One change in myself that I’ve noticed since becoming Catholic is that I actually long to go to church on Sundays. As a Protestant I would plan on going to service Sunday morning but if my alarm went off and I didn’t feel like getting up, I didn’t. Of course, it was always encouraged for me to go to church but there was no real reason, that I could see, for me to go every single week. I can worship God and pray on my own. I realized that I could listen to the sermon later online so there was no need to inconvenience myself by getting out of my nice, warm, comfortable bed if I didn’t want to. Sure, it would be nice to see my friends and talk to them before and after the service and have “fellowship,” but in all honesty, I can see them later this afternoon, after I’ve gotten another hour or two of sleep. So what’s this big deal if I don’t go this week?
I did notice, however, that if it was communion Sunday, I almost always made the effort to go, no matter how tired or drained I was. There has always been something about communion that I felt was very important, even if Protestants only thought of it as a symbol. This was something that I could not participate in later online or with my friends at Caribou that afternoon. I had to be there to partake of it, so I would drag myself out bed and into the church. I think that my strong love of communion Sunday was God’s way of preparing me for what the Catholic Church has to offer, Christ Himself. Even though I cannot participate in the Lord’s supper at mass until my confirmation at Easter, I have a strong desire to go to mass and at least be there while others partake of it, to be in the physical presence of my Lord, not just His spiritual presence. No matter how tired I am in the morning, I find a way to get out of bed and go. And no matter how drained I feel, there’s a peace I find by attending mass weekly. There is a reason, now, for me to go every week.
For years I struggled with my perpetual singleness. Society, and to a small extent the Protestant church, covertly put pressure on me to be with someone. I was surrounded by movies and television shows that flaunted relationships in my face. In high school, I saw people barely older than myself and even a few of my classmates getting married! I felt like being single meant that something must be wrong with me. I tried convincing myself this was not the case, but my constant unrequited crushes were much more convincing than I was.
But I have finally come to the conclusion that it’s ok to be single. Since deciding to join the Catholic Church I have seen that being single doesn’t make you a mutant or misfit. There are vocations (not sure if that’s the actual word I want) in the Church in which you are required to be single. It can be a blessing, a way for God’s grace to shine. Maybe God has plans for me that will be easier for me to carry out without someone else in the picture whose opinion will matter to me.
For now, I think it is time for me to be single and finally be fully comfortable with that. I’m going to let God show me what He can do with it and where He can take me. I don’t need to be in a relationship to experience love or to give my own love to others. I need to take the time to adjust to the unfamiliarity I still sometimes experience within the Catholic Church and focus on my relationship with Christ. None of this is to say that I will forever remain single. That also may not be God’s plan for me. But if it is His plan, I will embrace it joyfully. I just need to be open to whatever God throws at me and accept it, even if it seems strange to society and I get weird looks.
Coming from a Protestant background, reconciling faith and works has at times been difficult. The debate of what it takes to be justified is ongoing and both sides can be confusing at times. But in the middle of the night, I finally had a moment of clarity. So I got up and wrote it down so I would be able to remember it in the morning. This is what I have finally come to understand along with a little background to the story.
I have found that Protestants often quote the verse in Isaiah about works being like filthy rags to God as evidence that works have no bearing on salvation. But I have come to see that the people to whom it is referring have turned from God, and so no good deed they do is truly good. So here is the clarity God showed me in the middle of the night:
With out Christ’s perfecting work on the cross, our works are absolutely useless, like filthy rags. But in light of the cross, our works are beautiful to God and absolutely necessary.
I feel like I may have heard this somewhere before, so I don’t want to claim it as my own new “revelation.” But I finally truly grasped the difference between the works in Isaiah and the works we are required to do because Christ commanded us to.
Because I’m a visual learner I also made a few pictures to help me understand and in the future hopefully help others understand.
So because of the original sin of Adam and Eve, we as humans are separated from God. Everything we do (the arrows), no matter how good, will fall short. Our works alone will never be able to bring us to the same side as God. But there is good news!
Christ’s perfecting work on the cross gives us the ability to meet God on His side of the chasm sin created. Our faith in what Christ did holds the cross in place as a bridge of sorts. But works (again the arrow) bring us fully to the other side. Without the works we would still be just chilling on our side. Our faith would keep that cross where it is, but we wouldn’t be using the opportunity it provides us. The cross allows our works, which may be the same exact things we had tried before, to bring us closer to God. If we lose our faith (which according to many Protestant denominations would mean we never truly had faith to begin with), the cross bridge disappears and we go back to the first image of trying to be good (or maybe not) and falling short every time.
I am not an expert of the Catholic Church, so if anyone finds that any of this goes against what she teaches, then please let me know so I can correct it. I do not want to add to any misconceptions about what the Church teaches, so please feel free to correct me if I am mistaken.
Yesterday was a day of learning about myself. Aside from my nursing fitness group, Deacon Thom’s homily taught me something, too. He talked about loving others and having joy. You cannot separate the two. Loving others with real love brings joy and joy helps us love others in that way. I realized that I don’t live with a joy in my heart and step, at least not recently.
This semester has turned out very different than I had envisioned it way back in July on so many levels and I have sunk into a phase of self-pity these past few weeks. And I knew that I shouldn’t be behaving as I was, but sometimes I just like to be able to be sad and wallow in it. Weird, I know. But I finally opened my eyes yesterday to the fact that in spite of suffering and changes of plans that I don’t especially care for I have the greatest thing there is, the love of a savior like Jesus. A savior who gives His body and blood for my sins. A savior who wants me to follow Him and love Him unconditionally as He loves me. How am I supposed to do that while wallowing in self pity?
That’s not to say I can never be sad. Jesus Himself was full of emotions. But I can’t let negative emotions overpower my joy. When I’m sad about losing something or things are not going the way I want, I need to be joyful that I had it, or the opportunity to experience it, in the first place. When I’m mad about a less than stellar test score, I need to ask myself if this really is going to have any eternal significance. So, I’m going to climb right out of this pit of self pity I’ve been lying in lately and start living with the joy I should be. I’m going to stop letting my suffering overpower my love and joy.
Deacon Thom was talking about people encountering the joy of the early Christians and portrayed a brief little scenario with us that I will share now.
Random person: “Why are you so joyful?”
Christian person: “Because I’m a CHRISTIAN!!”
Random person: “…woah…”
I want people to see my joy and know that there is something different. I want them to see me loving others even when I’m going through trials of my own. I want them to ask me what’s going on and I want to be able to tell them that I have genuine joy because of the love of my savior. I want them to want what I have in Christ simply because they have seen the way I love and am filled with joy. I am going to stop letting the hard timestake over me. Amen.
Loving this song.
I learned something about myself today. I am not a runner. I used to be a runner, but I’m not anymore. My roommate, who is also a nursing student, has organized a fitness group on Sunday afternoons so we can all “practice what we preach.”
We met for the first time today and 3 of us decided to run 1 mile and then bike. I couldn’t even make it the 1 mile. Hard to believe that I used to run track! But I did learn that I AM a biker. We went for 8.5 miles and I loved it! I didn’t enjoy the hills so much but the rest of was great! And I loved the way my legs felt like jelly after we got back. I could tell that I had just had a good work out. I’m going to be super sad when winter comes and the bike trails are unusable. But we’ll work something out.
I think this is going to be a great way to get back in shape. Maybe I’ll become a runner again by the end of the year, but all that really matters is that I take care of this one body that the Lord gave me. If I lose everything else, I will always have this body so I should take care of it And I don’t want to become that hypocritical nurse who is obese and telling others to lose weight (not that I’m obese, but I could be if I just sit around).