Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the season of Lent. It’s a very interesting day because it is the one day of the year when there is a physical sign that shows whether you are Catholic or not (technically you don’t have to be Catholic to receive the ashes, but you get the point). Many other religious traditions have more obvious ways to tell whether you practice a certain religion or not, but Christians in general basically just blend in- at least in how they dress (remember, modest is hottest!).
What I couldn’t help but notice was that despite the fact that over 1 billion of the 7 billion people, or about 17% of the world, are Catholics, and about 20-25% of students at the University of Illinois (10k of 40k students) are Catholic, out of everyone that I saw outside of mass, I saw maybe 10 Catholics with ashes on their foreheads. I have to admit, as an electrical engineering student, many of the students that I have class with and interact with are international and from Asia (South Korea, China, and India), so that defaults the percentages even lower than average for obvious reasons.
My point here is not that I’m better than anyone. My point is not that our society sucks. My point is not to judge others.
My point here is that as Catholic Christians, we cannot just sit around and be content with keeping the Gospel and the Church to ourselves, Jesus desires that all people would become a part of His Church! It is our duty, our obligation, to share it with as many people as possible!
People are not saved by having ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday. But they sure as heck can be saved by becoming a part of the Body of Christ, the Church!
I can’t help but notice that there are a boatload of difficulties in sharing the Gospel with others.
Relativism, a denial that absolute truth exists, is a fundamental stumbling block in this endeavor. When people don’t believe that truth about morality, faith, and God can be known, then they have no reason to think twice about them. They are left as matters of opinion. But what if Newton just treated his ideas about gravity as a matter of opinion instead of an absolute truth? What if Dr. Martin Luther King treated his conviction on the equality of the races as a personal belief, instead of an inherent truth? Nothing would have been done, and modern science and culture would have suffered from the consequences. We must always strive to come to know the truths of reality, while being respectful of others in the process.
Relativism also manifests itself in the idea that all religions are the same, or equal. This is a fun exercise for me, so here I go: Was the big bang the beginning of the universe? If it was, then something was created out of nothing. That is not physically possible. There must be a God to have started it all off. Is the universe’s fine tuning evidence for an Intelligent Creator? If you’re happy with the coincidence idea, check out the facts. This means that a mere entity as God doesn’t pan out, sorry Hindus and Buddists, no hard feelings. Was Jesus God? You can’t possibly be a Jew or a Muslim if you agree, you must be a Christian. The question that divides Muslims and Jews fundamentally is whether Muhammad was a prophet. Finally, did Jesus found a Church on Peter and promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it? As you can see, all of the great religions have beliefs that are contradictory to the others. If you said yes to all of those questions, congratulations, welcome to the world of Catholicism!
Another obstacle that I notice is the emphasis on political correctness and fear of speaking about things that really matter. This is especially dangerous in a democracy. A democracy requires that the people of the nation are informed, but if the honest debate of ideas is shunned, the people will not be informed enough to make the best decisions, and there is opportunity for those in power to take even more control.
Despite these difficulties, I know that sharing the Gospel is completely and totally worth it. Thousands and thousands of men, women, and even children have given up their lives over the centuries for it. There isn’t anything more important. Faith isn’t just some “nice” thing, it is a way of life. The Catholic faith is a way of life taught to us by Jesus and His Apostles through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is an opportunity to live according to the truth in peace and joy even in trial.
It would kind of suck to be forced to believe something that isn’t true, wouldn’t it? I’m afraid that that is how many people look at Catholicism nowadays. But it is true! And living according to the truth is freeing! Why would you want to live for a lie? Sooner or later the truth comes to light. And the awesome news for us is that that truth is an infinitely loving God who wishes us to enter into an ever deeper relationship with Him!
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – Jesus (John 14:6)