Throughout the long centuries of their existence the Catholic and Orthodox churches have had to face many challenges from within and without: persecutions, betrayals, schisms, and heresies. One can read about these events as early as the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Saint Paul. They are appreciated in our world today for the religious energy they bring to many people who continue, guided by the Gospel, to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and clothe the naked. They bring strong voices of hope to many throughout the world. They play leading roles in promoting peace and harmony among peoples. Each of these churches in its own way preaches high ideals for marriage and family life, for communal worship, and for eternal truths about God and human beings, about human weakness and sinfulness, and about the keys to salvation and redemption.
However, these churches also face stiff challenges in preaching and living the Gospel. The message they preach may seem lofty, and to modern ears it may appear naive, dreamy, and even disturbing. The Gospel life does not find its fulfillment in the unending list of material comforts advertised daily in newspapers and on television. In a world of quick solutions, immediate gratifications, and worth tied to salary and position, the Gospel message and way of life is often unwelcome, and so are the churches that preach and attempt to live it.
The Catholic Church and Orthodox churches have long memories, strong traditions, and long-range visions. They claim to be founded by Christ, whose kingdom was not of this world. They therefore follow the command of Christ: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:18) These churches do not measure themselves and their successes according to human judgments. For them, God alone is the judge.
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