As a new Catholic, one of the things that I appreciate the most of the Church is the universality to the world in the application of her liturgy and sacraments. This Tradition, despite some of the anti-Catholic hysteria that is out there, is not from way later but early in history. Today I am reflecting how this Tradition is universal, prophetic and effective for an authentic Christian life.
Irreneus about 195 AD said—
“For though languages differ throughout the world, the content of the Tradition is one and the same. The Churches established in Germany have no other faith or Tradition, nor do those of the Iberians, nor those of the Celts, nor those of the East, of Egypt, of Libya, nor those established at the center of the world. . .” The Church’s message “is true and solid, in which one and the same way of salvation appears throughout the whole world (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 174).”
Were all of the books in his time that were read in the mass what we have in the Bible today? No. But those books that were read in some areas but not others were certainly not contradicting those that were. First Clement and the Epistle of Barnabas would still point to a Christianity that was apostolic in succession and eucharistic in practice.
The reference to “throughout the whole world” is important not only in light of Church history but salvation history. Malachi wrote the following passage that makes room for a valid sacrifice to God in the future that would be beyond the confines of a levitical priesthood.
“From the rising of the sun to its setting,
my name is great among the nations;
Incense offerings are made to my name everywhere,
and a pure offering;
For my name is great among the nations,
says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 1:11).
Up to the time of Malachi, any offerings to God had to be in a constructed tabernacle in an ordered way with animal sacrifice and centered on one ethnicity. With Jesus and his salvation re-presented in the mass the de facto segregation of salvation history is over.
As zealous as I am to be a new Catholic in continuation of my long-term life as a Christian, I recognize an emphasis in this week’s homework that the Catholic Church is not an end to itself but a means to the end that comes in relationship to Jesus.
Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother: “We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation.” Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith (CCC, para. 169). As Augustine put it, ‘I would not believe in the Gospels were it not for the authority of the Catholic Church’ (Against the Letter of Mani Called “The Foundation” 5:6)
For those that have left the Catholic Church saying that they could not have a relationship with Jesus and/or the Bible, I would challenge them to consider how much of the practices and teachings were either passed on properly or practiced.
Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. As personal adherence to God and assent to his truth, Christian faith differs from our faith in any human person. It is right and just to entrust oneself wholly to God and to believe absolutely what he says. It would be futile and false to place such faith in a creature (CCC, para.150).
Did you both go to mass and pay attention? If you did, there is an ordered lectionary where you would get four separate readings from the Bible each Sunday.
Did you try the Rosary in its fullness? This sacramental that is inspired by the Sacred Tradition relies on 20 mysteries centered on rich Christology. 19 out of 20 are explicitly in Scripture.
Did you lack a sense of the Holy Spirit? With no danger of contradicting the continuity of Sacred Tradition there has been a living charismatic renewal since at least the 1960’s in the Catholic Church. And even if you do not have a Pentecostal temperament the witness of the Catholic Church is very much centered on the pursuit and fruits of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
There is nothing stopping the individual but themselves.