By: Bobby Quitain
I often hear some well-meaning people say that they don’t need religion as long as they have Jesus.
The statement sounds right and noble but dangerously misleading.
You see, you don’t need to pit religion against Jesus. They are not meant to be chosen one over the other. It’s not an “either-or” thing. They actually come hand in hand. What do I mean by this?
First, let me say that Jesus, not your religion can save you. Only He is Savior. Your parish priest or church pastor did not die on the cross for you. Jesus did.
However, religion brings order, oversight and opportunity to your relationship with Jesus. Let me tell you what I mean.
A relationship with Jesus breathes “life into your life”. But without religion, it can run with no direction. For instance, a race car with a new engine can run, but without a driver, it can crash.
I have seen many zealous Christians who ran away with their new found faith at the expense of many things in their life. Without order, you can scamper at every direction with your new found faith, to the detriment of your relationships, career and even finances. Religion provides the roadmap, parameters and the structure that you need in order to live out your Christian life well.
Some people say, “Well, Bob. I have the Bible to guide me.” True. But without oversight, you might interpret it simply according to how you want to interpret it.
It’s like trying to figure out how your new race car works by trying to interpret the manual all by yourself. You may get it to function well but you might also destroy it. You need mechanical oversight.
In the Catholic Church, we take pastoral and theological oversight from the Holy Father. We look to him for oversight in all the affairs of the church. We adhere to the same interpretation of the Bible. Priests and lay preachers can personalize the scriptures but all personalization must be tempered with what is theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church. It is for this reason that you cannot just forum shop for parishes in order to find the teaching that will suit your moral taste . All parishes ought to teach the same theology regardless of who the parish priest is.
A talented and disciplined athlete can practice his sport everyday but without the opportunity to participate in an actual competition or tournament, his skills will not fully develop.
In a similar way, a Christian can try to live out his relationship with God by himself but unless he has the opportunity to practice it on a daily basis, he will remain a “baby” Christian. Growth results from both accomplishment and adversity. Religion gives you opportunity to have both.
With different ministries to serve in, there is always a chance to accomplish much in the Kingdom of God. The Catholic Church, with all its charisms, provide a menu of varying spiritualities and ministries that can effectively bring out the best in you.
On the other hand, the church, being composed of imperfect and fallen human beings, also provides growth due to adversity. Scriptures says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) A difficult parish priest or a very challenging church-mate is one of the most effective ways to sharpen your character, something that on your own would be difficult to accomplish.
I know that in writing this, I bear the ire of those who abhor organized religion. On the other hand, I know, first hand, that while it was my Lord Jesus who saved me, it is my religion — my Catholic faith — which keeps me saved.
Go to church today. You might just find out what I truly mean — first hand.
A blessed Sunday to you, my friend!