I am a Catholic for one reason only, because I believe it is what Jesus wants. Yes, there are other reasons, but without this one reason, I would do something easier.
I do like a lot of things about being Catholic, but let’s face it, sometimes it is also difficult and challenging. There are other churches that seem easier to be a member of, without expecting so much, but if they are not what Jesus wants me to do, then what benefit is that? Religion is about loving God and being united to God, and there is no unity if we are doing our own thing; it is all about doing God’s will not our own. For me to be united to God, I must be Catholic because that is where my prayer and search for truth has brought me. St. Teresa of Avila called herself a “daughter of the church”, and that is how I have come to understand things also.
I don’t intend to go into an apologetic for the Catholic Church or all the reasons I’m Catholic in this brief article. Other Christians may believe God wants them to go to a different church or that it doesn’t really matter which church. I was that way once. I didn’t always have the convictions I do now. I think God shows individuals different things at different times. I was searching for Truth, and the Catholic Church is where I found it in its fullness.
Sometimes I feel I need to explain to people why I’m Catholic. They might want me to become active at their church because of the preacher or the music or the fellowship or whatever, but for me it isn’t mainly about those things. It isn’t about how I feel or my preferences if I want to align myself with objective reality and truth, which exists independent from my feelings as surely as gravity or the sun exists.
The Bible says that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. (See John 14:6) Without the way of Jesus, I would be wandering around lost and searching. Without the truth of Jesus, I would be in the dark inventing my own untruths. Without the life of Jesus, I would not have eternal life. At one point in my life, following Jesus meant to become a practicing Catholic, so that is the simple answer.
I’m not a Catholic because of my feelings, as feelings vary from day to day or even moment to moment. Jesus didn’t say to do what we feel or to do what feels good. He said to love God about all things, love our neighbor as ourselves, and to do the will of the Father. I will say, though, that doing what I perceive to be God’s will has brought me much more inner peace and happiness than following my feelings ever did.
Paradoxically, when we stop focusing on ourselves and focus on what God wants, we will actually be happiest at least in the long run. Jesus tells us this when he says we must lose our life in order to find it. (See Matthew 10:39.) Loving God and neighbor is what true life and happiness are about. Yes, they are commandments, but maybe they are commandments because God knows what it will take for us to be happy, and he made us for love. Real love makes us happy and has to be more than feelings or else it is, well frankly, flakey.
The popular idea that our feelings are our main guide does not lead to true happiness. True happiness comes from loving God and doing God’s will, as paradoxical as that might seem.The thing is, truth, or objective reality, will still be there even if our feelings are not in line with it. At some point, or at least at death, we will hit our heads on the truth as there will be nothing else left.
I’ll mention also, it isn’t about making other people happy or doing what other people want us to do. God has to be our number one priority (i.e. the first commandment), even if others, even someone special, isn’t happy about it. We must obey God, over any man, woman, child, group, government, or even someone pointing a gun at our head, if there is a clash between what God wants and what someone else wants.
Quite frankly, sometimes I feel like doing something different than practicing my Catholic faith… perhaps out of laziness or lust or greed or anger or some other sin or even fear or not wanting conflict with others. But I know true happiness and inner peace lie in following Jesus Christ and obeying the will of the Father. Not that it is easy or that I don’t sin, but when I fall, I know that Jesus is waiting for me in prayer and confession to get up and start again.
There is nothing more freeing than to hear the words of absolution after making a good confession when the priest says, “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
At any rate, it occurred to me the other day that THE reason I’m Catholic is because I believe that is what Jesus wants, and as a follower of Jesus Christ, I choose (with the help of grace as I can’t do it on my own) God’s way and not my own as I know that is where truth, everlasting life, and happiness are found.