Recently I was confronted with a question that has been at the center of my prayer over the past weeks and as I was reflecting on this Gospel the answer to the question and the answer became quite clear.
The question was something like this: “So what difference does it make if I do all the things I have been taught growing up about being a good Catholic? If God loves everyone equally and we are all going to heaven then why do I struggle with all this, I don’t have to if we are all getting to heaven anyway.”
That my friends is a great question! That is a question that if we are honest with each other. I mean totally gut-level honest, I would venture to say every one of us has asked it, or something similar to it.
We have heard it several times in the readings of the past weeks….”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your spirit. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Ok….got it….but why take the time to log on to Zoom, get our wine or juice and bread ready? Why take the time to gather with others, when if all I need to do is to love God and love my neighbor.
Why spend time in this whole human church thing….there is controversy, there are conflicts, there are stuggles, there are budgets and there is sin.
So why do I bother?
I think this Gospel pericope…this Gospel story puts a perspective on the question and on the answer.
To fully experience God, we can never attain it in isolation from others!
God is expressed in our faith as a trinity of persons… not just one—but three distinct, unique, and essential persons.
You see my friends, faith is not an individual experience….faith is by its nature communal. Yet often we have held up the misconception of the end of times and the final judgment if you will.
We often tell stories to ourselves and to each other….a narrative of what we will do or what we hope for at the end of our human life here on earth. I have often said God and I are going to have a long cup of coffee because I have a lot of questions!
But if we look at Scripture and we look at our fundamental experience of God…which is the birthplace of faith, we find one extremely important fact. those experiences come through people… other people…
So can I find God out on a walk in the woods? Sure! Can I find God alone in my room, deep in prayer?
We most certainly can… and hopefully, we do!
Can I find eternal life alone? I doubt it!
The primary theological difference between us as Catholics and many of our Protestant brothers and sisters is that we have always believed that God is most fully encountered in the community, and the reformers believed that it was a personal experience between the person and the divine.
The best of our tradition and our understanding is not that faith is a Me and Jesus experience….as Catholics, we believe that it is a We and God experience!
You see what I am saying is that our holiness is by its very nature communal. Each of us is essential to the reign of God….each of us have something to contribute to someone else.
Your holiness makes me more holy. And hopefully, my holiness makes you more holy as well.
Covid 19 is teaching us a drastic and fundamental message, my friends….we do not walk alone….we can not walk alone. Turning the dials backs….just let ourselves experience what that feels like deep in our bones….it feels isolating…it feels contrary to who we are as human beings….it fights against our very being…..why….because we must be in a community with one another.
If these past days of quarantine and isolation have taught me anything, it has taught me that I cannot live my life alone. None of us can.
So to the question that started this reflection: “So what difference does it make if I do all the things I have been taught growing up about being a good Catholic? If God loves everyone equally and we are all going to heaven then why do I struggle with all this, I don’t have to if we are all getting to heaven anyway.”
I would say…it makes all the difference in the world…because love doesn’t happen in a vacuum…love, our love of God and God’s love of us and our love of neighbor can only happen if we are in a relationship with others…