks more to a spiritual laziness more than anything else, as without a Church, there would be no one to transmit the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Even something as basic as the Bible needed a Church to compile and transmit it. Furthermore, a Church was needed to witness to the truth versus false claims such as the lie that Jesus never rose from the dead, but that His missing body was simply consumed by wild animals. In other words, it is impossible for a person to have knowledge of Christ without a Church. And because a relationship with a person requires knowledge of that person, it is in fact impossible to have a relationship with Jesus Christ apart from the Church.

Silly objections aside, there are more intellectually valid objections claiming that the Church is external. Such claims are made by certain protestant sects who fully acknowledge that the Church is necessary as a vessel for spreading the Gospel, but argue against the Catholic claim of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus – Outside the Church there is no salvation.

Such people often object to this claim based on the fact that Salvation is rooted in Jesus Christ, not in the Church. While this reaction appears correct at first glance, it is mistaken in that it creates an artificial separation between Jesus and the Church, treating them as if they were two distinct things. But the Church cannot be so easily disassociated from Jesus. For she is not an organization or institution, but rather she is a mystical body – the mystical body of Christ, to be precise.

Put another way, the Church is the presence of Jesus in the world today. To be separated from the Church is, de facto to be separated from Jesus. Jesus Himself says as much in Sacred Scripture. When speaking to Saul, prior to His conversion, Jesus asks, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Saul was not persecuting Jesus, He was persecuting the Church founded by Jesus. Yet Jesus does not ask, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting my Church,” rather He asks, “Why are you persecuting me.”

This is not an isolated incident. In the 25th chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus famously says “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) and “what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:45). Here Christ identifies with “the least” which is the term that Jesus uses throughout the Gospel of Matthew to describe the Church.

Not only does Jesus identify with the Church, He promises to remain with the Church saying, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). His abiding presence in the Church was foreshadowed when He walked on water (and famously saved Peter from drowning) (cf. Matthew 14:22-33). After saving Peter, Jesus entered the boat (Matthew 14:32). In scripture, boats are archetypes for the Church. Thus, Jesus presence in the boat is symbolic of his presence in the Church.

The Church therefore cannot be thought of as a type of “fan club” for followers of Jesus. It must be understood as His Mystical Body, His abiding presence in the world. And thus, while it is possible to be a fan of a celebrity without being in their fan club, it is not possible to be connected to Jesus while separated from His body, His presence on earth. And so we need the Church just as we need Jesus, because, as St. Joan of Arc famously stated at her trial “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing and we shouldn't complicate the matter.”

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Brian Carpenter is a priest of the Diocese of Rochester, NY. Fr. Brian Carpenter. Rev. Brian Carpenter.


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