In a couple of weeks Advent will end and it will mark two years since I really decided to become Catholic. I’ve been reflecting on why I made that decision, what it was that got me into the Church. It honestly wasn’t apologetics. I didn’t read any apologetics materials while I was converted. The only thing I read besides a couple of conversion stories was the Catechism. I wasn’t deceived by any clever tricks or anything, but really, I converted because the Catholic Faith emphasized and surpassed what I already believed about God.
God Is Merciful
God’s mercy was probably the most important thing to me as an Evangelical. His mercy was the prime thing I preached. We are sinners. God hates sin. But he is merciful and forgives us. The Catholic Faith, I learned, believed deeply in that mercy. It believed that I was a sinner. The Catholic church believed that God is merciful. Furthermore, I saw that Sacraments, especially Baptism and Confession really emphasized God’s mercy, they made it more real, more prominent. It takes what I believed about God’s mercy and exponentially maximized it in my life. I knew I wanted to take part in that.
God is Love
Purgatory had always been a sticking point for me, mostly because I didn’t know what it was. I quickly realized though that Purgatory was a burning outflow of the Creator’s Passion for me! Purgatory wasn’t a second chance, but a manifestation of God’s love for me, and his desire to complete the work which he began in me. I already knew that I wasn’t perfect, but that God wanted me to be perfect, and that I was becoming perfect, but that if I died in that imperfect stage, I’d need some help. And that’s exactly what Purgatory is!
Furthermore, I saw Jesus’ death on the Cross as his supreme act of love. The Catholic Church does too, and claims to make that very act, really present to me every day, not just in memory and Scripture, but physically present to me! Catholic beliefs take the Cross and truly make it a timeless event. God’s supreme love made fully present to me, to all of us. It truly astounded me.
I believed that, as Christians, we are a part of God’s family. We are here to help each other out, to offer what we have received for the benefit of others. We are to pray for others, encourage each other, and ask others to pray on our behalf. I believed that the bonds of Christ bound us together even when we were separated by one thing or another. This is why intercession of the Saints came so easily. The bonds of Christ go beyond death. Our love for each other does not get snuffed out when we breathe our last on this side of eternity. I realized that asking the Saints to pray for me, to offer their help to me, only made sense. Either we are family forever or we aren’t family at all.
God is Sovereign
I always believed that God, and God alone, could save me from sin. It was only by his choice that I could be saved. This also was proposed by the Catholicism, only with Catholicism, I was more than a puppet, a piece of dung. I participated, I responded to the graces of God to be transformed, to do my part as a member of the Body of Christ. God gave me the grace to have faith. He gave me the grace to do good. He gives us all both of these things and we must respond positively to both in order to have salvation. Whether I respond to one or both, is my choice. But it was God’s sovereignty that allowed me to have the option to make these decision. God alone is my Savior, and nothing I could do would merit salvation. With that comes faith and works, not an either/or.
God is Truth
God is truth, and he cannot stand falsehood. I believed this. This is why I talked to so many people in San Diego, worked so hard to convince them that absolute truth existed, that there could be no two things that conflicted that were true. Catholicism emphasizes this. I discovered that I could not be passive and wishy-washy. I found what I desired in Catholicism, a structure of truth that did not allow falsehood to come in without a sharp word. This was not so where I came from. Either abortion is wrong or it isn’t. It can’t be both ways and we must have a solid proclamation one way or the other. This strength I found in Catholicism.
God is One
God is indivisible. He is three persons in one. He cannot oppose himself. He must be unified. And so must his Body on earth. Not only must his Body be united in Faith, but also across time. His Church cannot change what the Eternal Trinity has decreed. She cannot alter what has been given to her to believe. Catholicism is unbelievably united across all generations from the day she was founded at Pentecost until now. Her beliefs are Biblical, they are historical, and the earliest Christians held firmly to them.
And so, I came to realize that the reason my conversion was so fast, and actually quite an easy decision was that I was not leaving the God I loved. I was not leaving my faith behind for a new set of dogmas and views on God. Rather, my faith was being enriched. The things I believed about God, especially concerning his mercy and love, were taking on new dimensions, new facets were being uncovered. My beliefs were not being replaced, but being transfigured as Jesus was on the mountain. The disciples saw him in a way they never had, but he was still the same Jesus. I too, saw my faith in a way I never had, it was deeper, it was now three-dimensional, not just a planar thing.
Why couldn’t I stay the old way then? Why, if they were the same, did I have to move? When I was little, I was obsessed with this phrase:
ALL INSECTS ARE BUGS, BUT NOT ALL BUGS ARE INSECTS.
I see that this applies to God as well. God is like the insect. You can call him a bug in general and you get a broad group of faiths that fit that description. Some of them fit better than others. But only insects fits perfectly. I came to discover that while there were elements of truth in my old faith group, there were parts that were irreconcilable with what I was discovering about God. In the old way his love was shallow, his mercy was bland. I saw that his one-ness was not real. I saw that I was living in black and white, but now I was able to live in color.
So I invite you to look at the Church, to see that it fulfills and exceeds the very things that you believe about God, his mercy, love, sovereignty, his unity. Take a second look, and see that in the Church your wildest dreams about a relationship with God actually come true. I did, and it really, absolutely, positively changed my life for the better now and forever more!