Saturday, June 8, 2013
The Best Way to Find Jesus, and Peace
I was reading Josef Pieper’s Guide to Thomas Aquinas before mass this morning. In it I read how the writings of Aristotle were banned by the Church during Thomas’ time but how, in the final ten years of his life, Thomas went on to write twelve commentaries on Aristotle, along with his gigantic work Summa theological. At that point, who would have guessed that this greatness was to be the future path of his life? How can any of us foresee the path of our life, much less the best one --- the best one for ourselves or, as with the life of Thomas, the best one for the many others who might follow in the paths which we had trod?
How can we know the best way to find Jesus and peace in our life?
I’ve been reading some conversion stories on the internet lately. Each one is uplifting, both for the writer to recall and for the reader to marvel, for that IS what a conversion is, something to marvel at. I once read how we should always see our faith journey as a marvel, a great and beautiful surprise, like explorers who are wandering through a dark forest and seeing a clearing ahead, walk into the light --- and see the never-before-seen Grand Canyon before them. Wow! Wow-wow!! All they can do is sit down and stare at the awesome beauty before them. That feeling is how our faith should always make us feel.
Faith is a gift, an awesome gift. It is a seeing what you have never seen before. But getting to that point, to experiencing that gift, is a part of life’s journey which, unfortunately, not everyone experiences.
Not everyone’s journey goes through dark forests and into bright resting places high above an awesome view. There are some people who have heard that such a place exists, and they wander from religion to religion searching for it. If these searchers are dedicated, I believe they will eventually find the Catholic Church, and be awed by it. It is a thing of beauty --- witnessed by those writing the blogs I have been reading. There are many conversion stories; EWTN has a television show dedicated to ministerial converts, converts who are current Catholic priests, and those who were former Protestant ministers, Jewish rabbis or other faith leaders. Converts who have sought the faith, the gift, are most often those surprised at finding it, and are very grateful --- they can’t stop talking about how wonderful the Catholic Church is.
But there are also many people who were born into Catholic families. If they were taught to know and live the faith well, they too appreciated its grandeur. Like the converts, they often refer to their Catholic faith as “home;” it is a great comfort to them. Some born into Catholic families, however, never appreciate their faith; they never have the real gift of faith in their heart. They are like the children of some rich people --- they don’t realize how blessed they are, and take their riches for granted. While some would stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and see beauty, these “always been Catholics” are walking around on the canyon floor. High walls seem all around them, and are seen not as beauty but barriers. Rapids and deep river currents seem terrifying. In its bigness, they can feel all alone. And so if someone should say: “The grass is greener on the other side,” they are open to leaving, disliking where they have been, but never having seen or appreciated its beauty. And they think where they are now at is better, but they don’t know what real beauty is.
I wrote a few blog posts about how we know our life’s journey is to get to heaven; we know it and we yearn for it, and yet we wonder: how do I get there? The Catholic Church, I wrote, is the roadmap, and Jesus offers to ride with us there, so we don’t get lost. Together, the map and Jesus, will surely get us to our eternal home --- but there are other ways: they just won’t be as sure, nor as fast, nor as easy. There are many rough roads that lead to heaven. And there are many places to get lost along the way. The Catholic Church makes the journey easier.
The map I wrote about is like that standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. It is a high level view of the bigger picture. This is faith --- the vision that you can see the entire picture, and Jesus is with you to help guide you. You can talk to Him and let Him point out the best ways to go using the Catholic map. But He doesn’t dictate the route. You can look at the map and say: “What if we went this way?” or, “Let’s go see this spot; it’s supposed to be beautiful.” And He’ll smile and say: “Let’s.” The Catholic Church has may byways --- and yes, as people sometimes do, they may get confused by even these good things. The Catholic Church IS made up of people.
What is the best way to find Jesus and peace, peace in this life and the next? I believe it is the Catholic Church. It gives you much confidence that you are on the right road, and that you are not alone. There are many who seek to travel life’s paths alone --- I wrote about the liberal mindset recently, as an example of the many people who confidently say: “I know the way.” And many of them don’t see life as having heaven as a destination, but seek a heaven here and now. These people don’t see the beauty of the Catholic Church, but they can’t even begin to imagine the beauty of the REAL heaven. How sad for them, that they think the best they can have in life is what they get for themselves here on earth.
Some point to lemmings following one another over a cliff and say: “Never be a follower.” Others point to the Shepherd who created the green pastures, who said to the leaders of the Catholic Church: “Feed my sheep.”
I am not a lemming, but I may be a sheep; I willingly follow.
The map is there; the destination clearly marked. Only by “my choice” and pig-headedness can I get lost. What is the best way to find Jesus and peace? Well, as every Catholic knows, it starts there with Him on the altar. We believe He is always with us, and we can come and talk to Him. And we’re not confused about what the Bible says or what this or that preacher says is the right way to go --- any person with an ego can loudly proclaim: “Follow me! I know the way!” But there was only one Way, and Truth, and Life. And I don’t have to find it myself, alone. He is there, waiting. And those who come and find Him there in the Catholic Church are most happy, not necessarily in this life --- He never said this life would be never-ending fun --- but in eternal happiness, and a confidence that while we ARE in this life, we know the way.
And like the bloggers giddy over their conversion stories, we are happy to have found it.