Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm a Catholic and you're a Christian...

If someone walks up and asks you - "Are you a Christian?"  What is your response?  For me, I always like to say "I'm Catholic - aren't you?"  For most Catholics they'll say either "Yes, I am a Christian" but most will say "I'm a Catholic".  Hopefully they never say - "No, I'm Catholic" - which basically deflates the idea that a Catholic IS a Christian. For a protestant, they really struggle with the identity of a Catholic.  Here's why...

1.  Most Catholics have a love for their "religion".  They experience their Christian faith THROUGH the Catholic Church.  Through the sacraments, through the mass, through the tradition, through sacred scripture.  It's an identity!  Being Catholic automatically means we are Christians, but we have more to our faith then just whats in our heart and how much we love Jesus.  

2.  Most protestants or at least many that I know, will almost think of religion as a bad thing.  The stance is that religion has caused wars, and harm to people - so religion is bad.  Most do not have any particular ties to a church of affiliation - they're just Christian. Most don't really get the tie to the "Religion" because Religion is not something they follow.  It's hard to understand something you don't belong to...

3.  The Catholic church has tradition...  So when you're talking to someone of a faith who has none except for Jesus and the Bible - then the concept of tradition is not only foreign, but "wrong".  As a Catholic, we have over 2000 years worth of tradition...  We even use tradition from the Isrealites - the chosen people of God - and the Jewish culture.  For XYZ church that started 2 years ago, there is no tradition except for the tradition of the Catholics and the Jews.  Tradition is like being an Aggie - if you're in it, you love it!  It's what defines you!  It makes your experience so rich in value and purpose.  Tradition does not take us away from the core values of a relationship with the Lord, but brings us to it.
2 Thessalonians 2:15   15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

4.  The Catholic church has outlined many beliefs which are found in scripture, but are left unclear.  It was the Church Fathers who continued to analyze scripture and make inferences as to salvation, the afterlife, the life of Mary, the meaning and value of the sacraments and so forth.  This is where the trinity came from - the trinity was explained, but never named or the idea of the trinity was never developed until several years after scripture was written.  This is where purgatory came from.  This is where the immaculate conception came from.  Even scripture tells us that Jesus did and said many things that are not in scripture.  John 21:24-2524 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

5.  To a protestant, why do we need to know all the peripheral information anyway?  Why do we need to know about purgatory?  Does it matter?  To most protestants, all that matters is our relationship with Jesus.  That's it - so all the "extra" stuff isn't important.  The art isn't important.  The liturgy isn't important.  The order which we pray isn't important.  The signs and symbols aren't important.  Many of the things we hold as important to us as a Catholic, are left as unimportant to someone of another tradition.

6.  Following rules/guidelines/the law - We get pinned as Catholics as having to "earn our way to heaven" which isn't accurately portrayed.  The scriptures which are used are the scriptures where the Pharisees are condemned for following their rules but have no love for the Lord.  Matthew 23 is a bash against those who follow the law but do not have love in their hearts - compared to many who Jesus felt compassion for as their hearts were focuses on him such as the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.  Yes, Jesus wants our hearts, but even his teachings are contradicting to St. Paul's outlined here:

JESUS SAYS IN MATTHEW 19:16-21,16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life ?”17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” he inquired.Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Matthew 5:17-18 says:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

I think the point of all this, is that as a Catholic, I see my faith, my tradition, the magisterium of the Catholic Church, religion, scripture, church doctrine, and most importantly - HOW I connect with Jesus Christ differently than someone who does not rely on "religion" to get them there.  

I think what we have in common, is the heart.  We all should have hearts yearning for the Lord.  Our HEARTS have to be focused on Him.  If we're just doing religious things, and we don't really know the Lord and aren't connecting with him, we are missing something and need to re-evaluate our relationship.  

For a non-denominational, EVERYTHING focuses on the relationship with him - then you add in scripture, prayer, and places and ways to read scripture, and to pray.  Intertwined with that, is that we should be living a life trying to know him and do his will.  

For a Catholic - EVERYTHING focuses on the relationship with him - but to do that, we receive the Eucharist.  What better way to be close to him?  To do that, we receive any of the sacraments.  To know the Lord, we participate in the Lords supper on Sundays.  We have the opportunity to go to confession which heals our brokenness after we have greatly sinned and separated ourselves from our God.  To know the Lord, we learn about other people who knew the Lord like the saints.  To know the Lord, we rely on the Church, the Church fathers, the Pope, the Bishops and our pastors to help us outline what is good, just, holy, ethical, and moral.  To know the Lord, we use artwork, the crucifix and beautiful churches. 

We just have more stuff... more ways of connecting to the Lord, and are not limited to the bible only.  Both of us are Christians, both of us rely on Christ as he is our only way to be saved.  By his grace, love and mercy we have the possibility of making it to eternal happiness.  What a great gift he gives us - both Christians, and Catholic Christians alike.  

I always like to say - whatever you are - be the best that you can be.  If you're baptist, be the best baptist you can be.  If you're non-denominational, be the best non-denominational you can be, and if you're Catholic, be bold and know you're faith because everyone else will want you to be what they are...  dig deep, and you'll find truth, depth, and fullness in the Catholic Church.


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