THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
And to those of you who might hold that against me, all I ask it that you allow me the opportunity to explain before you judge or criticize me. That's the Christian thing to do, isn't it?
I was baptized Catholic at birth, received the Holy Ghost at around 8 or 9, and was “confirmed” a Catholic a few years later. Even after all the scandals and the discomfort I have felt since childhood when undressing around men, I continue to “practice” my religion.
Not the way I was taught, mind you. Just bits and pieces salvaged over the years of tormenting myself, thinking something was “wrong” with me. That I just didn’t act the way I should at times, or I had a “bad” thought about someone. Sometimes it was about something as trivial as eating candy during Lent. No matter. The feelings of guilt were ever present. I was told that relief (absolution) could be found in the confessional if I came clean with the shadow behind the screen. I heard the mumbling voice say something like, “go in peace my son and sin no more.”
Sad to say I seldom felt relieved; probably because I knew it wouldn't be long before I'd be back to unload another pile of guilt ridden secrets, again, in hopes of getting some relief.
I still go to church; every day in fact. I show up around the same time, after everyone’s gone. Sometimes I go inside, but most often I park myself on a bench in a small grotto occupied by statues of Jesus and Mary, beautiful plants, a few birds and, every so often, a lizard I named Fred who comes out from behind a rock to tan.
I don’t come for confession or a mass, or to share in the singing or handshaking. That’s not what it’s about for me. I show up at God’s house, unannounced but feeling invited, to have a one-to-one personal conversation with Him. No middle-man. No interpreting what I need to say. I come not only to speak, but to listen. Not to a sermon, but to the voice in my head that I believe is connected to something much deeper.
Some would say I practice a form of “Gnosticism” an obscure practice banned and shunned long ago by some powerful people who felt threatened for some reason. Not being a historian, I’m not sure why, but I suspect it might have something to do with having a personal, rather than communal, relationship with God. I discovered that, using the personal approach, my relationship with Jesus and Mary couldn’t be better. It’s simple and straightforward. No rituals required. No singing and chanting or elaborate celebrations. Just a small obscure grotto an a few minutes of my time is more than enough. Those few minutes I have with Jesus and His mother Mary never fails to leave me feeling that sense of the relief I desperately sought.
I discovered that the rules I grew up with were more about the men who made them than about what God wanted from me. I came to realize that the despair and disillusionment I suffered was a result of my looking for God elsewhere other than in myself. After that the path to Heaven, the difference between good and evil, the way to connect with God, was all spelled out for me from the day I was born. I realized that those who said I would always need a guide (those who God entrusted with the keys to the Kingdom) were referring to what was in their best interest, not mine. The best I could hope for was that, on my last day here, I would be told I was worthy enough to enter the Kingdom. That is, if I was lucky enough to have someone there to give me Last Rites.
Imagine how relieved I was when I discovered that I entered this life with the “keys to heaven” in hand. I didn’t need to follow rules or take direction from a guide to enter the Promised Land.
All I needed was “faith” (knowing without knowing) that God, as came to understand Him was a part of who I am. Joined at the hip, if you will. And that the relationship would last forever; unconditionally, simply maintained, and forever lasting. What more could I ask for?