Personal Jesus

November 16, 2009

My grandma’s funeral was yesterday. My uncle, who is a pastor, ran the service, and my dad gave the eulogy. Although the two of them are different as “chalk and cheese”, they both did a nice job remembering my grandma. But both of them made me feel ragingly and compulsively Catholic. At every prayer I wanted to cross myself. When my dad spoke of my grandma praying for us all “right up to the end”, I wanted to add “why not now?”, especially since we all hope and believe she is a part of the great cloud of witnesses. Why would the witnesses be limited to only viewing? Why not hearing and praying for us? Why would souls who have gone to be with God not be able to speak to Him?

Please don’t think I was just sitting and criticizing the Protestant run funeral. I’ve had my time of mourning, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about the spontaneous Catholic feelings that sharing time with my Protestant family has brought on, and me trying to sort them out afterward.

It’s been a while since I’ve participated in Protestant prayer and preaching and it brought on some reactions that were kind of hard to pinpoint. The way my uncle was talking about Jesus and praying to God was familiar to me. It was warm and personal, and I like it and have missed it. There’s also something about it that makes me uncomfortable and feels a little off. Last night I was asking Chris what this difference I was noticing might be, and I think maybe we’ve figured it out.

My uncle quoted a song by Misty Edwards called “See the Way”, which says “God is a lover, looking for a lover, and so he fashioned me”. This is such a lovely, personal view of our relationship with God. It’s attractive, but it’s not quite right. Maybe the reason there are so many evangelicals who believe Catholics don’t have a personal relationship with Christ is because Catholics don’t have a personalized relationship with Christ. This song, and the prayers I was listening to yesterday are very individual. They’re about me and Jesus.

In the Catholic Faith, it’s not about me and Jesus, it’s about us and Jesus. It’s always, always about the corporate Body of Christ and God’s loving relationship with them. Our prayers are said together, our confession is made in unison. Like Chris says, the Catholic view of the universal Church has a way of beating down the “ego” and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

While Catholics are prevented from saying “me” instead of “us”, they are also prevented from viewing Jesus in whatever way they want to. Although Jesus is personal, He is not personalized. The Church reveals to us who Christ is in a non-negotiable way. Then we must change, with God’s grace, and conform to His image. As a Protestant, my view of God changed as I grew and got to know Him better. Of course, that’s always true to some extent, even for Catholics. At least for me, the difference is that as a Protestant my image of God changed. As a Catholic, the image remains the same but my understanding changes, because it’s not just me trying to figure out who God is.

It’s hard to explain, but that’s the best I can do. It’s strange experiencing this world I used to belong in, feel a draw to it, but at the same time feel completely separated from it. There’s no going back, even for the things I enjoyed, because I see everything differently now. It’ll be nice when I officially join and belong in the corporate Body of Christ.

RCIA Class on Mary

November 10, 2009

It’s a couple weeks ago now that my RCIA class talked about Mary. Chris missed that class, even though he’s my sponsor, since our babysitter had to cancel on us. We talked about it afterward and of course the first thing he says is, “Why haven’t they had a class on Jesus? Understanding who Jesus is would go a long way to understanding Mary.” I found myself trying to defend the class organizers, but he’s right. My guess as to why they don’t have a “who is Jesus” course is that they either think it’s covered in the creed and the Trinity, or this class is really just a Protestant to Catholic conversion tool, and they find that people already know who Jesus Christ is. The latter seems more likely since all the classes seen to be focused on issues that Protestants have with Catholicism.

It was fairly well done, as well as can be expected in a two hour intro course on Mary. They included handouts for reference that went more in depth and had a question and answer session. I found myself grimacing at all the usual objections that people raised. “Didn’t the Assumption of Mary just become a doctrine? How do we know that it’s true?” “Wasn’t that a ground up doctrine and the people made the Pope do it?” “Doesn’t the Bible say Jesus had brothers?”

The control freak in me was itching to jump up and answer these questions. I did put my two cents in occasionally, like when I said that although the people may have called for the Assumption to be a doctrine, it was already believed, the people didn’t invent the belief and then make the Church dogmatize it. Of course, I think that comment was lost in the wind.

I even asked a question myself when the Immaculate Conception came up. They said one of the reasons we believe Mary was conceived without original sin (remember, sex isn’t a sin, this has nothing to do with sex!) is because Christ received his sinless nature from her. I said something like this a while ago, in my ponderings on Mary, but someone had told me it wasn’t true. So I questioned the catechists, asking why God couldn’t have just intervened at Christ’s conception and gave him a sinless nature, and why Mary didn’t need to get her sinless nature from her parents. The answer from the lady leading the discussion was akin to: “That’s just the way it is.” Thankfully, another catechist piped up and told me that Mary’s sinless nature isn’t just God intervening on her behalf, like I was thinking. If He was just intervening, then my objection would make sense. However, the salvation of Christ was applied to Mary at her conception. It’s more of an outside-of-time application of grace than just a snap of the fingers and she’s sinless. I think I get it.

Our parish’s new, enthusiastically orthodox “baby-priest”, Fr. Andrew, who co-blogs (in theory) at Shameless Popery, repeatedly made the point that Mary is special to us because we have become one with Christ. She is our mother, since she is Christ’s mother. The images of Mary holding Jesus are images of Mary holding us. It’s hard for me to get into that mindset though. I still suffer from remnants of Mary aversion, and even when praying the rosary I tend to focus more on Mary being special because she is the mother of Our Lord, and let that paint a picture for me about how wonderful and mysterious God incarnate actually is. Mary herself I don’t understand. I’m getting to know her though, partly because the awesome humility of Christ shows me exactly what perfection looks like, and that is mirrored in Mary’s surrender to God’s plan. She is, afterall, the Lord’s servant, pointing the way to Christ.


November 3, 2009

Just wanted to let everyone know that although I’ve been silent, and probably will be silent for a bit, I’m still here! I’m preparing for my mother-in-law’s imminent arrival. Since my house is usually in a state of semi-controlled chaos, this takes quite a lot of preparation! So I haven’t had much time to turn my half-written posts into something readable. Soon… very soon.