Why do I need God in my life? I really cannot answer that question. All I know is that I need God. Without faith life seems dreary and empty. Without God the world seems so grey.
And yet there is so much division within Christianity, not to mention the differences between the various religions the world over. One could get discouraged from all this. My own questions and struggles with sexual issues are a source of conflict for myself, a constant nagging about the salvation of my own soul. I just watched a program on television about objective moral truth, and someone asked the question, “Well, if you miss Mass on Sunday, will God really send you to hell.” The priest-theologian who responded said, “Well, it is possible. After all, the Church teaches objectively that this is a wrong.” So it is all that simple, all that black and white. Miss one Mass and you will cast into hell forever by a vengeful God? If that is true then what about my own sexual sins? Or my own sexual thoughts? If there are objective rules and laws I am violating, listed precisely in a Catechism, then what hope do I have? As someone asked me recently, “Why bother at all with God?” Clearly I am a religious criminal who needs to be hanged, drawn and quartered before being shipped off to Hell.
It is hard for me, even after a lifetime of being Catholic, to understand such things. For some people, faith seems so simple and easy, a set of rules, laws, regulations to be followed. “Well, it is all for your own good,” they may say. Perhaps this true. I have never said the Church is wrong and I am right. I merely need to ask questions about things. That alone seems to make me slightly dangerous in a religious sense. Asking me to merely believe in all the Church says is difficult. “If the Church says that white is black, then you must believe it.” This was another response from another of the speakers on this show. A friend of mine often spoke about “the Truth” in such an abstract and intellectual way, it seemed to lack all charity. He was an engineer, and everything was concrete and black and white for him. It was so easy for him to follow the Catechism. For me it is not so easy. I have noticed that for certain types of people, following rules and laws are easy (such as people who like math, accountants, engineers, computer programmers, etc); for others it is not so (artists, musicians, writers, etc.). Types do exist in human nature and the one type that likes rules often dislikes the other type that is resistant to rules. The left brain logic and order crowd fights against the right brain creativity and subjectivity crowd and vice versa. It seems to me that so much of Western Christianity has been dominated by the left brain dynamics towards faith.
For me belief in God is more a mystical sort of experience. Yes, I need the structure of an organized religion too. I also need to know what I believe in. And intellectual structure to faith is essential. But I need that ineffable sense of God’s presence in my life, that daily understanding of something greater than myself infusing my life and my world and my soul. For me this cannot be completely explained. Prayer is more powerful than anything else; but what of the rules? Someone once asked, if the Church is wrong in some small matter, then does not that mean she can wrong in the big matters too? I really don’t have the answer to this, except to say, no, I don’t think so. How or why, I don’t know. For me it is just a matter of faith.
In the end, at least for me, faith is about something mysterious, and not logical. It just IS. As God said to Moses, and as Jesus later said, I AM. Many orthodox icons emphasis this by writing the Greek participle next to the image of Christ, HO ON. It is impossible to bring this sense out in English, since as to this day ancient Greek is a much more naturally subtle and beautiful language when it comes to such philosophical expressions, but it basically means, “The Being” or “The One Who is the Being”.
The Great Schism (the split that occurred between the Catholic and Orthodox churches in 1054) has tended to deprive Western Christianity of these great Eastern mystical traditions for at least a thousand years. I long for more of them in my own spiritual and religious life. They fit better my right brain tendencies. One gets tired of being told how wrong you are over and over again by the Law and Order crowd.