(Part 1 of a “Top 10 list” of things we Catholics believe. For Part 2, click here…)
1. Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore are given a great deal of dignity. To properly understand who we are, we need to go back to the beginning. In the beginning, God made us like Him. Genesis 1:27 says: God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. We were created to be a lot more than what most people settle for. For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness. (1 Thessalonians 4:7.) If you’ve ever seen The Lord of the Rings, you’ll remember that the character of Aragorn, the King who is to come again, does not wish to assume his throne. He wishes to remain unknown and hidden, roaming the world as a ranger. It takes the great Elf-Lord Elrond, who is coincidentally Aragorn’s future father-in-law, to take Aragorn aside, to tell him to leave the ranger behind and to become the King he was created to be. Many people compromise their dignity just to fit in, because they forget that God created them to stand out. If we only understood what it means to be made in God’s image, our world would be a very different place.
2. All life is sacred, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. In the commandments God called this “thou shalt not kill.” Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2258) Anything we do to unnaturally end a life – whether it’s by abortion while that life is in utero, by killing someone while they are here, or by euthanasia to “mercifully” put someone out of their misery is an act of murder. God creates each life for a reason: For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) At the moment of conception, this growing person has a part to play in the history of the world, a part that is unrepeatable, and no matter the circumstances of this persons conception (planned or unplanned or traumatic or inconvenient) – it is not for us to decide to take that life away.
3. We’ve screwed up the good life God made us for, so we needed Jesus to come and save us. For two whole chapters of Genesis, we exist in right relationship with God. But in chapter three, after the unfortunate encounter with the serpent, humanity fell into sin. We bear in ourselves an inherited concupiscence – basically, we have a tendency to sin (and find some pleasure in the sinning.) There was nothing on earth we could do to fix this, so we can be thankful that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. (John 3:16) Jesus came to earth to die for our sins, to pay the price for these things which we enjoy doing – and which definitively damage our relationship with God and with others – and to open the doors to Heaven for us. God did what we couldn’t do… paid in His own blood the price for our sins.
4. Heaven rocks. When we think of Heaven what often comes to mind is a place up in the clouds where angels play harps all day, and life seems pretty boring. Heaven is so much more than this, though… it is the place where we are eternally in God’s presence: we are literally living in Love. Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness. (CCC 1024) There are many images in the Bible used to describe Heaven: life, light, wedding feast, wine of the Kingdom, The father’s house, the Heavenly Jerusalem, Paradise. I like the image of the wedding feast the best, partly because my wedding was such a great day, but also because the one-flesh union of marriage (sex) is meant to be a foreshadowing of what God has in store for us. There is no joy, no human experience, no great time you or I have ever had that Heaven will not surpass.
5. Jesus left us a community that exists to connect us to Him. We call this community the Church. It pleased God, in His goodness and wisdom, to reveal Himself and make known the mystery of His will to men in order to invite and receive them into communion with Himself.” (Dei Verbum #2) Jesus didn’t just come to save us from ous sins and leave us on our own. He was trying to restore something very important: the close and intimate relationship our first parents had with Him in the garden before sin entered the picture. God being God, He knew that we would need a structure within which to grow into this relationship (and in turn, away from sin), so he left a Church, founded on the apostle Peter (our first pope), who’s reason for existing is to help God’s plan of reconciliation to actually happen in our lives. So I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18) This Church is one, united under her head, Jesus (and the steward He’s left in charge until He returns, the Pope); it is holy, because of His promise not to let it fall; it is Catholic, and exists throughout the world; and it is apostolic, always connected to Peter and the apostles who were called by, knew, and loved Jesus when He walked the earth.