"For 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).
Raising two small children alone after her divorce was a challenge that often brought Carol to tears. She was lonely and afraid she couldn't provide for her daughters. Help came from Mrs. G, the woman who lived next door and babysat many of the neighborhood children after school. Carol's daughters would often come home singing little children's hymns and carrying macaroni pictures of Bible stories. Carol wasn't sure how she felt about religion being part of day care, but she soon found herself singing along with her daughters, "Jesus loves me this I know, 'cause the Bible tells me so..." In time, the words would become more than just a catchy tune. They would become a way of life.
God comes to us through his son, Jesus, who had a special love for the poor and downtrodden. He healed the sick, forgave sins, suffered and sacrificed his life for others. Through him we learn about the expansive love and mercy of our God who wants nothing more than to be in a relationship with us.
Jesus teaches that to be in that loving relationship with God and each other we must be servants, and we must carry the cross, as he did. But Jesus also shows us that love cannot be conquered by death. His triumph over the grave is our triumph, too.
Through his Resurrection we are confident of eternal life with him in Heaven. Though Jesus has returned to his Father in Heaven, he remains with us on earth through the power of the Holy Spirit in the Eucharist, his Body and Blood. He speaks to us through the Word of God, is present in his Church and meets us in our neighbors. Jesus said, "I will remain with you always" and Jesus keeps his promises.
"For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians12:13).
When Carol accepted the invitation to spend Thanksgiving day with Mrs. G and her family, she had no idea the day would begin with Mass. She hadn't been through the doors of a church in years but she hesitated to insult the woman who had done so much to help her get back on her feet. As they made their way to the pew, Carol felt her uneasiness subside. She noticed the people around her, how different they all were. But something had brought them all here together. Carol recognized the opening hymn, and joined in the familiar responses. She recalled, "When I started to say the creed, 'I believe in God...and his only son, Jesus Christ...' I began to remember the faith I used to have. I felt some of the pain of the past years slipping away."
The heart of our Catholic faith is a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a relationship that heals us, transforms us and saves us. This relationship begins with our Baptism and is nourished throughout our lives with prayer, worship and the sacraments where we meet Jesus in a special way. Our Catholic faith leads us to a loving God who created us to share in his own life and who continually invites us to share in the unity of his family, the Church. We are united in love and in love we move out into the world to serve all of God's people.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7).
Carol's journey home to her Catholic faith began well before she walked through the doors of the church. Her pain, loneliness and fear were all leading her to Jesus and the community of faith where she could find peace and companionship as she renewed her walk with God. In the days and months ahead, as Carol took baby steps back to the Church, she shared her story with Mrs. G, only to find out that this joy-filled Catholic was not always Catholic. "I was a 'taste and see' kind of person," Mrs. G acknowledged. "Taste a little of this religion and see if I liked it!" Then, as a young wife, Mrs. G attended the funeral Mass of a close friend. "It was the most beautiful expression of faith I had ever experienced. I knew from that moment on, I would be home in the Catholic Church. After all, everyone needs a place to call home."
God invites all human persons to a more abundant life as children of God, to live in truth and love, and find meaning and purpose in life. In a world that poses innumerable challenges to these goals, we find hope in our Catholic faith.
As part of the living Body of Christ that is the Church, we never face these challenges alone. Jesus is our constant companion and the Holy Spirit is our strength. We walk in the company of angels and the holy men and woman who have gone before us. With the entire People of God we are part of a faith history that began more than 2,000 years ago when God revealed himself to us through his Son, Jesus. Each of us has a place in that love story. Are you ready to claim yours?