Where do YOU find Jesus? This article called: 'The Church is a living sanctuary where we encounter Jesus' – Archbishop By Monique Agius, asks the faithful to believe that they should encounter Jesus in the sanctuary of the Catholic Church. I was brought up to believe this in my Catholic schools, but things change - especially when we know better. My blog is below, but first, here's a snip from the article:
"Archbishop Charles Scicluna reminded the faithful that the Church is a living sanctuary where one encounters Jesus and warned against turning the Church into a marble museum or a crystal or art museum. Mgr Scicluna was presiding over Mass at the Collegiate Parish Church of St Paul's Shipwreck in Valletta on Sunday. Mgr Scicluna explained that the Church gives the faithful the opportunity to strengthen unity within the community. The Archbishop stated that Sunday Mass was the criteria to overcome injustice.
"The Archbishop reminded that the earliest reference to the "Lord's Supper", a rite traditionally identified with the Eucharist is found in the Letter to the Corinthians which was written before the Gospels. He then spoke of the need to be a witness of Christ in one's daily life, saying that St Paul gave one hope."
Click to read the article
How it Was
When I grew up, the church was a place where I went every day except Saturday. In those days, daily Mass was a part of every Catholic kid's education. And of course, Sunday Mass was a day of "obligation," and every Catholic was expected to fulfill that obligation; in fact, to neglect that obligation constituted grave sin. So, being in church was an accepted and necessary part of life.
I was taught that Jesus was there in the church. The crucifix hanging over the altar was a fixture in every church that was a constant reminder. Not only that, but the tabernacle - a sort of little gold house with lacy curtains that sat on top of the main altar- was where the consecrated wafers for Mass were kept. Those consecrated wafers were, and still are, thought to be the actual presence of Jesus - his actual body and blood that was "transubstantiated" from bread and wine into his actual physical substance during Mass. At special times, the monstrance - a large, ornate sculpture that resembled the sun - was brought out for special devotion to Jesus. In the center of the "sun" was a small receptacle where a large, consecrated wafer was kept under glass, so as not to get dirty. It is this wafer that is adored during these special devotional times.
All of this is by way of sharing with you the importance of the church itself to Catholics. It's little wonder that many of us grew up believing that Church was where Jesus lived, much like the bishop teaches in the article above. In my studies, I never remember being taught that I could find God - or Jesus - anywhere but in the confines of the church building. I was taught to pray to Jesus, to Mary, and to the saints, but prayer was very ritualized, too. There were set prayers that had to be memorized and recited. Spontaneity was not encouraged. It never occurred to me to talk to Jesus, or to God.
The article referenced above says quite a lot about Paul, but not all that much about Jesus. It is curious, isn't it? These days, I look at Paul with a very jaundiced eye. In my view, Pauline Christianity does not bear a lot of resemblance to the Jesusonian teachings of The Urantia Book. In fact, considering his doctrines of atonement and a wrathful God, it is very unlike what I now understand about either God or Jesus.
When I was in my 20s and seriously weighing a decision to stop going to church, it was the words of Jesus - not Paul - that somewhat set my mind at ease. In my experience, almost everything I ever heard Jesus say rang true to me. I trusted Jesus because of that, and I suspected that even if I did leave the church, I could still be okay with Jesus. Today, I understand that that inner certainty about Jesus was most likely the ministry of the Spirit of Truth. It gave me courage. And I needed courage; when one decides to stop going to church, one is really ceasing to be a Catholic, because that's the only place where Mass happens. The Mass IS Catholicism. And deviation from Church attendance is grounds for hellfire and eternal damnation.
Fast forward about 15 years, when I found The Urantia Book. During the intervening years, I did leave the church. Unfortunately, my belief in the church was still so ingrained in me that when I left the church, I effectively left God behind, too. Those were difficult years. But somewhere in my deepest mind, I always believed in Jesus. I believed that he understood why I did what I did. But I did not know how to contact him, because I was not willing to go back to church. But when I did finally surrender to Jesus, it was the old prayer - the "Our Father" that was the first prayer that I said. And I did go back to Mass, too - at least briefly. Old patterns are difficult to alter. The Church was my only connection to spirituality then. In the transition to the new teachings of The Urantia Book, the Catholic rituals provided a much-needed bridge.
As soon as I opened The Urantia Book to Part IV - the Life and Teachings of Jesus, I knew that my faith was not misplaced. I found the Jesus that I always knew was the true Savior - the understanding, forgiving friend of sinners.
And I discovered God again, too, in a way that I had never known him. I discovered that he had been with me all along as the Thought Adjuster - living in my mind, guiding me through the twists and turns of the life I had chosen. I saw in retrospect how his presence had made a huge difference in my life, even when I did not acknowledge or understand him. I may have forsaken him, but He had never forsaken me.
This revolutionary teachings of the presence of God-within as the Thought Adjuster made life so very different from that moment on! I learned that God cannot be contained in a building, in a tabernacle, in a wafer, in a sacrament. I learned that God is truth, God is beauty, and God is goodness. I may find God in the forest, at the Safeway store, at the park with the children, at the post office, in the hospital, in the old-age home, and yes - even at church. But he's only found at any of these places because I bring him there with me. He does not live separate from me. Moreover, I discovered God to be a person - a personality who can be known and loved, not feared. A Father/God who loves me as an individual person and whose will for me is only good.
The teachings of the ministry of the Indweller also open wide the door to true religion and what religion really is. From that teaching springs the revelation about the religion that Jesus himself practiced and preached: the religion of personal spiritual experience. This religion is surely one of the most liberating teachings that can set the spiritual captive free! And it is a teaching that can be lived out and proven to each individual. No priest required; no sacrament required; no church required. Just you and God...oh, joy!!!
How it Is
Today, I rarely go to the Catholic Church. But when I go, I am always glad. The memories of my childhood in the Church are not all bad - in fact, the rituals, the smells, the statues, the candles...all of these things have a certain remembered comfort that goes along with them. I almost always take Communion when I go to Mass, even though the priests would label me a heretic and condemn me to hell for it. In my heart, I know that Jesus does not feel that way. I know that Jesus always invites all who will come to his table.
Paul single-handedly turned the sublimely simple remembrance supper of Jesus into the ritualistic ceremony of transubstantiation, making it far more exclusive and mysterious than it ever should have been. How I wish that the simple Remembrance Supper inaugurated by Jesus at the Last Supper would be re-discovered and adapted to the Catholic Mass - so that all who wish to, might take part in this lovely ritual of fellowship with Jesus and fellowship with those who love him. The teachings of The Urantia Book would set this ritual free and allow all followers of the Master to join in free and loving fellowship.
But then, that would truly be the end, wouldn't it? If something like that happened, the Church would no longer be an exclusive club. If anyone who wanted could share a simple remembrance supper free from intermediaries, what would the priests and bishops do with themselves? If the church building became just a building where believers gathered to share their spiritual experiences of God together, would it still have the same draw? If everyone understood that they carry God with them at all times, anyone's living room might become as inspiring a church as any magnificent edifice.
I know that the Church is not ready for any such thing. Man-made, evolutionary religion is quite a long, drawn-out affair. It will likely take centuries for the Church - any church - to catch up to the teachings of The Urantia Book about God. The revelational religion of personal experience will upstep it it one heart at a time. But in the meantime, those of us who have discovered those teachings can begin to see the truth of these promises:
100:7.18 Jesus was the perfectly unified human personality. And today, as in Galilee, he continues to unify mortal experience and to co-ordinate human endeavors. He unifies life, ennobles character, and simplifies experience. He enters the human mind to elevate, transform, and transfigure it. It is literally true: "If any man has Christ Jesus within him, he is a new creature; old things are passing away; behold, all things are becoming new."
Jesus really does simplify life. I invite all who can relate to my musings here to explore The Urantia Book. Read Part IV; discover Jesus anew in your own hearts; discover the indwelling fragment of God in your heart and prove to yourself the freedom of a life lived in partnership with God. Don't wait for Sunday church. Find God today - where you are and as you are.