There is one question in the world that human beings yearn for the answer to: Is there life after death? Or in other words: Is there a reward for being the best we can possibly be in life when the mortal shells of our worldly existence fall to the ravages of time? This is where faith comes in.
In this life we have a wide variety of faiths that explore that two-fold question, and I shall give you an example of some of their answers. Buddhism says (or perhaps it’s Hinduism that believes in reincarnation…I have a bad habit of getting the 2 mixed up): I don’t know, or that your reward is to be born into this imperfect world again and again. Some reward, to be burdened with another imperfect life, eh? Conficius says: I don’t know. I’m beginning to sense a bit of a theme here. Other faiths believe that the things of this imperfect world have divine powers. Say what? How can an imperfect thing have any divine power over us? Still other faiths believe in a god or gods upon whom they seek to project their own human arrogance towards those deemed “not worthy.” And that’s the kind of god some say exists after death? One who is arrogant? I say no way!
This is what makes Christianity in general and Catholic Christianity in particular so unique. We as Christians believe in a God who loves us so much that He created the universe and all life within it so that he could share His love. We believe in a God who loves us so much that He gave us the freedom to choose whether or not to love Him of our own free will. We believe in a God who loves us so much, that He allows us to make mistakes and learn from their consequences so that we might grow in understanding. We believe in a God who loves us so much, that He humbled Himself, became human, so that we might have a reward for seeking to rid ourselves of our darker impulses while we live in this world. This is the heart, the essence, of Christianity. We follow God, to seek a personal relationship with Him. We seek to follow Him into divinity because He followed us into humanity. And we as Catholic Christians in particular believe in a God who chose a woman and elevated her as a real-world example of the kind of perfect dedication we seek to give to God: the Blessed Virgin and Mother of Christianity, the woman Mary. Like a mother who, after bringing us forth into the world through her labor, points us in the direction of our fathers, their husbands who create in their wives new life, who say to us “Look upon your father,” Mary brings us forth into the new life we seek in Christ and points Him out to us. This is why in some Catholic Churches you may see that the statue of the Blessed Mother is positioned in such a way so as to be pointing to the ever-present crucifix and the tabernacle beneath it.
We as Catholics believe in a God who loves us so much that not only did He make Himself into a sacrificial lamb for our sins, but also chose and elevated a woman who He knew would dedicate her life perfectly to Him to be the Mother of all who come to be re-created by God through His sacrifice, the mother of all the truly living, the new Eve who will lead us to our final reward when we die which is to dwell in Christ, the new Adam, for all eternity: Mary. In this way the Catholic Church, modeled after this woman of perfect love for God, has a much more real connection with the loving God of Christianity, made ever more real by the near perfect re-enactment of the Last Supper through the Eucharist. In no other church in this world do you see such a real and ever-present connection between mortal and divine. Don’t get me wrong. I love my Protestant brethren to death. But I choose to remain in a Christian Church whose beauty and richness in the sacred Tradition make the connection between me and my Lord more real. And the Catholic Church was, is, and forever shall be, this Church of God, the Church that makes the new life we seek more real than it could ever be in any other church, more real than sacred Scripture alone could ever make it.
So when you sail the ocean of life, you need to choose where to set your anchor. Will you set your anchor in the imperfect and transient things of this mortal life? Or will you set your anchor in a god who has no mercy upon us in our imperfection? Or will you instead set your anchor in a God who loves you so much that He would humble Himself, make Himself our loving sacrificial lamb, so that we might have life after death, and who also happens to sometimes reveal His presence to us even more concretely in the form of miracles, events that defy all rational explanation? And when you choose a church, will you choose one that glorifies the imperfect and transient things of this world? Or perhaps will you choose one whose rituals and formality remain closed to those who seek mercy? Or will you instead choose one whose rituals and formality seek to make God more real to us and whose rituals and formality seek to create a more real and sense-perceptible sign of His mercy and love? Our time in this world is limited, so I recommend making your choice and making it wisely.