Richard Ho Lung, Contributor
I did not understand that Roman Catholics are considered the Antichrist, the evil enemy of true Christianity, by the Seventh-day Adventists. I did not take it seriously that the Pope is considered by the Adventists as the Devil himself. I thought that all this was the idea of some fanatic few from the Adventists. Finally, I did not know that Adventists were taught to hate Catholics.
It grieves me, since Christian unity is such an important matter for our times in a world so fragmented by hatred and violence. But I also understand that it is part of the Adventist belief that all attempts at Christian unity are to be regarded with distrust, as an attempt to water down the scriptures. It was predicted that there would be an attempt to unite all religions, including pagan beliefs, in order to dilute and eventually destroy Christianity.
I, for one, will continue to work for Christian unity; it is the only way to address the terrible destruction of morality in the West and in the world at large. There is a secular materialism which contrives to destroy the world, headed by extreme feminism, abortion, an exaggerated emphasis on sexual promiscuity, the disbelief in the soul and everlasting life, the rejection of ascetic spirituality, the never-ending variety of material pleasure, suicide, and euthanasia.
I admire Adventists for their strictness in living out the Word of God. I am comforted by their love of the Bible and moral principles that are according to the natural law of God. I love their singing and preaching, and their sense of respect in their dress and their language, and their sense of fellowship. I have enjoyed the company of Adventists at our monastery, though I've never been invited to their church.
Let me explain to my Adventist brethren three points that seem to be major issues. Roman Catholics do not worship Mary, the mother of Jesus. We honour her; she is the virgin mother of Jesus and, therefore, the mother of God. Though she is the mother of Christ, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, she is not a goddess, she is not divine as Christ is. She is co-redemptrix in so far as she consented to be the mother of the Lord by her faith-filled 'fiat' as she encountered the angel Gabriel.
Mary has been chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus; therefore, she is the most blessed of all women. There is no other like her. In so far as she said yes to being Christ's mother, she agreed to the Redeemer's birth through her, and, in this sense, is considered co-redeemer. However, it is not the same as being Christ the Redeemer.
The second point is the fidelity of Roman Catholics to the Pope. Pope means 'pappa', not Father as in the sense of Abba. There is only one Father in heaven: God the Father. The Roman Catholic 'pappa' is equivalent to Peter, who made his profession of faith to Jesus: "You are Christ, the Son of the living God." Because of his great faith, Christ tells Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom." (Matthew 16:16-19) Therefore, a succession of Popes or 'pappas' have been appointed by the Church historically and sequentially to be chief shepherd.
Our Adventist brethren see in the Book of Revelation many indications of 666 pointing to the Roman Catholic Church and its leader. I am not able to agree on that point, though, honestly, I know of past historical errors or sins of the past leaders of the Catholic Church. Still, the system is true and good, as it is the only system in the world, whether secular or sacred, that has lasted more than 2,000 years, despite its ups and downs.
Even in the case of Peter, our first pappa, the Lord reprimanded him right after being appointed the first shepherd who would follow after Him. Christ announced that He would be crucified, and Peter rebuked Him, "God forbid! This shall never happen to you!" Jesus replied, "Get behind me, Satan, you are a hindrance to me!"
THE CHURCH WILL PREVAIL
The Church - its leaders and other members - is weak and sinful. Still, as a deposit of truth, the Catholic Church is systematic, traditional, and a great source of God's abundant works of mercy, spiritual, as well as corporal. Are there sins and weaknesses? Yes, there are, even as in the case of Peter. But it is founded by Christ, and it will prevail.
Just as you and I are sinners, but somehow by His love and mercy, He has appointed us to be special servants of His kingdom. Likewise, He has appointed the Roman Catholic shepherd, the Pope. All that we can do is to move forward in humility and a sense of astonishment at God's calling despite our sins.
As for the Sabbath being Saturday, that it is kept as the holy day is a beautiful matter, but other Christians worship the Lord on a Sunday because it is the day of His Resurrection. It doesn't seem to affect the essential nature of the Christian faith. It really ought not to divide us or cause us to hate and mistrust one another.
There is much to do in order to battle the Evil One today. Let us not battle and tear down each other. The world is in jeopardy; there is much darkness and sin. I believe that soon there will be the Second Coming of Christ.
Let us be attentive to the work at hand. The Word of God is more than we could ever agree on and fulfil in our allotted time on earth. Let us be one by the power of the Word, and prepare for the coming of the Lord.
Fr Richard Ho Lung is founder and superior general of the Missionaries of the Poor. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.