During my early life I understood the God of Israel as Maimonides did. When someone asked me about my faith I would share what I had seen, but did not encourage him to become Jewish. I saw Judaism as tribal. I believed that I was of the tribe of Judah, that God gave my ancestors the Torah on Mt. Sinai, and therefore I was Jewish. My Jewish identity remained strong, but when God called me in mind and heart I entered the Catholic Church.
God’s Eternal Perspective
When my beautiful Irene gave me first a Baltimore Catechism and then Father Hardon’s The Catholic Catechism I read them, sensed the divine spark, and reflected, “My God, this is the truest truth I’ve ever seen!” The Church presents both Satan’s “You will be like God” Gen 3:5, and Rabbi Yeshua’s § 1803 “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.” The difference is crystal clear. Satan is a liar Jn 8:44. His “You will be like God” is filled with pride, false pride because in our fallen state we have nothing to be proud of.
The Persistence of Human Dignity
The persistence of human dignity persuades me that the Church is God’s true presence on earth. Bishop Barron’s essay, It Does Matter What You Believe, makes the point cogently. Where Catholic teaching is forcibly suppressed, the human person is stripped of dignity and becomes a cog in a machine. China, for instance, with an officially atheistic government, insists that each couple may have only one child. If a woman conceives a second child her pregnancy will be forcibly aborted. In North Korea, when Kim Jong Il passed away, crowds stricken with grief cried and wailed aloud mourning the loss of their “Dear Leader.” Anyone seen on television displaying insufficient grief was sentenced to six months in prison.
But where Catholic teaching is robust, human dignity prevails even in the face of brutal suppression, as occurred in Poland’s nine days that changed the world.
The Barque of Peter
And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care if we perish?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” Mk 4:37–41.
“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any fish?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish” Jn 21:4–6.
The Catholic Church is the universal Church by her very name. St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 8. AD 107, wrote: “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” The Church that speaks the whole truth to the whole world.
Pope Francis Copacabana Mass on the Beach Rio, World Youth Day, 2013 2:53:45 3.7 million Catholics were there, filling every available place on the four-mile beach.
Pope St. John Paul II Mass in Manila, Philippines, World Youth Day, 1995
5 million Catholics attended Final Mass.
Pope Francis’ Mass in Manila, Philippines, Apostolic Journey to the Philippines, 2015. 6 million Catholics attended Final Mass in the rain!