Saturday, March 28, 2015

Scandal in the Sanctuary

Its the weekend again, which means Mass. I find myself increasingly anxious about not having anything "nice" to wear. Things don't fit like they used to or they've been in my closet so long, they've gone out of style! People have told me to spend a few bucks to get an outfit at the thrift store, but I usually can't even find regular clothes there, let alone dressy digs (Its hard to be a tall girl). And even if I did find something, am I going to wear the same thing every Sunday? That's almost worse than showing up in jeans & a hoody... or "street clothes" as church people like to say. Its not that I don't have the funds to buy a new outfit, or several new outfits. Honestly, I just feel my money is better spent elsewhere.

I got to thinking... is it really me who has a problem with this? No. I would prefer going to church in my street clothes for a myriad of reasons. I'll be more comfortable. I won't have to go home & change. If I go anywhere before or after church, no one will give me the evil eye like I'm gonna start handing out tracts or something. "Nice clothes" inevitably create division. If I'm an average joe on the street, I would be less inclined to feel like I could stroll into a church service, plop down next to a suit & know I'm welcome. In fact, I'd steer clear of such a place because I know those people will look down on me.

I wonder how many others there are who WANT to go to church, to Mass, but avoid it because they don't want to put themselves through an emotional gauntlet? "Oh", I've been told, "you're just being selfish. Its not about you, its about God. Don't you want to give God the best you have? You're dishonoring Him by not appearing before Him like a child of the King that you are?!" Hmm. God sees all of me everyday, whether I'm wearing clothes or not. Am I really dishonoring God by not dressing up? Is it really the outward appearance He cares about or the heart? I think we know the answer. So when in Christianity did we begin to require dressing to the nines for church?

It seems that dressing up wasn't actually a common practice until the Victorian era- the mid 19th century. Before then, only the rich wore nice clothes because they were the only ones who could afford them. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution brought more prosperity, it also brought the poor "up" & they wanted to flaunt it. Dressing up started being equated with being a respectable person & if you didn't have the right clothes, well, poor you. Pun intended.

This was actually one of the sticking points for me when I became a Catholic. It still is. There are those who believe people like me are a disgrace to the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Uh, hello? Jesus ate with sinners, tax collectors, even poor people... How is my showing up at Mass in street clothes going to offend Him? Perhaps by offending others, "causing scandal" as Catholics say, I'm in fact truly offending God? Then again, didn't Jesus seem to cause scandal every other moment when He walked this earth? Are street clothes really synonymous with irreverence? Why is it so shocking to see something so everyday, so commonplace enter the sanctuary? Isn't that what Jesus died & rose for?!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sometimes By Moon

A friend of mine commented that I tend to write about the same things over & over. Perhaps. But I got to thinking about it... this blog, like both physical & spiritual life, is a journey of faith.

I've seen with my own eyes the sun, the moon, grass, trees & birds of various kinds... They're everywhere I've been. I think faith in particular can start to feel like this- things tend to look the same no matter where we go, what we do or how much time passes. Eventually, we detach, zone out & wander mindlessly. Faith just "is". We know what to expect & what not to count on. But that's not much of a journey, is it?

Even though things like the sun, moon, grass, trees & birds are the same each time I encounter them, I'm always encountering them in a different moment or place along the journey. Each moment has the potential to make the "same old same old" new again. Each place has the power to alter the perception of those seemingly steadfast certainties (or uncertainties) in life. So yes, it may seem like I write about the same subjects, but I'm always encountering them in a different light... sometimes by sun, sometimes by moon...

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Reasoning Together

The other day, I lost my cool. I had some pretty unsavory thoughts about my fellow drivers & people in general... Its days like this that I feel like God can't possibly redeem me. I'm just a black spot on His sun, the stain that won't ever wash clean... Can He ever make of me a Christian? Sometimes my propensity to “hate” feels as natural to me as a pair of comfortable jeans, all broken in...

My other sins don't feel nearly as bad as when I treat someone poorly, think vengeful thoughts about them or ignore them altogether. I may as well be directing all that toward God, which seems even worse. I'm so guilty. These are the sins I seem to commit frequently- sometimes out of anger, other times out of fear... And other times, just because. How dare I call myself a disciple or the bride of Christ & still harbor the awful, negative things I think, say & do at times! I'm supposed to be dressed & ready to go, aren't I? At this rate, I'm as good as doomed.

Am I supposed to walk around in a wedding dress all the time? I certainly wouldn't hang out in it, run errands in it, go to work in it. I might put it on to get it fitted properly, but I wouldn't wear it out til the big day. No, I exist in stuff I'm comfortable in. In real life, I know the clothes I wear for daily existence will have to be washed because they'll get dirty, sticky, wrinkled. No big deal.
Turns out God sent His Son for people just like me, (as well as for those that I've hated, talked about or ignored). This is the Gospel in action: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool."  Isaiah 1:18.

God knows I'm human & part of this journey is walking in my humanity...  the other part is staying in relationship with Him.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Prayer In Action

Today on my way to work, I was listening to the Divine Mercy prayer in song. As I neared a stoplight, the "Glory be" came on. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining & there wasn't a cloud in the sky. "Glory be to the Father & to the Son & to the Holy Spirit..." as it continued, I looked out my passenger window & watched a man struggle with his belongings. He was scruffy & dirty. He walked with a limp in his worn out boots & had some kind of bag slung over his back.

What if I were to roll down my window & yell out "Glory be to the Father..." as a gesture of greeting? It probably wouldn't go over well.  What about the Rosary? What if I were to walk up to him with a string of beads & tell him that praying even just one Hail Mary would be... "efficacious"?  He'd probably laugh in my face. That man doesn't need a doxology or a string of beads to show him God's love... he needs someone- some ONE to show him. I was not that one, as the light turned green & I drove off. But at least I said a prayer for him...

I got to thinking how religion can be like this for so many of us- me included... We think if we "do" our daily devotions, pray our Rosary or inundate ourselves with wholesome Christ centered media, we've connected with the Godhead. Somehow, we forget there's more to it than amassing scripture, history & teaching in order to "grow closer to God". We may as well roll down our windows & shout out the words to our prayers because that's all people will see if we stop there. I can imagine them thinking, "This is the real world. Pray your prayers, but leave me alone. I've got things to do".

This led me to another thought. In Catholicism, we are encouraged to pray prayers like the Rosary, the Divine Mercy, etc. They aren't requirements, but they're known to be tried & true ways to build up one's faith. I think the message comes across that when we say the prayers, they're somehow magical. Some people pray them for meditation. Others pray them for penance. Some people pray them because they believe the promises attached & think that saying the words will lessen their days in purgatory. But like scripture, they're just words unless they're taken to heart & practiced.

When the Rosary gives us 5 mysteries a day to meditate on, I wonder how I might flesh one or all of those out- What good news can I give to someone today? Whose suffering can I help ease with my presence? Who can I "break bread" with? Who can I share something awe inspiring with? How can I make my prayers into practical "scripts" of sorts to reach out & meet people where they're at in the real world?

And again, "For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us & on the whole world"... this is part of the Divine Mercy prayer, addressed, of course, to God. But what if I were to live my life "for the sake of His sorrowful passion", what if I were to show mercy to those around me? How would my life & those around me be any different?