Take time today to read this speech by Archbishop Charles Chaput. It begins:
The Catholic faith is not simply a collection of doctrines and ideas, or a body of knowledge, or even a system of beliefs, although all those things are important. At its root, Christianity is an experience: a life-changing, personal experience of the risen Jesus Christ. Everything else in the writings of St. Paul, and everything else in our life as Catholics, flows from that personal encounter with Jesus Christ. If we truly seek him, then we will always find him. But when we find him, we need to be ready for the consequences, because nothing about our lives can be the same.
This is the underlying theme of my book Who Do You Say That I Am? As Catholics, we highly value the Scriptures, our Tradition, the doctrines of the faith and our liturgy. But all of these are intended to be in service of our personal encounter with Christ; each one should direct us to interacting more deeply with the person of Jesus.
Too often there are two opposing trends in our attitude regarding our Catholic traditions. On the one hand, there are those we say that these traditions prevent a deep relationship with Christ; we need to jettison them and return to a “pure” practice of the faith like in the first century. This, however, is faulty reasoning: by looking to see how our forefathers (and foremothers) in the faith followed Christ we can be given insights into our own discipleship. It is spiritual hubris to think that we can simply follow Christ without any guidance from the giants of the faith that have come before us.
On the other hand, there are those who elevate our Catholic traditions to be the end of our faith, not the means to deepening it. They believe that man was made for our traditions, not traditions for man. This was clearly condemned by Christ himself in the Gospels, but unfortunately it seems to be human nature to elevate our own creations above the Creator.
As Archbishop Chaput reminds us, what we need is to have a new life in Christ – everything we do and believe should be directed towards that goal. It might be painful at times and it might (and probably will) involve suffering, but the result is beyond anything we can imagine.