Who are You, Lord?
June 2007, in the process of changing jobs, I had a two-month gap in my employment. I considered it unacceptable but it can’t be helped.
There were a lot of things I thought of doing, but for some reason I didn’t do what I would have typically done. Instead, I became curious about things I never paid attention to. I was too busy with school and then with work so I didn’t have time to stop and think about life.
Oddly, I wanted to know more about God. I didn’t know what I wanted to know. It just felt like there was something important about God that I had to know but I wasn’t sure because I didn’t know what I needed to know. The feeling was subtle and non-urgent so it could be easily dismissed if I had other more important things to do.
I squinted at the white cottony clouds in the sky, “Are You really that way?” — Distant. Looking down from heaven with raised eyebrows and crossed arms. Recording every action and every word of mankind. Eager to punish every wrongdoing.
I only knew Jesus from Bible stories taught in school. I considered Him as loving, gentle, and gracious contrary to God the Father who I perceived as stern and unapproachable. Then there was little information taught about the Holy Spirit.
How can I get to heaven when I die? I’m afraid to die because I don’t think I’d go to heaven.
They say only good people will go to heaven. But how is it that those who are considered “good”, like priests and nuns, are also uncertain of their destination.
I’m not a good person because I know I am the most ill-tempered in our clan. I have done a lot of wicked things though not as evil as criminals. I don’t think I can be good because it’s difficult to be good. So what will happen to me?
Is There More to Life Than This?
I was raised in a Catholic family in a predominantly Catholic country. My siblings and I went to Catholic schools from grade school through college. Most of my beliefs and what I know about my religion came from school rather than my family or the church.
In college, I found some discrepancies between the Catholic Bible and what is taught in school and in the church. One of which is the teaching about the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20.
I expected to read something familiar but I froze when I got to the second commandment: You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
I scanned the title page and found the imprimatur of the Catholic church. But why is this part of the Bible different from what we memorized in school? Did someone alter the teachings of the church and no one is aware of it? Surely, the Catholic church has a valid explanation.
I dismissed my questions because I had no one to clarify it with.
But more than answers to specific questions about my faith, I wanted to make sense of everything. I wanted to know what life is really all about. Do we live only to study, graduate, make money, get married, raise kids, grow old, then die? Is this all there is to life? These are common pursuits in life but to what end if we can bring none of these to the grave?
Is there really more that can and should be known about Jesus?
Where Do I Find Answers?
Despite attending a Catholic school and following practices of our religion, I never considered myself religious. I’d go to church only when adults initiate or when required in school. I’d remember to pray only when I need something from God.
But this time, I started going to church on my own. I listened attentively to sermons and became aware of the lyrics of songs in hope of finding answers which may be hidden somewhere.
One Sunday, I went to the church office and inquired how I can volunteer as a lector — a parish layperson who publicly reads a Bible passage, other than the Gospel, during liturgy.
The elder lady advised me to join the choir, told me the meeting time and place, then quickly went back to what she was doing.
But . . . I want to be a lector. I don’t want to sing; I want to read. 😭 Is it because I look like a teenager?!
I had hoped to have access to the priests and other clergies, and use the readings as an opportunity to ask about the Bible, the interpretation of passages, and clarifications about Catholic teachings.
Nevertheless, I decided to attend the choir meeting thinking maybe all volunteers could easily approach a priest to ask about theological questions. After two meetings, I had proven choir is not my thing so I stopped attending.
Then someone (a cousin or a friend) told me about a novena in a parish near our apartment. It was every Thursday but it always seemed like a regular Sunday Mass overflowing with youth and young adults.
I regularly attended the Mass and novena all throughout that year, but I found nothing new and my questions remained unanswered. I didn’t know where to go, who to ask, and even what question to ask. I wasn’t sure if there was more to seek than just those rituals.
God Answers Through His Word
In God’s providence, He had prepared an answer for me even before I asked. At the end of that two months, I met four Christian co-trainees. As soon as they introduced themselves as Christians, I knew they were the right persons to ask.
I was never inclined to asking questions about faith from other religions because I firmly believed my religion is the truth. But the Lord had changed my perception toward Christians when I met someone who had a genuine character.
One day, one of them took me aside and told me she has something important to tell me.
Whoa! This must be the answer I’ve been searching for!
She took out a colored booklet with no words in it then told me a story. A story about a loving God who created mankind but mankind sinned against Him. Because of sin, they’re condemned to eternal punishment but because of God’s unfailing love He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross as payment for sins. . .
Uh. . . Why is she telling me the Gospel? Is this it? Won’t she tell me something I don’t already know?
Catholics also believe that there is one God in three Persons, that the Bible is God’s Word, and that Jesus came to save mankind from sin. Since childhood, I believe that Jesus is God and the Savior of all.
But there were significant details I wasn’t aware of and didn’t understand even after the Gospel was presented to me and I was led to pray.
It was only when I regularly read and studied the Bible using devotional books, attended a Bible study group and listened to Bible based preaching that I gradually understood the message of salvation through Christ alone.
Through this message of salvation, I found answers to my questions and finally made sense of life.
If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me. Jeremiah 29:13Tweet
Created for God’s Glory
God created man in His image to share His love with us, for us to love Him back and give Him glory through that intimate relationship.
Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with God until they disobeyed Him. Disobedience is sin and sin is rebellion against God. Sin severed their relationship with God and resulted to death — eternal separation from God.
This problem of sin is not just their problem but everyone’s. For all have sinned and fall short of God’s glorious standard.
God’s standard is holiness because He is holy. The idea behind the concept of holiness is “separation.” God is separate or cut off from everything that is sinful and evil. He is without sin and does not tolerate sin. Thus, the relationship was severed.
God is also just. He does not leave the guilty unpunished. The payment for sin is death. None can earn salvation with good deeds because God requires perfect holiness. Therefore, everyone is condemned to eternal separation from God. But this isn’t God’s intention for creating us.
So God made a way. Out of His unfailing love for us, He made a way.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8Tweet
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, left His throne in heaven, came into the world, lived a holy life and willingly sacrificed Himself on the Cross as payment for our sins so that everyone who trusts in His finished work will not perish but have eternal life.
Those who put their trust in Jesus as the only savior are not righteous in themselves, but God has put them in Christ. So when God the Father looks at them, He sees Christ’s righteousness and holiness. Therefore, through Christ’s holy life and sacrifice on the Cross, we can be made holy and be reconciled back to God.
Christ’s sacrifice restores the original intention of God in creating us — to give Him glory and enjoy Him forever.
But for us to receive that reconciliation, we need to repent of our sins and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13Tweet
The real meaning of life / the purpose of our existence, both now and in eternity, is found in the restoration of our relationship with God. He made us for Himself so He alone can fill and satisfy our heart and soul.
For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory. All glory to him forever! Amen. Romans 11:36Tweet
A personal testimony of Ma. Olivia Jill Temporal. Learn more about her on the Author’s page.
Read the whole series about her life story: