One of several photos I took at our cathedral before the archbishop’s service for catechumens and candidates. We have over 400 people entering full communion with the Church this Easter! The light streaming in from on high could not have been more appropriate for this day. How awesome is God, and how beautiful is the Faith!
Yesterday I was on a men’s retreat at my parish. During lunch break one of the guys was looking at his phone and scrolling away. I asked him if he was looking at Facebook. “Yeah,” he said, “just killing some time.” I nodded my head. Then he said, “Facebook is kind of like standing in front of the refrigerator. You open it up and scan through it to see if anything looks good.” I laughed in agreement.
His comment reminded me of a talk I once heard from a priest who was teaching a class on Catholicism. The priest was introducing the idea that all of us have a built in longing for God, but we seek things other than God to appease that longing. He quoted St. Augustine as saying that “our hearts are restless, oh God, until they rest in you.” Then, he shared his own experience of something that is familiar to most of us. It is the tendency to open the refrigerator door and stand there looking for something, even when we’re not really hungry.
I think it was G.K. Chesterton who said, “Every man who ever knocked on the door of a brothel was looking for God, but he just didn’t realize it.” Whether it is the brothel door, the refrigerator door, the pantry door, the log in page of Facebook or any number of endeavors, we all look for something besides God to appease our longing for God. Actually, it’s not something but someone we are seeking. It is a longing that can only be satisfied by a relationship with God, for only God can provide the pure, unconditional love that we crave. If we seek that relationship in anything or anyone other than God, we will eventually find ourselves unfulfilled, frustrated or disappointed. We may even find ourselves addicted, constantly returning to that which can never fully satisfy, and that which ultimately leaves us empty and restless.
Close the refrigerator door. You’re letting all the cold air out.
I’m excited about something we’re doing at our parish this Christmas. One of the men in our men’s group has been able to procure low cost copies of Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s book Rome Sweet Home. Hundreds of these books will be gift wrapped and given to people at Christmas Mass. The plan is to also give more of these books away at Easter.
There are so many people that only come to church on Christmas and Easter. This book may help some of them appreciate their faith more. Listening to the stories of converts is a great way to avoid taking the Faith for granted. Cradle Catholics often lack zeal and knowledge about their own Catholicism. Many are “culturally Catholic” with little or no sense of the historical, spiritual, life-giving power of Christ’s Church. It can be very enlightening to hear the logical and spiritual reasons for actually wanting to become Catholic. There are thousands of people and hundreds of families in our parish. We hope to get at least one book to most of these families.
The book was written by a married couple. They take turns describing their path from anti-Catholic, Evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism. Scott Hahn has become one of the most respected biblical scholars of our day. It is refreshing to hear the perspectives of both Scott and Kimberly as they explain their individual struggles as well as the challenges the journey presented to their marriage. I highly recommend the book to Catholic and non-Catholic readers.
So many Catholics are drifting away from the Church or going through the motions of being Catholic without really being in love with Christ or his Church. My prayer is that, by reading what people go through to find their way home to Catholicism, many Catholics will realize how good it is to already be home. Then they will have more desire to invite others home, too. I also hope non-Catholics will read the book and be inspired to make the journey home.
Catholics are often caught off guard by the question, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior?” That question may cause confusion for the Catholic because it is presented in a phraseology the Catholic is generally not familiar with. The questioner may observe a look of confusion on the Catholic’s face, or hear an answer that is other than what has been predetermined by the questioner as the “right” answer. What follows is typically an assumption that the Catholic has no personal relationship with Jesus and needs to “get saved.” I think the wrong question is being asked.
First of all, where in the Bible does one find the phrase, “Accept Jesus into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior?” It is not in the Bible. So, it’s not really a good place to start, anyway. There is, however, a lot in the Bible about repentance, belief, faith, baptism, confession and obedience. So, it would be better to start with one of those topics.
Ask Catholics the question, “Who died to save the world from sin?” “Jesus,” they will say, “look right there at that crucifix.” Good. “Do you believe that Jesus died to save you personally from your sin?” “Yes,” the Catholics will say. Good. “Who is greater, Jesus or Mary?” The Catholics will say, “Why, Jesus is greater. Jesus is God. Mary isn’t God, she’s a created being, a human.” Good. “Are Catholics supposed to follow the commandments of God and do good works?” “Of course we are! What good would it do to be a Christian without following God’s commandments?” That sounds like good sense. “What if you sin? Does God forgive you when you repent?” The Catholics say, “Yes. If we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (OK, I admit most Catholics will not be able to quote that Scripture verse, but that is what they believe!).
So, asking the proper questions unveils a very real, personal relationship between the Catholic and Jesus Christ. But Evangelicals and Fundamentalists that “witness” to Catholics tend to not ask the right questions. Obviously, it is possible for a Catholic to get all those questions right in the head but not the heart. The same could be said for the Evangelical or the Fundamentalist. Only God knows whether the answers to the questions are genuinely from the heart.
Sometimes I hear non-Catholics say, “If I believed what you Catholics supposedly believe about Jesus being really, physically present in the Eucharist, I would be at the church every day down on my face in worship. Since you Catholics don’t do that, I don’t think you actually believe Jesus is really there. It must not be true.”
Well, I have to admit that there are many Catholics that fail to appreciate the real presence of Christ (body, blood, soul and divinity) under the appearance of bread and wine. Their lack of appreciation does not prove anything except that they lack appreciation. Lots of Catholics fail to appreciate their spouses, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t married. What about the Catholics that do appreciate the real presence? Why are they not constantly down on their faces in worship?
First of all, there are times when we do bow down and worship. However, to do so constantly would not be in keeping with what Jesus told us to do. Jesus told us to go and preach the Gospel. In fact, at the end of each Mass we are told to “Go.” We have worshipped, received the Bread of Life, and now it is time to take Jesus out into the world. To huddle around the church all day on our faces would not be following Christ’s marching orders.
The Apostles spent lots of time with Jesus, but they weren’t constantly falling on their faces in his presence. The Apostle John is known to have lovingly laid his head on Jesus. That’s more of a calm, comforting, assuring kind of posture that illustrates how a Catholic can be all day long, even in the very physical presence of Jesus. We can “rest in the presence of the Lord.” Even after Jesus was transfigured and revealed his glory the Apostles didn’t follow him around groveling on their hands and knees all the time. Jesus didn’t expect them to, either.
There are certainly times when Catholics prostrate themselves in worship to God. Some Catholics could stand to do more prostrating. Too many take for granted the gift that God has given them. Unfortunately, that’s human nature. We can become complacent and unappreciative in any relationship. God’s nature, however, is to send his only Son to become the Bread of Life. He remains true and his heart remains on fire for us. There are plenty of Catholics that do understand and appreciate the Eucharist.
I think sometimes there are people that use the complacency of some Catholics as an excuse to avoid the truth of Catholicism. No matter which Christian church we enter we are likely to find people that are enthusiastic and people that are apathetic. The attitudes of people do not determine truth. Truth is truth whether people appreciate it or ignore it. If we look for Catholics that are complacent, we will find them. If we look for Catholics that are on fire for God, we will find them, too. Always we will find Christ really present in the Holy Eucharist of the Catholic Mass. Jesus told us, “I will be with you until the end of the world.”
I’ve created a new tab with my reversion story. You can read it here.
Most of my Christian friends would agree with me when I say that the Bible is God’s Word. They would also agree when I say that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and that his promises are true. I would like to consider the connection between some of the promises of Jesus and the origin of the Bible.
There is a misconception among many Christians that the Church springs forth from the Bible. However, if we use the Bible as a guide for starting a new church, we are doing things backwards. The historical reality is that the Bible came from the Church, not vice versa. The Church was started by Christ and thrived for 400 years before the Bible was even assembled.
Consider the promise of Christ, “I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” Jesus promised us one Church that would never fail. It makes no sense, then, to conclude that the Church started by Jesus somehow “failed” and needed to be “rebooted” or started over at some point. Jesus also promised to be with his Church “until the end of the age.” In other words, Jesus doesn’t “leave” his Church, cast it aside and start a “new church.” The Holy Spirit sticks with the original Church until the very end of the world.
Most Christians would agree that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of Scripture. There were a lot of writings from the time of the early Church, but not all of them were inspired. Not all of them belonged in the Bible. Not all of them made it into the New Testament. Who decided which writings made the cut? Whoever it was, they must have been guided by the Holy Spirit, right? It was the Catholic Church that decided which writings were inspired and which writings did not belong in the New Testament. This is not a matter of opinion, it is simply history. The Bible was assembled by the Catholic Church nearly 400 years after Christ.
Would Jesus start his Church, have members of his Church write inspired Scripture, guide his Church in assembling the Bible, and then “leave” his Church to start a “new” Church? No, because Jesus does not break his promises. The Catholic Church today is the same Church started by Jesus 2000 years ago.
Catholics are Christians. The word “catholic” simply means “universal.” The Catholic Church is the universal Christian Church. In other words, it’s for everyone everywhere, including you and me. It is wrong to assume that a Catholic is something different than a Christian, or that Catholics are not “saved” according to the Bible. The Catholic Church wrote the New Testament Scriptures and assembled the Scriptures. The Church has studied, preached and taught the Scriptures for 2000 years. Make no mistake, the Catholic Church knows all about salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ! Read the Catholic Catechism!
Incidentally, those who claim that the Catholic Church is “The whore of Babylon” from the book of Revelation, or that the pope is the antichrist, are using the same New Testament produced and authorized by the Catholic Church! And for those who claim that the Emperor Constantine “started” the Catholic Church, notice that the New Testament was assembled and approved by the Church (A.D. 382 at the synod of Rome) after Constantine converted to and legalized Christianity in the early 300s. Those who say, “Constantine started the Catholic Church!” are using the same New Testament produced and approved by what they consider to be a “false religion!”
I submit that most Christians are simply not aware of the historical and spiritual origin of their Bibles. It took me nearly 40 years to learn it and I was raised Catholic! The fact is, if you accept the God-given authority of the Bible, you are also accepting the God-given authority of the Catholic Church, whether you realize it or not. Jesus did not give authority to his Church only to strip it away at some later date. The Catholic Church is the original Christian Church. It is only the protection of the Holy Spirit that has prevented the Catholic Church from self-destructing for 2000 years. No mere human institution holds up under such pressures. All other churches have been started by someone other than Jesus Christ.
If we love Jesus and the Bible, it only makes sense to love the Church from which the Bible flows. It is inconsistent to accept Christ, accept the Bible but knowingly reject the Catholic Church. All three of them go together. They are intimately linked and cannot be separated from each other. Jesus is God’s Living Word made flesh among us. The Bible is God’s written Word. The Catholic Church is God’s authoritative Body of Christ that preaches and teaches God’s Word.
It is important to prayerfully consider the following questions: If the Holy Spirit guided the Catholic Church to be right about the New Testament, what else is the Catholic Church right about? What is your authority?