On many occasions, I have encountered people who relate to me a certain frustration about a family member or friend who left the Catholic faith for another religion and who is no longer practicing the Catholic faith in which he or she was baptized. Sometimes there also is an indifferent attitude towards any fundamental disparities among the various religions. They will inevitably say something to me like: “I guess it’s okay, Father, as long as they believe in God.”
While my intention here in this column is not to debate the essential teachings of each particular faith or denomination—and I do agree that a person should believe in God—the “god” that a person believes in is extremely important because Jesus told us that it is so.
Jesus reaffirmed the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures when He referenced the book of Deuteronomy:
[A Scholar of the Law asked Jesus:] “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mt. 22: 36-37)
The broader passage to which Jesus referred speaks boldly of the necessity of believing in the one, true God:
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. (Dt. 6: 4-9)
Our Lord also says something quite important regarding our path to God:
(Jn. 14: 6)
Jesus “fulfilled” (cf. Mt. 5:17) a faith background (Judaism) in which its faithful followers were strict monotheists who believed that there was only one, true God. Christians take this a step further by professing that Jesus was the Incarnate Revelation of God as His Only, Begotten Son. And so, as Catholic Christians we must believe in God as revealed to us by Jesus Himself. This is not negotiable. Any other “god” would be a “false god.”
I am sure that many well-intentioned people are certainly hoping for the best for their friends or relatives—hoping that, at the very minimum, they believe in God in some way, shape or form. However, God took the time to reveal Himself to us in the Person of Jesus. Settling for anything less than what Jesus taught, once we have the teaching from God Himself, is incomplete and, in many circumstances, false.
When we profess our creed at Mass (and at other times), think seriously about its meaning and various implications. Martyrs through the centuries have given their lives so that our faith—in its fullness—could be passed on to subsequent generations.
I believe in one God . . .
We say this for a reason.
Fr. Ed NamiotkaPastor