The reason to be Catholic—Jesus Christ
Are you considering joining the Catholic Church? Or maybe you are already Catholic and you have questions about your faith. I was baptized as a Catholic when I was a baby. We went to Mass every Sunday, and when I was old enough, I went to Catholic grade school. When I was in high school, I considered leaving the church.
The reason I wanted to leave was not because I didn’t have faith. Just the opposite. In high school, I discovered the whole point of having faith—knowing Jesus. I felt let down and a little angry at the Catholic institution for never having quite got that across to me.
But I didn’t leave. I realized everything I needed to know had been right there all along. I’m not sure why it hadn’t clicked before. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was my teachers. Maybe it was the turbulence of the times (this was in the 1960s and 70s).
Whatever the reason, in high school, I got it. A light clicked on. I was on the beginning of a path to understanding not “why” we have faith, but “who” we have faith in. What I want to share in a series of posts is what I know about who it is Catholics believe in—Jesus Christ.
“Onion of Christ”
It was a bright winter Sunday when my mom hustled me and my two younger brothers into the vestibule of St. Gerard Magella, my childhood parish. She settled us down before allowing the usher to open the doors to the worship space. She then marched us quickly to our usual pew—second from the front, on the “Mary statue” side. I had started kindergarten that year, and I was able to follow along with small bits of the liturgy. I remember at one point my mother getting up out of the pew and following a line of people to the altar rail.
She knelt and put her hands under a white cloth that draped the rail. The priest stood in front of each person at the rail while an older boy in church robes held a gold-plated dish under their chins. The priest put what looked like a little white ball on each person’s tongue.
When she came back to the pew, I asked my mother what the priest gave her to eat. She said something about “communion,” but what I heard was “onion.” So for a while, I thought she was going up to get one of those little cocktail onions. The next year, as I prepared to receive Communion myself, I would learn that the wafer my mother ate was Jesus.
Holy Communion is the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. More generally, our fellowship and union with Jesus and other baptized Christians in the Church, which has its source and summit in the celebration of the Eucharist.
In this sense, Church as communion is the deepest vocation of the Church.
—Catechism of the Catholic Church
Growing up, I learned the stories of Jesus’ life, and I knew he died for our sins. And I knew he was part the the “Holy Trinity.” But the “Trinity” thing didn’t really jell for me at first. I had an image of God the Father, old man, white beard, flowing robes, sitting on a cloud in heaven. The Holy Spirit was flying around there in the form of a dove. And I’m not really sure where Jesus was. But the three of them were “up there” somewhere.
Jesus and me
Then, in first grade, Sr. Paul Mary taught me that Jesus was in me, at least when I received Communion. Some Catholics were (mistakenly) taught that Jesus was in us for a specific amount of time after receiving Communion—five or ten minutes, something like that. I didn’t hear about that until I was an adult though. Sister just told us to come back from Communion, kneel down in our pew, and contemplate the presence of the Lord in us.
As I said, I didn’t start to develop a clear image of Jesus until I was a teenager. Specifically, I began to see more clearly who Jesus is the night some high school classmates from my school came into the Dairy Queen where I worked.
What do you think?
I’ll say more in a later post about how those kids changed my image of Jesus. But right now, I’d like to hear from you.
- How would you describe Jesus?
- How has your image of Jesus changed? Or has it always been the same?
- Do you have a relationship with Jesus? If so, what is it like?
- Do you have any questions about who Jesus is or how to be with Jesus?
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