The integrated faith
This is No. 25 in the series. Please read my introduction and explanation here.
As I enter the home-stretch of my month-long series on why I left the Catholic Church, I want to reiterate and highlight, without qualification, the many praiseworthy deeds of countless Catholics living out their faith. In hospitals, homeless shelters, food banks, schools, crisis pregnancy centers…wherever the hungry and hurting are, you’ll find Catholic men and women sacrificing to help meet their needs.
I also want to affirm the purity and sincerity of their faith. I hope I haven’t inadvertently communicated that I think Catholics do good works for the sole purpose of having an impressive resume when they stand before God. Or to have something to boast about. I do not believe that. Well…some probably do, but that’s true of non-Catholic Christians as well. I believe many if not most of them have a genuine love for and faith in Christ that animates their prayers, their worship, their deeds, and their very lives as they seek to obey him.
My parents were wonderful examples of this. When my mother passed away almost nine years ago, my siblings and I divided up her earthly possessions – our father had been gone three years by then. One of the items I wanted was her Bible, which I claimed along with a few prayer books they had. Though I don’t recall actually seeing either of them reading these books (when we were with them they were with us, you know?), I’m sure they did, as the multiple bookmarks indicate. Looking at them today, I can well picture them turning the pages and now and then closing their eyes as they contemplated the prayers they were sharing in.
My parents’ faith was real and it “spurred them on to love and good deeds.”1 They loved God and they loved others, doing their best to obey the first and second greatest commandments.2 They had integrity of faith. One of the definitions of integrity is, “completeness; the state of being complete or undivided.” This is the meaning of the word translated “perfect” in Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It describes having a fully-integrated faith that incorporates every facet of your life. For Mom and Dad, faith wasn’t something you practiced on Sunday mornings; it was how you lived your life.
That’s why this print I gave them one Christmas seemed so appropriate. I don’t know if you can see it here, but the businessman seems to be looking just to the left of Jesus, which I’m sure was intentional because it conveys an image of a man looking at Jesus in his mind’s eye, instead of with the eyes in his head. And thinking about what the Word of God himself has said, and how to apply it to his work, his home, his relationships, his entertainment.
Dad hung the painting in his home office. I hope he saw himself at the desk there, and was encouraged by that and by the words of Psalm 1:1 that were printed below it: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”
I discovered today as I was researching the artist, that the painting was even more appropriate than I had thought. Harry Anderson enjoyed considerable commercial success until shortly after he became a Christian when he decided he could no longer in good conscience illustrate for some of the advertisements and stories to which he had previously been commissioned. This decision resulted in financial hardship for him and his young family, but it was the only decision a man with integrity of faith could make.
I still have more issues with certain Catholic practices and teachings which I will address this week as I round out my 30 reasons. But today I want to honor and affirm the genuine faith of the true believing Christians who identify as Catholics. May God richly bless you with the knowledge of his all-sufficient salvation.
John 6:47 – Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
1 Hebrews 10:24 2 Mark 12:28-31