These Faith pages are intended as an overview to some of the key tenets of the Catholic faith. We hope they are interesting and helpful to both Catholics and anyone would like to grow in their faith.
The following is derived from the Catholic Truth Society booklet “Welcome Home, Belonging to the Church” by Dwight Longenecker (All rights reserved copyright 2003).
A big thank you to the CTS. Details of their website can be found on our Links page.
One of the most famous stories Jesus Christ told was about a runaway son. They boy went to his wealthy father and asked for his inheritance money early. The doting father gave him some cash and the boy ran off and wasted the money on parties and pleasure.
When the money ran out the boy’s friends ran out too. Hard times hit the city and soon the boy was stuck with no money, no friends, no qualifications and no future. He ended up taking a job as a pig farmer, and had to fight the pigs for enough food to eat. Then he remembered his father.
At that point Jesus said the boy ‘came to himself.’ He saw himself and his circumstances as they really were. He realised how good he’d had it at home. Even his father’s servants were better off than he was. If he were to go home and volunteer to be a servant in his father’s house perhaps he would at least have a decent meal every day.
The boy started on the long road home. As he approached he saw that his father was at the front gate waiting and watching for his return. The father rejoiced at his son’s return, forgave him everything and welcomed him home with a great homecoming feast.
Whena person decides to change their life and follow God’s way instead of their own selfish way through life it is just like the homecoming of that runaway son. Every time we take a step towards God and away from our own selfishness it is as if we have arrived home. Part of us is complete. A deep dark corner of our lives is touched with light and we begin to glimpse the posssibility of finding the peace we have always looked for.
Brothers and Sisters
One of the first Christian leaders named Paul said that to come home like this was to become a member of the family of God. He recognised that all who follow Jesus Christ are the fugitive sons and daughters of God, and that to be restored to the family we first have to turn towards home.
This is a reality, not just a theory or a nice way of talking about being religious. Once we turn from our way and accept Christ’s way; once we believe that Jesus Christ died to give us new life, a real transformation takes place in our relationship with God. Like runaways we have come home, and the father welcomes us with open arms. As the father did in the story, God then gives us a whole array of good gifts.
This new relationship with God means we are also in a new relationship with every other person who has ever followed Jesus Christ down through the centuries. For two thousand years people have taken the same decision. They too have realised that Jesus Christ died for them. They have also decided to leave everything and follow him. Each in their own way have also returned home and been welcomed into the family of God.
The word ‘Holiness’ is linked to the word ‘wholeness’. When person is holy, he or she is whole. They are complete, mature, fully formed. He or she is all that they possibly could be . The waring elements in their nature have been reconciled. Priorities have been established and that person has learned to live at peace with themselves, God and with everyone else.
Jesus Christ was perfectly human in this way. He not only reveals the fullness of God, but he also reveals the full potential of humanity. When we follow Christ we do not simply seek to follow his teaching. We actually want to be like him. We want to be transformed into ‘little Christs’. He was the perfectly whole person, and we want to be as perfectly whole and unified as he was.
The difference between the Christian faith and a self help programme is that Christians admit that fact that they cannot make this transformation happen on their own. We might be able to lose weight, give up smoking or exercise more through will power, but a a real lasting inner transformation of our whole personalities is more than we can manage.
Real, lasting inner change is impossible to accomplish on our own for two reasons. First, we cannot manage this sort of change because we have so many blind spots about our own faults. How can we change if we honestly cannot see the things that need to be changed ?
Second, we cannot change on our own because we do not have the power to change ourselves. The power to be really transformed can only be the power that made us in the first place, and we do not control that power. God does. Christians therefore ask for God to transform us by his special power.
‘Grace’ is the power of God at work in our lives to transform us into all that he wants us to be. Grace is available to us free for the asking. If we ask for the grace to change, God really does enter our lives and transform us. Grace comes to us in many ways, but it is most present to us through the life and ministry of the Church.
We know that God sent Jesus not to condemn the world, but to save the world. We pray that through Jesus’ death and resurrection all people might be saved, and we trust God to answer this prayer in his own way.