What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the lord, our God, is to us? (Deuteronomy 4:7)
The Lord Jesus Christ brought true religion to the earth. Religion that ascends to God as He truly is. Religion that also penetrates into the center of our hearts, to our real selves.
True religion = Honest communication with the real God.
Christ Himself practiced this true religion. And Christ Himself is our only means—our only hope, our constant inspiration and guide—for practicing it ourselves.
In honor of the anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, we have been considering some parallels between AD 33 and AD 2012. Here’s another:
The world at large seems to labor under a vague and paralyzing misapprehension. The misapprehension that God, the Almighty, the All-Good, the Father of all—the misapprehension that He cannot be known. The cruelly dispiriting misapprehension that He may or may not exist. The altogether confusing misapprehension that each of us is really on his or her own when it comes to learning God’s will for what I am supposed to do—and Good Luck! Because no one can really know that.
The pagan world; the world without Christ; the world into which the Apostles confidently strode forth; the world that waits for us, too: This world has a problem. Somehow or other, the most important thing that ever happened has managed to pass it by.
No wonder, really. The all-important thing happened very quietly. It happened in a little corner of the earth, in an obscure country the size of New Jersey.
Fighting wars to expand your empire, or maximizing your profits, or watching t.v., or playing video games on your smartphone—all these things can get pretty distracting. So it is hardly surprising that the world managed to snooze its way through the most important thing that ever happened.
But, world: Wake up, please! God has not left us to flail after Him blindly. The Lord has not left us to our own devices with the impossible task of trying to know Him without His help.
“Religion” can never be just a matter of us making stuff up, or just following the things that our more-creative forefathers made up. No. God wants us actually to know Him, as He actually is–personally, as a friend.
So He has revealed Himself to us! He has taken very dramatic steps so that we could know all about Him.
Now, admittedly: The steps He has taken to reveal Himself may not exactly be the steps that we think He should have taken. Maybe we think He should reveal Himself by shooting off some fireworks, or by tweeting regularly on His own Twitter feed, or by giving a speech on t.v. and talking to an empty chair.
But God has not done any of these. He has done what He has done.
As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council put it:
God chose to show forth and communicate Himself and the eternal decisions of His will regarding the salvation of men. That is to say, He chose to share those divine treasures which totally transcend the understanding of the human mind. (Dei Verbum 6)
The talking heads of our contemporary world tend to use the terms “religion” and “faith” as if they referred solely to subjective personal experiences—experiences which bear no necessary relation to facts. According to this way of thinking, my ‘spirituality’ arises from my own unique circumstances. No one can judge the truth or falsity of my faith or my spirituality any more than they could judge my preference for a particular football team or fast-food restaurant as true or false. (Which, by the way, I like McDonalds.)
Anyway, this false contemporary understanding of religion and faith conforms perfectly with the idea that God is too busy, or too distracted, or too aloof, to take the trouble to make Himself known personally to the human race.
Now: Yes, the Catholic faith touches us at great personal, interior depth. There is something utterly unique about every individual person’s relationship with God. Nonetheless, while faith is more personal than anything else, at the same time it also engages us with an objective set of facts—indeed, the most compelling objective facts imaginable. We do not believe in our own experiences. We believe in Jesus Christ, a man who certainly walked the earth at a particular time, in a country about the size of New Jersey. We believe in particular things that happened, by which the truth of God has been revealed.
Our faith is fundamentally an act of submission to this truth, a truth that transcends our mental powers. We submit to a truth which we acknowledge as something more solid than anything else could ever be, a truth immeasurably more solid than our own feeble knowledge and insights.
We believe in Almighty God, Who has revealed Himself to mankind, by words and by deeds. In other words, we believe in Divine Revelation.
More on this over the next few weeks.