There are lots of reasons I can give as to why I choose to be a Catholic Christian. I can talk about the necessity of Church authority in a world of relativistic, secularized theologies and individualistic Bible interpretations. I can talk about the historical consistency of the Church from Christ until today in an atmosphere of endless church splits and fragmentations. I can talk about how the Catholic Church stands firm on issues of morality while other churches cave into public pressure and secular culture. I can talk about the need for unity, community and guidance in a world of Jesus-and-me, church-hopping Christians who “don’t want to be told what to do.” I can talk about 2000 years of sacred Tradition and the deposit of faith being preserved by the Catholic Church. I can explain that, without the God-given authority of the Catholic Church, Christians wouldn’t even know if their Bibles should contain The Gospel of Thomas or The Gospel of John or the Book of James, for it was the Catholic Church that decided the answer. I can appeal to both reason and faith from the perspective of Natural Law and theology, etc., etc.
To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, it’s hard to give a short answer as to why I decided to be Catholic, because there are at least 10,000 reasons all leading to the conclusion that Catholicism is true. But, after all is said and done, the ultimate reason I want to be Catholic is because I love Jesus Christ, and I want to follow Him. I want to be with Him. But, as much as I love Him, He loves me even more, and wants even more to be with me. I’m not content to have a long distance relationship with Christ. It is not enough for me to only have Jesus “in my heart” and read His letters and listen to preachers talk about being with Him in Heaven some day. I want to be with Him now. Thankfully, Jesus wants this even more than I do, so He set up His Church to provide the means.
But it’s not all about me and Jesus. Jesus loves us all the same. So He set things up in such a way that we can all be with Him, and He with us, not just “in our hearts” but in our very physical presence and essence. I used to imagine that Jesus did a kind of “E.T” thing. In the movie “E.T.” the little alien creature goes back to space and leaves his friend Eliot behind in tears. In order to consol Eliot, the alien points his glowing finger at his friend’s head and says, “I’ll be right here!” In other words, “I’ll be with you in spirit, or I’ll be present in your thoughts, but actually, I’m leaving you.”
Jesus promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He also said He would not leave us orphans. On the road to Emmaus Jesus met the men who begged Him to stay, even though they did not recognize who He was. Jesus did not point to their heads or their chests and say, “Don’t worry, I’ll be right here!” No, Jesus vanished from their sight, but, as they requested, He stayed with them in the bread, and that’s how they recognized who He was. Jesus can do anything He wants with His glorified body. He chooses to be present with us in bread and wine, so we can all touch Him, be with Him, partake of the Sacrificial Lamb and be united in one Body with Him. This is what Passover was foreshadowing. We are saved by the blood of the Lamb, but we also physically partake of, and become one with, the Lamb.
Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit as the Church’s teacher, Comforter and power. However, the Holy Spirit is not a substitute for Christ’s physical presence among us. Jesus said He would send the Holy Spirit to teach the Church what it needed to know. One thing the Church needs to know is that Jesus is here among us! He longs to be with us and become one with us. The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life and unity. If you love Jesus, don’t just read His letters and sing songs about Him. Follow Him and really be with Him!