On the night before His death, our Lord, Jesus, prayed that all his followers would remain united. (John 17:11)
Today Christianity is fragmented, consisting of many separated communities. Each is redefining the Christian faith to match its own interpretation of the scriptures.
So why the Catholic Church? Jesus left with us many gifts to help us stay close to him and to unite with each other.
One of these gifts is the Church. Jesus created a Church and promised it would last forever. (Matt 16:18)
And later Jesus established that his Church would have the authority, His authority, to settle all matters. (Matt 18:16-18)
After all, why not just go to the non-denominational church nearby? The answer is simple: no other church in the world (though they may possess much truth and a share of Godís grace) can claim that their founder is God: Jesus Christ Himself.
As part of the Church, Jesus also gave us a leader. In Matthew 16:18-19 we see that Jesus also made Peter the human leader of his Church.
In Acts 1:20 Peter tells the others, "May another take his office." Here we see that the office is more important than the man. And we see also that the succession of office is likewise established. Peter was the leader of the Church until his death. Then a successor, Linus, was chosen to take his place. Then Cletus, and then Clement. And so on down through the ages. There has always been an office holder, a leader of the Church through the last 20 centuries, even today. As you can see by this
list of Popes, the Catholic Church can trace this unbroken line of continuity of the office of Pope to the beginning. While the term or name Pope came later, the office of The Vicar of Christ was established by Jesus himself. His role as our leader in areas of faith and morals is, quite literally, a gift from God. And when we stand with the representative of Jesus, we stand with Jesus Himself.
In John 6, Jesus tells us that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have everlasting life. These words were very distressing to His followers. In fact these words were so difficult that in John 6:66 many of Jesus' disciples abandon him. Even today, many Christians refuse to accept these words, believing that they are only symbolic. However, Jesus wasn't just speaking symbolically, he was being very clear. He repeated himself over and over again. You'll find that it's frequently the case in the Gospels that when speaking figuratively, Jesus later explains himself to the Apostles. But when speaking literally, Jesus repeats himself. Here Jesus repeats himself not just twice, but seven times. Even after being abandoned by many followers, Jesus didn't try to stop them and bring them back. He didn't explain himself, or that he was speaking symbolically. Rather he stood firm, drawing a line, challenging them directly. In John 6:67, Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" And in John 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
It wasn't until the Last Supper that the words of Jesus were understood. A teaching that has been believed by the Church throughout its history. The true Eucharist is still celebrated every day, at every Mass, in Catholic Churches around the world.