Part of our Catholic curriculum was memorizing the Baltimore Catechism and reading the entire Bible (OK I might have skipped the genealogies). To me, everything in the Gospel was predictable. I often could say the words of Jesus to myself long before they came out of the priest’s mouth at Mass.
If there was a purpose for reading this book, I said to myself, it was so that I could better evangelize my non-Catholic friends.
I guess with that attitude I was just asking to be shocked out of my complacency. The Bible passages that Kreeft uses in his book opened my eyes to how much I had boxed Jesus into my own limited knowledge. If the only Jesus I knew was the One from Gospel passages, how was He relevant to my everyday life?
I think that the majority of us fall into this trap at some point in our life. It’s convenient to package Jesus into a small “faith box” and leave Him there for when we’re going through a rough patch in life. We give Him certain attributes: “Jesus is loving,” “Jesus makes us joyful,” “Jesus is all-good and all-beautiful.” These can inspire devotion, but only so much. Are these phrases really the extent of what Jesus is? Is Jesus so simple, so understandable, that He can be limited to a few words?
If Jesus is truly Who Christians say He is, it follows that it is impossible for any human being to fully comprehend Him. Jesus is Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. He is Life itself. We may not always feel it, but Christ is closer to us than we are to ourselves. All of those emotions bubbling inside of us, every longing and desire that we feel so keenly yet cannot explain, He understands. Psalm 139 puts this beautifully in verses 12-14: “Even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee. For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works!”
Don’t think that I’m discounting the Bible or the Catechism or anything of the sort! I treasure my Catholic education and am grateful every day for it. But we can’t stop there. If we only learned facts about people and memorized things they said without actually spending time with them, we would be horrible friends! It’s the same with Christ. We have to set aside time for personal prayer with Christ, whether it be at Mass or when we first wake up. We have to share with Him our daily struggles and joys, even the silly things that either make us laugh or push us off the deep end.
After all, Jesus is both God and man. He celebrated with friends at the wedding feast as well as wept at the tomb of Lazarus. Most of His life on earth was spent at home in an ordinary way, and yet His Divine nature is filled with mysteries that we can never fully comprehend! The contradiction is stunning…or should I say, shocking!
So continue to read the Bible and study the Catechism, but drop any ideas of completely understanding God. I think that’s what’s so exciting and wonderful about my Catholic faith. No matter how long I live (an eternity) or how mundane life is, there will always be more to learn. God will always be new and surprising, and He will always be recreating us to better reflect His own beautiful image. Who can say no to a promise like that?