By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE
“therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way,that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God
to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”
The founder of a religion matters, often even more than the teachings, the subsequent history, the present state of the religion, or the leaders of the religion. Christians choose to be Christian because of Jesus, first and foremost. Catholics choose to become Catholic because of St. Peter and his special role in acting as Christ’s first vicar and the Church’s first pope.
People may find fault in the teachings of Catholicism which inevitably run against popular opinion. They may find fault with the history of the Catholicism because past scandals. They may find fault with contemporary Catholics who know little about their faith and do nothing to remedy it. They may find Pope Benedict boring, Pope Francis confusing, or the Bishop of the area a bumbling fool. Christians in general may find the Christianity, done correctly, is way too difficult.
Fortunately, Jesus overcomes all these failings. He does not fail, and requires no excuse from His disciples. He lives a perfect life, dies a perfect death, and rises from that death in a perfect deliverance for all who believe. And yet, in His perfection, He lives as a man, subjects Himself to men, knowing and feeling as man. He performs miracles, but He also takes time to pray in the morning. He helps others with His power, but He makes His life far more cumbersome with it. He has a mother and father; He bears the cross; He dines with others; He cries. No one who knows Him, believes in Him, prays with Him, cannot fail to love Him. He is so perfect, yet He is also so human.
I can never become Muslim because I know Mohammed was a violent man personally responsible for the brutal deaths of thousands. I know he lied to others to gain an advantage over his enemies. I know he had many wives, and many more concubines. Whatever progress Islam has made, however popular or dominant it is, however easy it is to practice, however favorable it would be to a male like myself, I cannot convert because I know Mohammed and I cannot love him like I love Jesus.
I can never become Buddhist because Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, concluded that the goal of life was nothingness and that everything else was suffering. His life consists of interwoven legends, nothing concrete or historical. He exists in the dark part of one’s imagination, a fearful abyss ofemotional desolation. I cannot love Buddha because he is not real, and my neighbor is.
I can never become Hindu because Hinduism does not have a founder, or a church, or one sacred text.Rather, it has many gods, many legends, many self-made spiritual leaders, and little coherence. Hinduism is the religion of India, and only India, and I am not Indian.
I can never become Jewish because I was not born a Jew. I revere their founder Moses, as Jesus did; and I do respect Jews as God’s people, as Jesus did; but they do not want me as a convert, and they did not want Jesus as the messiah. I could love Moses, but Moses would want me to love Jesus instead, the man he prophesied, the man he spoke to in the Transfiguration, the Word incarnate.
I can never become Protestant because I know about the lives of Luther, Calvin, King Henry VIII, and the other founders that followed their lead. They could have been saints, but chose to start their own churches and break Christianity into pieces, and establish dissension as the norm. They loved their friends, but they hated their enemies. Luther was careless; Calvin was ruthless; and Henry was a monster. I can understand these men, but I cannot look up to them as I can St. Peter.
I can never become Marxist because I know Marx, and he preached a violent uprising and worship of the state—a secular religion. He was an atheist intellectual who denied God, and consequently denied man. He was a materialist who believed in social engineering and the invisible hand of Progress. He has many adherents even today, and I’m not one of them. I would rather have the whole-man Jesus, king of Heaven, than the half-man Marx waiting for a utopian heaven on Earth.
The world has many religious founders, but none of them were tested like Jesus, suffered like Jesus, orhelped others like Jesus. They have great men—some even have gods—who founded their churches, but none of them loved as Jesus loved. They led armies, wrote amazing texts, incited great social revolutions, and even defined cultures, but they did not rise from the dead as Jesus did. They had faith in God, but not the faith of St. Peter, who trusted Jesus enough to trust himself.
Jesus became like us so that we can become like Him. There is no alternative. We can accept this challenge as He did, or we can fall like the many who have broken away. On the one side lies one truth, and on the other lie a legion of falsehoods. The founder is Truth; we must follow Him.