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Living with the human side of the Church

16 May 2018, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Doctrines

Divine side: Jesus, the sinless Savior, is the head (Ephesians 5:23). Human side: Members less than perfect, forgiven.

Are you born again? Wow! You may exclaim and say; he sounds like a none Catholic! Yes, I think so myself.

Many people seem to have a very erroneous understanding of the Catholic Church’s attitude towards the term “born again.” A none Catholic friend told me that Catholics are not born again. Born again is a phrase that is first of all biblical and very commonly used among our none Catholic brethren; they use it to refer to the total and complete giving of self to God and, in most cases, a state of holiness. I cannot stop admiring their desire and zeal for holiness. The Catholic Church is certainly not against such a beautiful thing; neither does she condemns its usage. The Church talks more of being born of water and the Holy Spirit, being born into the Church through baptism (water) and confirmation (Holy Spirit).

The Catholic Church may not frequently use the term “born again,” but she certainly calls her children frequently to repentance and a life of holiness. This call to a life of holiness points to the human side of the Church that must first be accepted with love and then helped. That human side of the Church is sinfulness and weaknesses. Don’t get me wrong, sin is surely not what God wants of us, and the Church constantly warns her children against the danger of sin.

I’m sure that I am not out here to argue about the usage of this term but to point out that the reality of the human side of the Church must not be denied.

To be born again exclusively (as many none Catholics are using the term) and not being able to live with the human side of the Church is a sign of spiritual immaturity. I have no problem with your purity, your holiness, but I certainly have a problem with your inability to live with your weak brothers and sisters. If you are a “born again” that has no regard for the word of God, then you are yet to be born again. It is written; We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves (Rom. 15:1). If in my “holiness,” I see others as fewer Christians and fewer children of God, then my holiness needs to be questioned.

In our desire and struggle to be holy as our Heavenly Father is Holy, we must remain a people that constantly strike their breasts; “through my fault, through my fault.” We should constantly acknowledge our faults and failings, not claiming holiness. This is not to underrate the call to holiness; the call to holiness is real, and I do not doubt the possibility of attaining it. But the denial of the reality of the human side of the Church discredits our holiness as a Church and as an individual, for it is in accepting our weaknesses in humility that we are lifted to holiness by our effort powered by grace. Holiness is not attained by denying the truth: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 Jn. 1:8.

The Catholic Church is not the weak brothers and sisters to be lived with, but I speak of Christendom. Both the clergy and the laity needs constant renewal in Christ; a matured Christian knows that fact. I am not unaware that the temptation is there for the “little ones” to fall away from the faith because I expressed weakness as clergy; I know that very well. The same is true of you as a leader, father, mother, elder, mentor, and Christian. But we need to ask; does this person’s action represents what the Church stands for? Am I falling away because of his actions or because of what the Church stands for? If he falls, does that change what the word of God says? Should I fall because he fell? These weaknesses reflect the human side of the Church; the fallen are not to be rejected but to be helped, especially when they want to be helped.

Do not be tied to others’ weaknesses; else, you may not be able to be of help to them. Hold onto Christ, the head of the Church who never grows weak. And do not let your holiness lead you to deny or turn you back against the human side of the Church; it should rather make you stand firm in Christ to help the injured members of the Church.