Thursday morning a friend loaned me a CD with a part of Karen Armstrong’s “The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness” on it. I had never used the cd player in my current car, but I stuck it in an found myself listening every time I got in the car for the rest of the day. She is telling of part of her own journey – and at the point where this reading begins, she is very much a non-believer, finding herself coming close to the apostle Paul as she is doing a documentary on him. After reading the reviews, I believe this is either the end, or near the end of the book.
What spoke to my heart were her observations about the common truths expressed by major religions world wide. The understated thesis that God in some way does not exist, precisely because we are limited in our concept of existence. She spoke of a personalized God – molded in our image as causing division.
Back in the 70’s I had a catechism – the Dutch bishops, I believe had constructed it. It was a source book for our classes when I came into the Catholic Church. It had a section on the common themes of major religions. It made sense to me. I read/hear the words of Jesus in the Gospels: I have other sheep, not of this flock; Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, this you do unto me; The golden rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you; These words challenge us to accept all people, to treat others with kindness and compassion, and to understand that kindness and compassion based on our own experiences. I had not read the Koran nor the holy books of other religions, but, I have dabbled a bit in trying to understand them, and these sorts of truths seem pretty universal.
Fast forward to Saturday evening mass. I was covering for another musician who had gone home to see her dad for Father’s Day weekend. Time rolls around for the homily, and Marty begins with explaining some of his passion for Texas History. “Remember the Alamo!” – what were they remembering and why? And, on this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, he turned us to Remembering. At the end of the words of institution, we always hear “Do this in memory of me” – Remembering, he said, involves taking a past event and bringing it to the present. And this remembering must call us to be changed, call us to some sort of action.
At this point, as I read over what I have written, the 2 may not seem related. But, in my fuzzy little head and fearful heart these themes are twisted into one knot. My qualms about the proscriptions of the institutional church fall away as I listen once again to the mass – and hear the call to remember the source of all this institution. I remember, and bring to life in my own life, the love, the compassion, the community of the people who walked with Jesus. I remember the Love of God that passes all understanding. I begin to see more clearly “I am the way the truth and the life” – there is no set path, we must each make our own by walking the Way. It is OK, even right that I find myself walking a solitary path.
Wish I were better at putting this all into words.