Yesterday, Susan’s post Master, to whom shall we go? over at Creo en Dios! caused me to stop and consider. Susan is so good – so organized, so focussed. She is a born teacher. I follow her on Creo, and I always come away with a new, positive way to approach life and God.
On days when The Church and her many parts are frustrating me, I often find myself thinking — “I’m outta here!” I struggle with the institution. My gut screams, at times, when the it seems that the goal is not finding God and responding in with love to the gift of Jesus, but the goal is the enforcement of outer trappings. All those i’s to dot, and t’s cross. Get the official baptismal certificate for my son so he can the paperwork in place to get married. Make sure all the music is in acceptable to the powers that be for this service, or that ceremony. Shake my head at the priest who is uncomfortable with a certain devotion because it must be prayed at 3pm (and I understand his discomfort with something that seems almost superstitious) but then he turns around and becomes a hind-bound, unmovable rock with respect to the performance of other church rituals.
And then I stop – “But where would I go?” At this point I find that, just as Susan describes the path of discipleship, I have no other path that I am called to follow. I can’t leave because I can’t walk away from the Heart of the institution. I can’t walk away from the Eucharist that we celebrate. I know that other flavors of Christianity “have communion” – I’ve been there, and been a part of those celebrations. It’s not my walk. I sucked it up, and said “Yes” to joining this community when I was a college student. Even then I had my questions and my doubts, but there was no other way to go. In looking back, the decision to join the Catholic Church took more courage than going away to college, going away to grad school, going into counselling, getting married or staying married. In some ways, it was more difficult than the decision to actually be a Christian in the first place.
Where would I go? Nowhere. And when I accept that as truth, then the question begins to melt away.
“Life is difficult” (Scott Peck, opening sentence of “The Road Less Travelled”). Right now I wouldn’t be so polite. The human condition sucks. We are cracked pots that leak. We are fragile — we not only inadvertantly hurt others, but we take offense and are frightened of others. We spend inordinate amounts of emotional and psychic energy protecting ourselves from the possibility of being hurt (and in the process inflict damage on others). It seems the very act of trying to hold the pot together and stop the leaks makes them that much worse.
Right now, I am falling back on Jesus — God’s Love Incarnate. An actual human being who walked this earth an showed a way of living openly so that the cracks in the human pot don’t happen. A whole and complete human person in communion with God – completely. A person who was so completely open to God that he was willing to go as far as required to show us the way — even if we tried to kill him for daring to live in this relationship with God.
Sounds like I might be running from the issues. I don’t think so. It’s that the fear and anger have grabbed me recently in such a way that make me long for the wholeness. I don’t like it a bit when someone behaves erratically and scares me. I don’t like what I find in myself when I want to swing back and knock that other person on his butt. I hate being scared. I am scared and angry when another person is totally unpredictable. I cry. I can’t speak coherent sentences. And then the tears come again and I’m really upset because I can’t make them stop and my mascara runs and my eyes are red, and when that happens I can’t even hide my distress from others. It’s frustrating and embarrassing. It’s a complete loss of control. It let’s someone see how badly I hurt.
My favorite part of the Holy Thursday mass is the Gloria – bells and all. Last night, I was explaining what we would be using before mass last night, and when I made mention of the Gloria, someone (a young couple) questioned the fact that we would be singing a Gloria. Whoa! One the good side, somebody was paying attention to the liturgy.Â But, I had to bite my tongue not to be snippy when I responded that “Yes – we sing the Gloria tonight.” (Bells and all).
I always listen to the Holy Thursday gospel and ponder it. I wonder about the cultural setting — in this scene Jesus when Jesus wants to wash Peter’s feet, Peter says “Never!” and Jesus tells him – “But I have to.” and Peter says “well, then, not just my feet, but all of me.” Jesus tells him – “You have bathed. Only your feet need washing.”
Only your feet. You are clean already. Feet – the walking around part of you. I had a couple of images cross before my eyes:
Scene One: I am clean. Once in my life I bathed – I was baptized. But, day to day walking around gets my feet dusty… dirty, tired. Jesus tells me that He must wash my feet. He has to clean off the traveling dirt. I have to allow Him to be that close to me so that he can do that. Jesus tells Peter either I do this for you, or you can’t really be a part of this whole deal. Give up your pride.
Scene Two: Now that Jesus has washed my feet, I must in turn wash others’ feet. I must be Christ to others. I must serve them – clean up the traveling dirt. Interesting — it’s like God took care of the bathing, I do the footwashing – or the pedicure.
Scene Three: I love getting a pedicure. To have my feet cleaned, massaged, cared for, makes my whole body feel better. I think of my friend Judith who would give foot massages to folks who were working as Team for a Cursillo weekend – they were on their feet for extended periods of time and their feet hurt. Judith was there officially as a music minister… but her call to servanthood led her to take care of other folks feet. She even brought nail polish so we could paint up our toes for the Closing at the retreat. At home, she took care of her Mother’s feet. What an imitation of Christ.
I was a teenager in the late 60’s and early 70’s… last of a generation who’s world view was heavily colored by the Viet Nam war and the draft. The guys in my class were the last to face the draft lottery knowing that a low number really meant they were going.
One afternoon, I was riding in the car with my mother… a very proper, lovely woman (OK, as a teenager, maybe I didn’t see that so well); The radio is playing Crosby, Stills and Nash. The words floated through the air and Mama caught them. I still remember her thoughtful comment — “That’s good advice: If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”
I’m not sure her vision of that was the same as the singers’. But she had a point and it comes to me at various times. There are those that I have a strong connection with, that I love. They live elsewhere. They may indeed love me in return. But, the fact remains that they have a life there and I have one here. So, it becomes my call to “love the one(s) I with.”
I think Jesus did just that — that he is my example. The gospels seem to indicate that he had those that he loved and cared about as any human does. Mary, Martha, Lazarus, John… and yet, in all the stories we see a man who was present in the moment. He was approached by a leper – he loved the one he was with. He felt a woman touch his hem — he stopped, and loved the one he was with. He was present for those he was with at the time.
Not always easy to do — but well worth trying to do.
This was a week where the world looked dull and grey and the glass was always half empty. I reverted to ashes – and the words from a song we often use for Ash Wednesday rolled through my head without ceasing for an entire afternoon:
…we offer you attempts
the gifts not fully given, the dreams not fully dreamt
Give our wanderings direction
Give our visions wider view
An offering of ashes, an offering to You.
I may not have the words exactly right, but that’s how these things go: the last line rolls around, and finally is joined by the one before, and eventually the verse is reconstructed from the bottom up. And sometimes it’s not really the original words.
In that half-empty mindset I looked at my dresser which reflects my life. It’s awash in the remnants of not quite finished business. Needed supplies that got as far as the dresser, but the bag remains; a couple of tags removed from a shirt, but never thrown away; Earrings taken out that never made it back to the jewelry box. It reminds me that I have a lot of work to do with respect to letting go. I make the move in a new direction, but I really have trouble with leaving the past behind. Ever. There are memories to keep, I know. There are lessons learned that need to be remembered. But, how will I ever move if I’m still dragging the baggage.
Guess I’ll go clean off that dresser top. Got to start somewhere, and I don’t have the energy to think about the kitchen!