World Youth Day pilgrims attended catechetical sessions on the theme: "The Holy Spirit, soul of the Church" throughout Sydney, Australia on Thursday morning. In one address to young people, Denver, Colorado's Archbishop Charles Chaput stressed that,“Without the Church, there’s no way we can have a lasting, personal relationship with the true Jesus Christ.”
As he opened his talk, Archbishop Chaput posed a question: “How many of you have heard people from your own generation or older say something like this: ‘I believe in Jesus, but I don't need the Church.’ Or: ‘I’m a spiritual person, but I’m not religious’.”
The problem with these often heard statements is, according to the archbishop, “Without Jesus, there’s no Church. It’s that simple.”
Archbishop Chaput explained to the youth that Jesus formed a community of believers, what we today call the Catholic Church, to bring salvation to all humanity for all the generations to come. "No matter how flawed or sinful individual Catholics may be, the Holy Spirit dwells in the Church and guarantees that she will always remain the sacrament of Salvation," stated the archbishop.
People also try to discredit the Church by diminishing the “historical fact of Jesus in sensational ways,” he noted.
“This is nonsense, and not because ‘the Church says so,’ but because it’s historical fact.”
The archbishop then went on to examine the claims that Jesus made during his ministry. “Jesus repeatedly claimed that He was the only way to salvation, that He was the Son of God, that we had to eat his flesh and drink his blood to be saved, and that we had to follow Him and make disciples of all nations.”
“So it’s false to say that Jesus was simply a ‘great master,’ or ‘a very wise man,’ or a ‘good leader.’ You can't be a ‘good man’ or a ‘great master’ and a liar at the same time, and Jesus quite openly claimed that He was the Son of God who came to save the world. He was either a complete fraud or He was the Son of God. Anything in between is just muddled thinking, inconsistent with Christ’s message,” Archbishop Chaput said.
“In fact, as a believer, I have more respect for someone who rejects Jesus as an impostor or lunatic, than for someone who conveniently rearranges the Christian faith to say that Christ was a ‘great ethical teacher’,” Chaput told the youth.
Recalling that Pope Benedict XVI has been talking about the relationship between Jesus and the Church in many of his weekly talks in Rome, the archbishop noted that the Pope focused on those who first surrounded Christ and the different persons mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. Chaput explained to the youth that these talks deliver a clear
message: "We Catholic believers today are part of the same, living, community of faith founded by Jesus Christ Himself."
"If you want a full, meaningful life in Jesus Christ, you will only find it in the Catholic Church," advised Denver's archbishop. He called on his young listeners to have a true passion for the Catholic Church, citing the example of the many early Fathers of the Catholic Church and the great Catholic saints who gave their lives to prove their love for the Catholic Church.
The archbishop of Denver called on young Catholics to complement a strong Catholic sacramental and prayer life with on-going Catholic formation. A living Catholic community is the proper context for this kind of formation, he said. "Our connection to the Church is never an abstraction. It always comes alive through our engagement with a community of believers."
The archbishop concluded by reminding those in attendance that each one of them is loved by God and has a unique and irreplaceable purpose in God's plan of salvation. He quoted Saint Ignatius of Antioch, "All are not generals, nor commanders of a thousand, or a hundred, but each one in his own rank performs [what must be accomplished]. The great cannot subsist without the small, nor the small without the great." Each Catholic is needed to live and witness Jesus Christ.