The past year has been frightfully wicked in terms of scandal issuing from within the Catholic Church: bishops silent while pro-abortion Catholic politicians receive the Eucharist, the pope ever so quiet about Germany and Belgium Church leaders actively promoting homosexuality, and by some estimates, 2/3 of Catholics worldwide supportive of artificial birth control. Sometimes I don't know what to think other than that we are in an unchecked spiral of serious sin with many souls headed for perdition--not a cheery thing to say when one should present the Church in a positive way. But then I realize that these and other patent evils are not the Church; rather, they are faults within her which only God can thoroughly exorcise. In the meantime, ours is the only instrument Jesus gave to the world for its salvation; with all of her abundant evils, Catholics ought still to love the Church.
People who love Jesus must come to love his Church, for he refers to it fondly in many ways: he calls the Church his body, without which, our savior does not consider himself complete; he refers to the Church as his bride, to which he has pledged his love. He refers to the Church as the seed of his father's kingdom which has been sown, and is waiting for the harvest. And Jesus prayed that the Spirit would make all his disciples peaceably united, as one flock under one shepherd.
The Church is both human and divine, present in this world, and yet not at home in it. Her purpose is to act as a sign of God's presence in the world and to carry on Christ's work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. "The Church is but a pledge and proof of God's never-dying love and power from age to age." (J.H.Newman, Sermons, p. 633). He set it up as a visible support to humankind, that in spite of our sins, he has not forsaken us. He set it up on the foundation of his twelve apostles, and promised that the gates of hell should not prevail against it; its presence is a proof of his power, as the church continues to survive against Satan's influence. In the Church, we know we are citizens of no small or insignificant city; ours is no upstart line, but traces back to a very ancient lineage. Through the Church, almighty God has brought many sons and daughters to glory, and continues to raise them up, in their separate ages, to do him service. One who belongs to the Church is one of a host, and all the saints we have read about are fellow citizens with us, and our great benefactors.
There is a joke about landlubber and a sailor fishing. The land lover slips and falls off the ship, crying for help. The sailor reaches down to pull him up by the hair, but the wig he was wearing falls off. The sailor grabs a leg, and wouldn't you know it, a wooden leg comes off. Finally, the sailor grabs the man's arm, which was prosthetic, and falls off as well. The frightened man shouts, "do something, I'm drowning!" And the sailor replies, "I would, if you'd just stick together!" That's something I appreciate about the faithful who gather on Sundays to praise God and live out His commandments everyday; through thick and thin, Catholics continue to love and support the Church.
The Church is the people of God adoring, thanking, petitioning Him while on journey to its ultimate fulfillment and destiny. It is a community of love. It is the means by which God communicates His love to His children, and knowledge of Himself to His people. Through the sacraments, we are given opportunity to personally encounter Christ. To be Catholic is the Church's principal distinguishing mark: individuals can scarcely be called Christian if they are not devoted members of the body of the faithful, and concerned with the need to see every one addressed with the message of Christ. We are God's children, invited to live with Him forever. Our love for God is measured out in our love for one another, especially while caring for the neediest. Ours is a message of peace and a just social order, reflecting the kingdom of God we work to bring about. Whatever evil befalls us along the way, faithful Catholics remain faithful to the Church.