Why am I still Christian? Reason #2

Reason #2: Because Catholicism leads to human fulfillment

Catholic Christianity encourages human fulfillment by bringing all people together into communion with each other and with God.

The question of human fulfillment is important. In some ways it is the question. But one thing’s for sure: We all desire happiness. Our desire for happiness has no limit, but deep down we all know that we can’t just live in any way whatsoever in order to be truly happy. We don’t just want to live: We want to live meaningfully. If our life isn’t truly ordered with an ultimate concern in mind, we become anxious, uncertain, and lost.

Catholicism orients our lives to God and, in doing so, encourages an integrated life that builds the human person up in holiness. Admittedly, popular conceptions of a Christian life seem boring. We think of old-timey nuns and frowning aesthetics who spurn pleasure. But that gets it all wrong. Catholicism is not puritanical. A Christian life rests on the notion that human fulfillment can only be found in God, who is the source of human existence, in the first place. In this way, there can be no competition between an authentic human life and God. In Catholic theology, God is none other than the Ultimate Good. So the more we are ordered to God, the more we are participants in His Goodness. As a second-century saint once said, “the glory of God is a human being fully alive.”

This might be a nifty idea in the abstract, but how does Catholicism in particular achieve this? I believe the key is Jesus Christ. To follow Jesus is to live with our ultimate Good in mind, for Jesus is that Ultimate Good-made-flesh. But Jesus not only desired to give his goodness to us through word and example. He desired to give himself to us: Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them (John 14:23). He makes his “home” within us through various gifts: graces that transforms the heart in supernatural love, the indwelling of his Holy Spirit, the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist, by which we “abide” in Christ and receive “eternal life” (John 6:54-56).

Jesus didn’t want his followers to be fulfilled in isolation, for that wouldn’t correspond to human nature. It is not good for man to be alone, after all (Gen. 2:18). To be human is to flourish in community, for we are social creatures. The very gifts of Christ—graces, the Holy Spirit, the Eucharist—presume and flow from the community of Christ’s followers. Cue the Church. The Church is the icon of God’s great gathering activity. From the first century on, the Church was proclaimed as the assembly for all peoples: Jew and Gentile, man and woman. Indeed, the Catholic Church is made up of every tribe and race.

There are still other ways to describe how a Catholic life leads to a flourishing human life — like how discipline leads to true freedom, or how Christ’s Sermon on the Mount prepares us for an authentic “blessed” life, or how the Church is the anticipation of the “New Heavens and the New Earth.” But if I could summarize it all, it would be to say that the Catholic Church is where people journey together to receive God himself, who is our ultimate fulfillment. Only with God can we be truly happy.

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