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What is a Good Jewish Boy Like You Doing in a Church Like This?

Her steely blue eyes pierced me as she said, "What are you going to do when you stand before God's throne and He asks you why you abandoned the faith?"

My friend spoke of my migration from Messianic Judaism to Roman Catholicism. This was not the first time I had been asked this. While still a member of a Lubavitch synagogue, it was discovered that I believe Jesus is Messiah. A friend then asked me the same question.

Jews commonly believe that once a Jewish person accepts Jesus as his/her Messiah, that person has betrayed his people and is no longer a Jew. He/she has broken the chain between them and Avraham Avinu (Abraham, our father). This Messianic Jewish woman was no exception

Understanding her point of view, I calmly replied, "I will answer Him, 'My dearest Father, I did not abandon my faith. I embraced it by following Your Son Whom You promised to our fathers through Your holy Prophets.'"

It must seem strange to see a Jewish man going to church on Sunday, praying the rosary, and talking of the Holy Virgin and the saints. To me, the Roman Catholic Church once seemed foreign, even idolatrous. If a short time ago you had suggested that I would be a Roman Catholic and happy to be so, I would have laughed and suggested you see a psychiatrist. I had the same misconceptions as most Protestants about the Roman Catholic Church and wanted nothing to do with it. In fact, I wanted little to do with any Christian church or ecclesial community. That changed quickly.

How Did It Start?

In early August, 2006, a friend took me to Vigil Mass on Saturday night. I was intrigued. I saw elements of Judaism in nearly every part. There was extensive reading from the Old Testament, the Epistles, and the Gospels. People stood for the reading of the Gospel as Jews show great reverence for Torah. Catholics stand for prayer and for reciting the creed. Even the blessings during the consecration of the Eucharist are Jewish in their wordings: "Blessed are You, Lord God of creation...."

So intrigued was I, that I began to study Roman Catholicism. I found that the roots of the Mass reach to the original apostles. I read books on Roman Catholic theology and looked up the proof texts. I found truth where I had assumed there was none. In the process, I clearly heard Jesus calling me to be Roman Catholic.

As fall began, I enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). This eight month class is intended for those who wish to enter the Roman Catholic Church through conversion, but it is open to any one wishing to learn more about the Catholicism. Thankfully, the priest of my parish is very orthodox and took a strong approach to RCIA. He provided a thorugh course which even had a syllabus.

At Easter Vigil, held the evening of Holy Saturday, the new converts enter the Roman Catholic Church through the sacrament of Confirmation and recieve Holy Communion for the first time. I recieved Confirmation and First Holy Communion May 9, 2007 due to a hospitalization during Easter.

As I stood before the RCIA director, my sponser, and my new friends and the priest gave me those sacraments, I felt like my journey was complete--like I had come home. (In reality, it was just beginning!)

'Ready Always to Give an Answer'

It has never been enough for me to believe something. I must know why I believe it and I must know it is true. Consequently, I have read books written on these subjects and given the matters great thought.

In my early teen years, I read Mere Christianity and Evidence that Demands a Verdict. I also read anti-Jewish and anti-Christian books to see the other side. Intellectual honest was important to me, but at that time in my life I was hoping to find Christianity to be full of holes. Instead, I found it to be "Rock" solid.

When I was fifteen years old, my father took me to hear Josh McDowell. I was amazed. This "God Stuff" was real. It was based in the real world and much of it was verifiable in history.

Mr. McDowell explained how the Holy Scriptures were historically accurate. He talked about the historical figures and places mentioned in the Bible and how they matched what historians and archeologists knew. He taught that the abundance of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament verified what we have is accurate and the lack of abundance of manuscripts of the Old Testament proved the reliability of the Old Testament. (This is because of the great reverence with which Jews treat the Sacred Scriptures.)

Predictably, as I approached Catholicism in 2006-7, it was with a need to know why I believed it and that it was true. I read books by Scott Hahn (an author I heartily recommend) as well as The Catechism of the Catholic Church and, of course, the Bible. Having been trained to believe the Bible exactly as it is written and to accept it as our final authority, I found passages that required me to change my thinking about certain things.

An example is redemtive baptism. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the sacrament of Baptism places us in the family of God, that it is a part of our salvation rather than just a sign of that salvation. Consider the following verses:

Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

1Pe 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
1Pe 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
1Pe 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Both are the words of St. Peter, the first to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost and the second to the Church in General. Both clearly tie the forgiveness of sins to Baptism. I had to change my mind. (For a full treatment of this subject, please read Catholic for a Reason edited by Scott Hahn.)

Today, I believe the Roman Catholic Church is correct and I know why I believe that.

('Then Why Did Jesus Have to Die?"

Often, my Protestant friends ask me, "If the Sacraments impart sanctifying grace, then why did Jesus have to die?" I always tell them, "Because He had to die."

Sin is a terrible thing. It is a violation of God's eternal laws and it carries with it a death sentence. Because we inherited the sinfulness of Adam, we are born separated from God and headed for Hell. Jesus, by dying on the cross, rescued us from Hell--if we believe in Him. In the words of Jesus, the Living Word (John 1:1, 14), "...but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

When Jesus died on the cross, He accepted our death sentence and paid it for us. In the words of the Mass,"Dying, He destroyed our death." There is no substitute for Jesus' atoning death. He paid our debt so that we could live with Him. Without Calvary, the sacraments might impart grace, but we would still be under the death sentence we inherited from our father, Adam.

St Peter said this before the Sanhedrin when he said, " Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

St. Paul explained Jesus' life-giving death this way:

1Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.)

Sola Sciptura?

Roman Catholics often point to Sacred Tradition or the Magesterium of the Church as proof for their beliefs. This troubles many Protestants. I had no problem with it. Jews have been doing this for millenia. Still, many Protestants say, "I only believe the Bible. If it isn't in the Bible, I won't believe it. (Then, echoing the words of Martin Luther) Sola Scriptura! [Only Scripture].

Consider this. No one practices Sola Scriptura. Everyone quotes their favorite theologians. Often, I have heard Protestant ministers say from the pulpit, "Now I have no Scripture to confirm this, but I believe...." Pentecostals accept extra-biblical prophecies and messages in tongues as God's Word. Many even seek after a "word from God."

The Roman Catholic Church is not perfect. It has many problems. It will continue to have problems until Jesus returns "to judge the living and the dead." Still, it is a good Church, the oldest among Christians. I am very happy to be a Roman Catholic. I believe God has led me to the Roman Catholic Church and that He has a ministry for me in it. And...

That is What a Good Jewish Boy like me is Doing in a Church like This

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, "I am the light of the world:
he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life"—John 8:12

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