Why Do We Follow Jesus as Catholic Christians?
Jesus taught that the greatest love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13), and to love one another as he loved us (John 13:34). By His willing acceptance of human suffering and death, Jesus transformed and transcended the meaning of suffering and death.
Jesus’ “Great or New Commandment” to love as he loved could not simply have evolved to radical altruism through a biological process, where altruism arises to a point, but could only have been revealed–introduced as something completely new–as a Divine Gift by Jesus.
This love-teaching of Jesus is an historic fact in human culture.
We Catholic Christians remember Jesus’ New Commandment of Love both in the way we live and in our celebration of the Eucharist. By consuming the Body and Blood of Christ in the appearance of consecrated bread and wine as a living, present, continuing act of Love, we declare our unity with this Love, Who is God. In so doing, we proclaim the Resurrection of Christ.
The Catholic Church is first of all the sacrament–both a sign and an instrument–of the unity of the human race in union with God (Lumen Gentium, Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 1). We believe that we are not the slaves of God, but his friends (John 15:15). This friendship and freedom are God’s gift to us.
In believing in Jesus and in sharing in his Church as Catholic Christians, we listen to the truth which makes us free (John 8:32). To reveal this truth and freedom Jesus suffered death and rose from the dead for our sake, and gave us the gift of His Church.
Hope requires trust in that which greater than ourselves–not in the state, which in the end can enslave–but in God, Who frees.
Without this Christ and His Church, there would be no transcendence of suffering and death, no hope of human unity, no hope of eternal life, no hope that the poor in spirit will be blessed, or that the meek will inherit the earth, or that the merciful will obtain mercy, or that those who hunger and thirst for justice will be satisfied (Matthew 5:5). Those who reject belief in God and His Church risk rejecting these good things. In the end, the atheist to be consistent must reject also the Beatitudes.
A world without the living Love of Jesus Christ is a world without hope of overcoming slavery, strife, despair, and violence.
Science is necessary to offer healing to a point, but cannot offer lasting hope, nor a sure path to human unity without another failed and destructive attempt at totalitarian government–since to enforce universal atheism will once again require totalitarianism.
Belief should not reject science. Far from it. Neither does science contradict belief. But science has yet to demonstrate that it can in and of itself overcome pseudo-science. The (1) persistence of quackery in medicine (witness daytime TV and late-night infomercials, and intellectual thralldom to the unproved theories of Freud for the better part of a century), the (2) politicization of the social sciences which have weakened science as a positive force, and (3) continuing breaches of scientific ethics at universities all speak to the reality of science as an imperfect work in progress, not as a finished product.
Today both Christian belief and science are weakened forces, but both still seek truth. It is possible, and desirable, to embrace Christian belief while respecting and practicing science.
Once one recognizes that there is an aspect of Love that is transcendent, beyond what science can explain, one has entered into the truth of belief in God.
© Copyright 2015, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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