“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matt 5:17-20)
“Not to destroy.” Jesus did not crumble up religion and throw it in the trash; he perfected it. He fixed it. He enlivened it. Jesus fulfilled the Jewish religion so that we could all be fulfilled. Catholicism is the participation in this reality. “Behold, I make all things new.”
Consequently, Catholicism mirrors Judaism in many ways. For example:
Circumcision is no longer the initiation into God’s covenant. Jesus replaced it with the sacrament of baptism. Baptism is for everyone, not just males. Slave, free, male female, Jew, Greek, adults, infants, all (entire households) come into the New Covenant through baptism. No one is left out because Jesus made religion new.
The sacrificing of bulls and goats could never take away sin no matter how many times priests offered them up. The one, holy, perfect sacrifice of Christ does take away sin. “The next day John saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.’” (John 1:29) The Catholic Mass makes us present to, and participants in, the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus (Heb 10:10). It’s an eternal sacrifice that Christ (our High Priest) continually presents to the Father. Through the Mass, we, as a priesthood of believers, along with the ministerial priest, actually offer to God the perfect sacrifice. It’s our High Priest, Jesus Christ, that makes it all possible.
We don’t only worship God through singing, prayer, preaching and fellowship. We worship God in the greatest way possible; by offering the sacrifice of God’s perfect Son. Worship requires sacrifice. Nothing in ourselves is worth sacrificing compared to God’s only Son. So, thanks be to God, he makes it possible for us to offer the perfect sacrifice. Now, that’s true worship!
Jesus transformed the Jewish Passover into the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The Passover spared the lives of the Jews that were faithful to God’s instructions. The lamb they sacrificed had to be eaten. In the Mass, we follow the instructions of Jesus: “Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53) “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’” (Matt 26:26-28)
Although it is a memorial, the Eucharist is not merely a symbol to help us remember Jesus. In a miraculous way (not as cannibals would!), we actually consume the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. By following Christ’s instructions, we are spared from spiritual death and given spiritual life. Comprehensible? No! Amazing? Absolutely! We trust Jesus at his word by faith.
These are just a few ways that Jesus changed religion forever. Catholicism is the closest relationship to God possible in this life.
So, the next time someone tries to convince you that “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion,” you can remind them that it’s actually both. Catholicism is a relationship with God through the religion of Christ “fulfilled” and “made new!”