In the midst of the scandals being brought up against the Church, both from outside and from within, many Catholics are considering leaving. However, if we look at Church history, scandals are very much part of it.
One of the greathest and earliest scandals is of course, the actions of Judas. One of the twelve apostles, he created the biggest scandal by handing Jesus over to the Chief Priests and Pharisees. Ordinarily, this would have caused members of any young movement to lose faith.
Even before then, the Gospel of John tells us about Judas’ dishonesty in the story of Jesus’ Annointing at Bethany.
3 Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4 Then Judas the Iscariot, one [of] his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, 5 “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” 6 He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.
John 12:3-6 | NABRE
In my view, it’s quite unlikely that it was only John that knew of this. Yet, the disciples did not see this a reason to leave. Matthew and Mark tells the same story but both of them stopped short of naming who it was that raised the question.
What did cause disciples to leave was actually what Jesus said several chapters back in John 6. People could not accept Jesus’ teaching, so they left. John 6 of course is all about the Bread of Life discourse. Many Christians do not understand this chapter and instist that Jesus was speaking figuratively rather than literally. Strangely enough, that was the same arguement his disciples were having at the time and Jesus had to repeat and emphasize that he meant what he said: we must eat his body and drink his blood to have life.
This chapter is so important that it was the focus of the Gospel readings for 5 Sundays this Liturgical Cycle (Year B): from the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time up to 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:
1324 The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.”136 “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.”137I certainly am not in the Church because of a certain priest, bishop, or pope. I am not in the Church because my friends, family, and relatives are in the Church.
When I was in college right up to the time I started working, I had been thinking of leaving the Church. However, one thing kept holding me back: the Eucharist. I admit, I did not have a full understanding of it. Yes, I knew what Transubstantiation was. What I didn’t understand at the time was that Transubstantiation during the Consecration can only occur in the hands of a priest (and avalid priesthood at that). I believed that as long as I believed in Transubstatiation, any Communion in any Christian denomination would be the Real Presence; the mystic transformation depended on my belief. I guess, deep inside though, I knew something in my own thinking was amiss. I’d have to thank the saints who founded the elementary (St. John Bosco) and high school (Sta. Candida Maria de Jesus) I went to, Mama Mary, and my guardian angel for holding on to me. I can imagine them shaking their hands and asking among themselves, “What is this boy thinking?”
True, I still fell away because I didn’t go to Mass that often for several years, but still even if I did, I knew well enough not to receive Communion (most of the time anyway). Deep inside, I knew that I would come back because of it. The Holy Spirit was still there to guide me even if I was refusing to listen.
Now that I am a bit older, I still look to the Eucharist. It is what gives life to the Church. It is why I can’t leave the Church. Priests committing these scandals that are shaking up the Church is just like Judas betraying Jesus. Why leave Jesus because of Judas? Isn’t the right and better move to stay with Christ? If we all look to the Eucharist and realize Christ’s sacrifice, it will renew us. Through our prayers during the Celebration of the Eucharist, the Church will continue. Christ will not abandon us. We can always hold on to his promise:
18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18 | NABRE
Jesus will always take care of his Church. Leaders may fail and fall, but through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, new leaders will come and replace those unworthy to lead us. There had been bad times during Church history — sometimes so bad, had happened to other churches, governments, empires, they would have fallen — but for 2000 years, the Bride of Christ is still here.