And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” Matthew 12:25
A while back I came to a much deeper relationship with God. This closeness came about after digging deep into some of the long-held beliefs I’d been taught in Catholic school and in Catholic church for my entire childhood. Sometimes you have to tear something down to build it up stronger. This is true but beliefs that are ingrained in you and especially those given to you from your parents are hard to demolish.
It was a trying time to admit to myself and then others that I just don’t think some of the teachings and practices of the Catholic church are biblical. After I did admit it, there was an inclination to swear off Catholicism altogether, to condemn it and stand against it. For instance, I wasn’t pleased that my home parish never told me that, as a Catholic, I was to believe in “indulgences”. Being mad would have been easy and almost natural.
But being mad at the Catholic church felt like being mad at a part of myself. That was my childhood. It was part of what made me who I am today. It seems to me that God knew what he was doing when he dropped me in Catholic school for all those years. The experience was instrumental to my development.
The year after I’d gone through this major spiritual evolution, Christmas rolled around and I just could not skip midnight mass. It was news to me that Catholics were the only ones to do this so I found myself back in a pew at midnight on Christmas Eve.
Then, again on Ash Wednesday, I felt myself drawn to the church to receive ashes and commit to make a sacrifice for the 40 days of lent. In fact, that first year I gave something up after having gone through such a spiritual change was probably my most rewarding lent (or sacrifice, come to think of it) of my entire life.
My new friends at the new churches I was going to often made jokes: “What are you giving up for lent,?” I would ask… “Uh.. Catholicism,” they’d say.
It seems people thought that, since they aren’t Catholic, they wouldn’t give anything up. Understandable. But here’s the thing..
Just because I don’t identify with Catholicism like I used to does not mean that Catholics worship a different God. It’s the same God, the only God. And just because I don’t HAVE to observe lent doesn’t mean that I can’t find joy and grace in worshiping God in this way.
To me, making a sacrifice for the duration of lent makes me feel closer to Jesus. I feel “crucified with Christ” if you will. Even though the sacrifice will never amount to anything close to the sacrifice on the cross, I am making a statement for myself and for God about where my allegiances lie.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could not ignore the labels of the different sects of Christianity but embrace them. What if we educated ourselves on the differences, reflected and prayed on the differing practices, and then could say things like “Wow. I never thought of worshiping God like that but what a great idea.. I can always use another way to worship”
Some verses to reflect on in support of my point:
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10
What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Corinthians 1:12-13
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, Ephesians 4:4-5