The Ukrainian Catholic Church is not a religion! We should never refer to it in these terms. The point here is far more serious than that. Religions are the creations of men, not God! Our church can easily become a religion when we reduce the church to a mere repetition of religious ritual or activities. Many people actually think that this is all our church is – a “repetition” of religious service like for example going to church each Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, going to church services is good and necessary, but people may think that simply showing up for church services is all they need to do to get the things they need and to keep a demanding God at bay. If we think of church in these terms, then we are reducing faith to rituals, therefore to magic or superstition.
Superstition and magic has crept into our practice in Ukraine and in other parts of the world. People reject our church because they may have come to the conclusion that that’s all our church is about. This becomes our greatest fear and challenge.
Pope John Paul II talked about this problem. He said “The temptation today is to reduce Christianity to merely human wisdom, a pseudo – science of wellbeing. In our heavily secularized world a gradual secularization of salvation has taken place, so that people strive for the food of man, but man who is tormented, reduced to his merely horizontal dimension.”
Religions are the works of man, not God. The presence of this kind of thinking actually shows the Church’s failure to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ properly. Our church is about our relationship with God, it’s not just about ourselves, our neighbours and the world.
Jesus did not come into the world to start yet another religion. He came to help us establish a personal intimacy with Himself, allowing us to become what He is by grace. In other words – to become icons of Christ Himself to others and to be with Him in eternity.
We seek an intimacy with God which is love of God and love of our brothers and sisters.
The Pope goes on to say that our relationship with God, through the church and all the services and liturgies, produces a “newness and richness which has been received from God’s bounty in order to be communicated to all mankind.”
Herein is the weakness, we love God and the church and want to convert people to our religion instead of converting to a relationship with God which is found in our church.
My faith is not a religion; it is a relationship with God. Everything we do in church, in faith is our search for our inner life or relationship with God. If we think that the rituals suffice, we get disillusioned.
Our Ukrainian Catholic Church has a most excellent method of helping us to an intimacy with God. Our saints and servants of God are proof of that. Our faith and life in Christ defines us as Christians.
Bishop Peter Stasiuk
This post is also available in: Ukrainian