Life is filled with unexpected surprises, and it’s a delight and a surprise for me to share how I came to see the Roman Catholic Church to be the family of God that He wants all of His children to share in. Fulton Sheen once said, and I paraphrase, that there are not 100 people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, although there might be millions of people who hate what they mistakenly believe the Catholic Church to be and to teach. And thankfully I discovered I fell into the second category. Because for years I opposed the Catholic Church, and I worked hard to get Catholics to leave the Church. But I came to see through a lot of study and considerable prayer that the Roman Catholic Church is based in Scripture.
That’s what I’d like to share with you this morning. It begins with a conversion experience that I had in high school. I didn’t grow up in a strong Christian family. We didn’t go to church very often, and so I wasn’t very religious. What the Lord used in my life was an organization called Young Life, an outreach to unchurched high school kids, and a man named Jack in particular who befriended me and also shared with me the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It made a profound difference in my life.
Early in my high school years I made a commitment and I asked Jesus Christ into my heart; I asked Him to be my savior and Lord. I gave Him my sins and I received the gift of forgiveness and salvation. It made a world of difference for me. It cost me a lot of my friends, but the Lord in a sense more than made up for that by giving me real friends, friends in Christ.
Jack, who taught me to love the Lord, also taught me to read the Bible and not just to read it but to study it, and not just to study it, but to soak in it – to read it and to re-read it from beginning to end. By the time I was finishing high school, I had gone through the Bible two or three times in its entirety. And I had fallen in love with Sacred Scripture. As a result of that I’d become convinced of a couple things.
First, in addition to reading the Bible, Jack had shared with me from his own personal library the writings of Martin Luther, the writings of John Calvin, and I became a convinced Protestant Christian, not just a bible Christian, but somebody who was convinced that up until the 1500’s the Gospel had almost been lost amidst all the medieval superstition and all the pagan practices that the Catholic Church had adopted. And so this first conviction was to help my Catholic friends to see the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ, to show them the Bible, and to show them that in the Bible, you just accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and that’s all it takes. None of this claptrap: Not Mary, not the saints, not purgatory, not devotions, just asking Jesus to be Savior and Lord.