Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Christian Reads

Right now I'm reading Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. I just finished Heaven is For Real, by Todd Burpo, about his three-year-old boy visiting heaven while under anesthesia for an emergency appendectomy. Before that I was reading Forever Erma. Her piece about mothers of handicapped children made me cry, but I laughed more than anything and was inspired by her talent. Earlier on I read Scott Hahn's Rome Sweet Home about his conversion from being an anti-Catholic Protestant to a Catholic who currently writes scholarly and elucidating works on the Eucharist and many other aspects of the Catholic faith.

I related to Hahn very well, having once been very anti-Catholic myself. However, there is an important difference. As a doctor of theology who had studied extensively, he knew why he supported Luther and denounced Catholicism. I, on the other hand - like many Protestants, I suspect - simply inherited prejudice from my Protestant culture without knowing or comprehending what exactly Luther believed that was at war with Catholic doctrines (for instance, the Lutheran concept that we are justified by faith alone and that man is inherently bad or the Catholic view that, no, we are justified by faith and works and man, though broken, was created in God's image and therefore is inherently good).

I am fixing my lack of knowledge now through intense study of Scripture and the works of various Christian writers, and I am absolutely loving it. I find things in the Bible that support Protestants and Catholics - imagine that! We are all one body.

Speaking of Scripture, for years I was not reading anything but a children's Bible to my kids occasionally. During my childhood my dad encouraged his children to read Scripture, especially the Gospel, daily. During my teenage years I tackled the Old Testament and found some of it quite disturbing, actually. Then, just barely in my twenties, I married a Catholic, walked into Mass and was astounded by everything I found in the liturgy - The Creed, The Lord's Prayer, the Eucharistic Prayer - that sprang directly from Scripture. But, doubt not, I held onto my Protestant pride for years. I wish I hadn't. I wish I had read about what Catholics believe and why instead of simply enjoying the liturgy and ignoring my own obligation not to stand in a pile of ignorance.

Worse, of course, is that I fell out of the habit of reading the Bible regularly when I became a wife and mother. There was so much else to occupy me, and at the end of the day, I preferred to plop my bum down in front of the TV or tilt my mind to a good mystery tale than exert myself mentally and spiritually. And in the mornings? Heavens, it was enough to try and believe myself awake and functioning!

But then I went through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) to be confirmed in the church the same year as my son, my oldest boy, and 10+ years after first attending Mass. Shortly afterward I became a lector and now have the great pleasure of reading the Word of God a few Sundays. Then God nudged me through two fellow Catholics to volunteer in the RCIA program. This year I gave a presentation on prayer and almost drove myself to distraction preparing for it. Reading Scripture was my preparation, asking Dad for suggestions on passages I should read. Dad told me that every person should take 10 minutes each day, just that, to read the Bible.

So God has brought me to this place where I am trying to be faithful to letting the Word settle in my heart, where I read Bible chapters to prepare for Sunday readings and broaden my understanding, where I must expose myself to the light of truth regularly in order to help capably in RCIA.

So now I've told you where I've been. I prefer this blog not feel like a ghost town, but I'm sure it regularly does of late. But I will be honest. I feel like God is pulling me on a journey, and I wouldn't think the journey was a worthy one if He were not the one guiding it. Should I write about what I learn? Absolutely! But it's a daunting thing. I find I am better at learning than spreading the Good News right now. In the future I hope to do better.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Washing Feet: a New Year's Reflection

I've been thinking quite a bit about humility lately. This is probably because I have been diligently trying to read Scripture every day, and humility is mentioned in the Bible nearly every other chapter - sometimes sentence - it seems. So I know I must work on this humility thing, just as I must work constantly on growing more selfless, opening my heart.

A perfect example of humility was Christ himself kneeling at his disciples' feet to wash them. I don't think, before recently, that I have ever really thought about how great and astounding a thing that was. The Son of God washed the filthy feet of men...and then told them that they ought to do the same for each other.

We should ponder often the idea of God bending to wash our tired, confused, willful feet. Just that image, acknowledged humbly, would propel us to love others through greater service.

I was inspired this past Christmas, saw Jesus in my father-in-law. He reminded me of Christ, simply because he humbly assisted one of my children when I was too impatient to do so, and while he did it I was reminded of another wonderful example when someone stepped in to "wash feet" when I selfishly would not a few years earlier.

This past Christmas our family went with Grandpa, my husband's dad, to the park. Grandpa held the kids' gloves and played with them and took pictures of them and of our whole family, because my husband and I had forgotten the camera. When it was time to go, my littlest daughter wanted help with her gloves. They were tight, hard to squeeze into. I half-helped, but when she complained at my tugging, I gave it up and told her to come on, get them on herself and let's go.

That's when my father-in-law stepped in. He gently, slowly, calmly, quietly assisted our Ella with her troublesome gloves. I stopped in my retreat and watched, feeling guilty and rightly rebuked.

It made me think of that other time when the head of RE at our church, a lovely woman named Christine, practically did wash my daughter's foot.

We had gone to the park to play before RE. My daughter Ana's shoes were full of sand and sweat, and one of them slipped off her foot as I was hurrying her across the church courtyard. She hopped behind me as children will do and asked me to help her put it back on - "It's full of sand, Mama!"

"Well, just knock it out of there and let's go!" was my reply.

Christine went over to my daughter, knelt down on the ground, slowly brushed off the bottom of my daughter's sweaty, stinky foot, and then gently slid the shoe back on.

Wow. Words are priceless, but actions are powerful. I was humbled and amazed.

I wonder how I forgot her beautiful example so easily this Christmas. How I can repeatedly forget Christ's example so easily so often. If we all walked in Jesus' sandals, washing the feet of our fellow human beings with humility, how great the light in this world could be!

So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it." John 13:12-17