The day before I left for Belize, I was having a discussion with someone about the Catholic Church. This person made a common argument: what's the point of religion with all of its rituals and rules; can't a relationship with God be a personal matter? There are many responses to this argument from a Catholic standpoint. I focused on the need for an established set of moral guidelines, in particular. The minute we remove "the rules" from our life, we give way to moral relativity and can easily be led astray by what our culture dictates as "moral" and "immoral."
Then this person brought up another point, mentioning that they did not understand why reciting a Creed was of any benefit. I didn't have an immediate response. Why are the rituals so important? Well, yes, they remind us of our past, a past founded on Jesus Christ Himself. Additionally, they remind us of our role as an active member of the Catholic Church. However, I did not see a clear-cut answer that I felt could really answer this person's question...until I stood in Sacred Heart Church in San Ignacio, Belize.
On the first Sunday of our trip, we ventured to this church for Mass with the community. As we recited familiar words and sang familiar songs, it hit me. I stood in the Church just thinking about that conversation and how crystal clear the answer now was to me.
These traditions and rules, though sometimes seemingly pointless, unite us to each and every member of the Body of Christ. How unique. How amazing. I was entering a foreign land, surrounded by people I had never met and a way of life I was unfamiliar with, but in that Church, I felt at home. I felt linked to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in a unique way. I would've felt this even if they had said Mass in a whole different language. Because at the end of the day, we speak the same words Jesus once spoke. We recite our shared beliefs. We consume that very same Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We all are members of one universal Church, no matter where we are in the world.
Saying the words to the Creed alongside my Belizean brothers and sisters reminded me that as a member of Christ's Body, I serve not only my community, but my fellow humans throughout the world. Looking at it from an even broader perspective than the Catholic faith, as human beings formed by God's hands, we share common ground with and owe respect to each individual we encounter.
This is the power of God's love. He can unite us to one another deeply, regardless of the distance between us, our different cultures, our different languages, and more.
Amazing, isn't it, how two individuals can come from completely opposite walks of life, and still, they can stand side by side and find a deep connection through shared faith, through our common roots in Jesus Christ?
|Sacred Heart Church|
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).