Every year at this time I rerun this article about the origins of my faith, as we have entered the Easter season with the arrival of Ash Wednesday and Lent.
Where to begin? Its times like these that I wish I were more knowledgeable of the bible. I am sorely lacking. Never having attended Catholic school, it’s one of the reasons why I sent my children, so they could come home and tell me things I needed to know about the bible. When my daughter was a teenager, we had an argument about how I hadn’t prepared her for life, that I was too kind and not cynical enough. “I know the Succession of Angels, but I can’t write a proper resume!” she stormed at me one morning.
That was another battle to be fought another day. The task at hand now is to share with you the best I know how the basis for my belief system. There are many readers perhaps more educated and knowledgeable than I. I feel inadequate to fully convey to you the depth of my faith and how I came to believe the way I do. Years ago I was surrounded in my line of work by Priests, Sisters, Pastors and Ministers, much more literate in the bible than I. It was constant nourishment to my soul and I tried to live out the gospel day to day in my dealings with people. I haven’t convinced some of my own children, the same children who have attended Catholic schools all their life of this belief system. It is a personal decision to believe. As I attempt this on the eve of my 56th year, I can not quote you chapter and verse, I can only tell you how I feel.
I was typical of my generation when I was a teen, trying to get out of going to Mass with my mother, feigning illness, too tired, etc. When I was a young mother at 21, I realized I had to start paying more attention to my religion because I wanted to have my baby baptized and receive the other sacraments, Holy Communion and Confirmation. This realization was by habit and no great epiphany or awakening on my part. It’s what a “good” Catholic woman did, carrying on the traditions of our faith.
I had received signs, experienced many tests of faith and received the bounty of God’s love over the years. My faith had been tested, though not as dramatic as with Job. God knows I wouldn’t be able to handle the boils and scabs, etc. I could write volumes about that experience if it had ever happened.
How did I come to have such strong faith? Did I just wake up one morning and was blasted by a bolt of lightning? No, it doesn’t happen that way. I believe faith comes from living out our lives and understanding the fact that although things are predestined in our lives, we can arrive at those destinations by different routes. Gifts flow back and forth, like changing of seasons or the tide. That is where Free Will comes in.
For me it was a moment of clarity that was at the same time terrifying and uplifting.
I came to realize Jesus was a person, a guy. I can only say my epiphany was simple, but intense.
There was a man who was born. For reasons unknown to him, he is the Savior of Mankind. He does not want the job and asks the Lord to have the favor be given to someone else. In the end he realizes he has a choice in the matter, but he’s definitely the guy God wants for the job. Here’s the crucial part for me, the one thing that turned me on to looking at the choices I make in my life.
He was a man who was nailed to a cross, between two thieves, and who hung there for many hours before he died. He was just a man, and he hung there. He hung there. He had the free will, the choice to not accept what God had asked of him. He was not forced. But he came to understand why he had to do it. “This is my beloved son” the Lord said.
But he hung there. They pounded nails the size of tent stakes into his palms, his instep of his feet. He was tortured and was in complete and total agony. Yet he stayed there. He didn’t plead to be taken down, didn’t renounce what he believed. In the end, he understood God’s plan for him. He cried out that he finally understood, and hoped that all mankind would come to understand the Lord’s plan for all of us.
And so I believe. How could I not?
I have been put on this earth for a reason, and the reason is always going to be elusive. You will never be given a concrete answer, “…..you are here, because you have to…….” I think finding out who we are and why we are here is our job, not his. I’ve come to understand my main focus right now is to help others, to serve. I fight this all the way, you know. I don’t want to serve others all the time, I want someone to take care of me. But the older I get the more I want to understand what he has planned for me, why he put me in the situations I have lived through, why I have been blessed with some things and missing others, will have to work harder to get them if I want them.
I have witnessed true miracles of healing, both physical and mental. I have received more than I can ever give back. My place in heaven is secure if I want it. I know its not a barter system or earned by brownie points.
And so I have faith. Faith in the fact he has never let me down, watches over me, always answered my prayers, albeit not always in the fashion I would have liked. But it is realizing the fact that he has answered them is what is crucial to my spiritual growth. I try to share my faith with others, without being coercive or judgmental.
My religion is not the only way, but HIS way is the only way.
So I believe it. I experience it every day. I believe.