rembrandt head of christWhen I resigned from my position as an Anglican priest one of the ladies in the parish was very upset.

She couldn’t figure out the point of my decision.

“Surely!” she cried, “All that really matters is how much we love Jesus?”

This is the response from many non-Catholics when faced with the doctrinal claims of the Catholic church.

In some ways they are right. How much we love Jesus is the most important thing, but that’s where the discussion begins, not where it ends.

We have to ask what the person means when they say they love Jesus and if the degree of love for Jesus is what really matters how is that love for Jesus quantified?

Is “how much we love Jesus” measured by how one feels in worship or prayer? Does the degree of one’s love for Jesus depend on religious feelings? Surely not. That is too subjective a criterion.

I suggest that we judge how much we “love Jesus” by how much we understand and obey his commands.

So for instance, in John 3 Jesus says that a person cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Most followers of Jesus would therefore agree that a person needs to have faith and be baptized. This is how one is born of water and the Spirit, and that is a clear indicator of how much one loves Jesus.

So far so good. Jesus also says that the first commandment is to love God and love your neighbor and St John says that if we say we have the love of God but do not love our neighbor then the love of God is not within us. So if we do not love our neighbor then we can’t claim to love Jesus very much either.

Now it gets tricky. Jesus also says that unless a person “eats and drinks the flesh of the Son of Man and drinks his blood he does not have life within him.” If understanding and obeying Jesus is the way one measures one’s degree of loving Jesus, then we have to say that if they deny that the bread and wine at communion become the body and blood of Christ, then they are not understanding or obeying Jesus as fully as they might. How much do they love Jesus if they deny the reality of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist? Not enough it would seem.

In John 17 Jesus prayed to the Father that all his disciples would be one and he said there would be “one flock and one shepherd.” He asked Peter in John 23 to be that shepherd and in Matthew’s gospel he said he would build his church on Peter and his confession of faith. So if it is Jesus desire and will that all be one under the one shepherd then if a person doesn’t keeps himself separate from that one church which is the only one which claims and has any claim to be that one church (that is the Catholic Church) then how much do they love Jesus? Not enough it would seem.

For an Evangelical Christian to become a Catholic is not to deny all that is good within his non-Catholic faith, but to embrace more. My book More Christianity explains how becoming a Catholic is not a negation but an addition. It is not a denial, but an affirmation. It is a step from division to unity. It is a move from “mere Christianity” to “More Christianity”.

If all that matters is how much we love Jesus, then by becoming Catholics we learn how (and are given the grace) to love him just as much as possible.