The old Baltimore Catechism asks this question: “Why did God make you?” The correct answer is: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”
Millions of Americans who attended parochial schools in the 1940s and ‘50s memorized this answer and could spout it out on demand, although to be honest, many did so just to avoid the wooden ruler wielded by Sister Mary Margaret Knucklewacker.
Nonetheless, the correct answer does contain profound theological truths. This weekend is the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, when we celebrate the mystery of one God in three Persons. Let’s look at the Baltimore Catechism’s three key verbs regarding God: know Him, love Him, and serve Him.
The very idea that we can know the eternal, Almighty Creator of the Universe is mind-boggling. Throughout much of recorded history, mankind has considered the Divine Creator to be too powerful and too mysterious and too distant to be known.
The fact is, unless God actively reveals Himself to us, our understanding of Him will be at best very general and vague. At the heart of Christianity is the idea of divine revelation. God has clearly revealed to us the mysteries of who He is, what He is like, why He created us, and what He expects from us. God most definitely wants us to know Him, and He has made sure that we can.
We human beings already know that we are capable of love. Most of us have loving relationships with our family members and our friends. To love God means that He also must be capable of entering into loving relationships. In fact, He can. This is because God is a Person. He has a personality, just as we do. God’s very nature is love. That is why He created the Universe in the first place. Sadly, many people nowadays reject God’s love because they don’t even realize He is offering His love to us.
Based on the simple facts of the situation—God is God and we are not—we have a duty to serve Him. After all, He is the one who gave us life. He is the Creator; we are the created beings. Despite what we often think, we are not in charge. When we understand this, the most logical and rational conclusion is that we should serve God, whether we like it or not. And nowadays, most people most definitely do not like it.
Modern Americans hate the idea of serving someone else. What a shame it is that we have such a selfish, “It’s all about me” attitude, when the fact is, serving someone else is the key component of a truly loving relationship. Take a minute to think of a married couple that you would describe as “happily married.” Most likely each spouse takes time to serve the other. Each spouse is less concerned about his or her own needs and more concerned about the needs of the other spouse.
Serving God is the exact same thing—only better. It is not a dreary obligation. It is a joyous opportunity.
Although the Baltimore Catechism has been all but forgotten these days (along with most other forms of sound doctrinal instruction, just sayin’), we can learn a lot from this simple and yet profound lesson. God made us to KNOW Him, to LOVE Him, and to SERVE Him. These three actions are indeed possible. There is no threat of the wooden ruler anymore. Just the opportunity to understand why we exist, and what we need do to fulfill the fantastic plan God has for our lives.