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The Church and the gates of hell

17 Apr 2018, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Doctrines

Figuratively speaking, Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church (Mt. 16:18). The word “gate” here could mean different things to different people, depending on their own interpretations. But in the passage of the scripture quoted above, where Jesus handed his Church over to Peter’s care and promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it, the “gates” certainly referrers to powers and authorities. The powers of hell, principalities, and every opposition to the kingdom of God.

I have heard so many Catholics boast about this promise, and I am equally proud to be part of this great Church that is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. The Catholic Church is so attractive; it attracts both Catholics and non-Catholics, and even none Christians. Some admire the beauty of her liturgy, her universality and governance, her history, and the rich heritage of her faith.

There is no doubt that this beautiful Church has oppositions; when the oppositions begin to rise and spread all kinds of fake news about the Church, some few Catholics become overwhelmed by the accusations and begin to doubt their faith. They sometimes begin to wonder if the Lord has forgotten his promise to protect the Church from the gates of hell. The Lord will surely not go back on his words, but we need to understand the Lord’s promise.

The Lord’s promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church does not mean that the “gates” will not rise against the Church. The Church will surely face persecutions; our Catholic faith will be questioned, our history twisted, and every media house’s strength focused on the Church. The Pope, the head of the Church, has been misquoted severally and has even be branded antichrist. But that is one characteristic of holiness; it attracts persecution. The Lord’s promise still stands; he did not promise that the gates of hell will not rise against the church, but that it will not prevail against the Church.

Persecution is not new to the Church. The Church is not the gathering of “Saints”; it is the pilgrim people of God who struggle for perfection, fall and make mistakes in their struggle for perfection. But the grace and mercy of God hold us and leads us to our eternal home.

For over two thousand years of the Church’s existence, our mistakes have been pointed out, true and false accusations brought against the Church. In all these, the promise of the Lord never fails. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.