Thursday, March 10, 2005
I look back over the last year and realize I've learned a lot. I never knew Catholics joined the church at Easter (although some do join whenever). I never knew Catholics held an Easter Vigil waiting for Easter morning and the rise of Christ from the grave and that new members joined at that vigil. I'd never heard of the scrutinies or heard the prayers for new members. I never knew Catholic alters held a relic of a saint within. I never enjoyed the depths of prayers and readings available to Catholics from 2000 years of saints. There's much I didn't know and much I thought I knew was wrong. I have much yet to learn.
Perhaps one of the biggest things I've come to understand is that there is more to Christianity than the Bible. The raising of Lazarus in John 11 (our third and final Scrutiny), for example, is not mentioned in the other three gospels. Now why, I ask you, would Matthew, Mark and Luke leave out this wonderful vignette, this story from the life of Jesus that very neatly encapsulates the entire message of Christianity? The other gospels walk all around the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, but never mention, "Oh, by the way, Lazarus died and Jesus brought him back to life after four days in the tomb." Why? Why would they do that?
If the foundation of your spiritual life is the Bible and the Bible alone, a question like that can suck the life from the center of your faith. The number of arguments over the Bible and its various translations are endless and endlessly carry on toward no end. No one knows, "Why?" about the Lazarus story or any of the other discrepencies found here and there in the Old and New Testament. The Bible takes slavery as a fact of life, for example, and people use that to throw out anything else they don't like.
In Catholicism, faith has more blocks in its foundation. If the Bible is unclear, I can trust and seek support from the Tradition of the Church. I can trust and seek support from the Catechism and from the Magisterium. I can trust and seek support from the teachings of the Pope and from the writings of the saints. The question of "Why?" the three synoptic gospels did not include Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and telling Martha, "I AM the resurrection and the life," fades into the background like a paper cut on the finger of a severed arm.
I don't mean to say that Catholicism owns these things, either. The saints, the Catechism, the Pope and even the Magisterium are all available to every branch of Christianity. The prayers of the saints would have added deeply to my Methodist prayer life. The analysis of the 10 Commandments in the Catholic Catechism would have greatly benefited me as a teen going through Methodist confirmation. Just as the Bible is for all branches of the Faith, for all Christians, so too are the resources of the Catholic Church for all Christians. All Christians are one, we can all find ourselves in the painting above . . . we're the one in the lower left, in the cave. Our eyes are opened and the bindings of death/sin have fallen away. Christ stands before us with open arms... now is not the time to ask, "Why?"