Today I was fairly worried about all of my sin, and a very bad week in general. So I went to confession, I did everything right, and I believe in the sacrament, but I felt nothing. I then was kneeling in Mass wondering if this was all due to the scruples I have over the validity of my baptism, etc. I still felt nothing. Scripture was read. I said all the right words, and I even received the Lord in the sacrament of the Eucharist. But in the end I felt nothing really.
Now as a Thomist I don't go by feeling, I go by thinking. But I couldn't help but worry. It wasn't until I looked again at the image of the sacred heart of Jesus with the words "Jesus I trust in you" that I came to a revelation (which God has taught me many times, and probably will again in the future).
I realized that Karl Barth's criticism is true. Idolatry is really just trying to 'lay hands on God', tell God what he can do, where he can appear, etc. One of the criticisms of Catholicism is our canon law legalism, by which I mean: we limit God to the sacraments. This is a misunderstanding of Catholic theology, but an understandabe one. Hans Urs Von Balthasar retorted to Karl Barth that Protestants (Calvinists especially) do the exact same thing with their theology: "I believe so God has to accept me". This is a misunderstanding of Protestant theology. If Catholics turn sacraments into works meritting salvation, Protestants turn sola fide into the great work to merit salvation.
What I remembered today was the ultimate cause of my salvation: the Lord Jesus Christ my Redeemer. At the end of the day, I can have all the formulas and sacraments, I can know all the right words. Those are all great things, hallelujah for tham. But if I miss Christ, if I don't kneel before God in utter dependence on Christ, then I've missed what every theology and every rite was for: to make me look to Jesus.
As I contemplated all of this, and final judgment, I was reminded of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus (God rest his soul) who was a Lutheran convert and wrote this about his response on the last day:
“When I come before the judgment throne, I will plead the promise of God in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I will not plead any work that I have done, although I will thank God that he has enabled me to do some good. I will plead no merits other than the merits of Christ, knowing that the merits of Mary and the saints are all from him; and for their company, their example, and their prayers throughout my earthly life I will give everlasting thanks. I will not plead that I had faith, for sometimes I was unsure of my faith, and in any event that would be to turn faith into a meritorious work of my won. I will not plead that I held the correct understanding of “justification by faith alone,” although I will thank God that he led me to know ever more fully the great truth that much misunderstood formulation was intended to protect. Whatever little growth in holiness I have experienced, whatever strength I have received from the company of the saints, whatever understanding I have attained of God and his ways - these and all other gifts received I will bring gratefully to the throne. But in seeking entry to that heavenly kingdom, I will… look to Christ and Christ alone.” - Fr. Richard John Neuhaus "Death on a Friday"
He took the words right out of my mouth. As much as I detest existentialist metaphysics, I must say that in my Christian faith experience I can relate to Existentialism alot. This might be why I love the Rosary so much, it reminds me of Jesus my saviour, and Mary my model for trust in and service to him, it removes me from focusing on my weakness, and makes me look to God for strength.