Notre Dame Catholic Church, Denver, Colorado
I woke up at my appointed time (4 a.m.) this morning and decided that my plan for the morning simply would not work. I was supposed to spend an hour on the treadmill. But it is First Friday. I normally go to mass on First Friday. So, at 4, I decided I really needed to forego my workout and go to mass instead. And I stayed for rosary afterwards. And still got to work very early.
I have been thinking about how growing in holiness leads one to realize how horribly unholy one is. Or at least This One. At one time, I thought that going to mass on Sunday made me a Catholic. I did a couple of other things, but my life was basically unchanged. I still behaved pretty much like everyone else. In time, I signed up for an hour of Eucharistic Adoration. Maybe that is what changed my life.
That hour from 5 to 6 a.m. on Thursdays each week came to be my favorite hour of all the week. After about 6 months of weekly Eucharistic Adoration, I saw an ad in the bulletin for the Catholic Biblical School. I had been checking into this school since the early 90s. I always wanted to go because I have always had a deep love for Scripture. But always there was a reason why I could not go. For one thing, it is quite expensive! But that year, in 2007, a new class was starting in a church nearby, on a night that I could attend, and I knew I could scrape up the money. I remember calling the school's office and speaking to someone and realizing that I really, truly could do this! I ran down the hall at work to tell a Catholic friend. She was not thrilled for me. I never understand why people don't jump for joy when I talk about Biblical School... but they don't. In August of 2007, I started something that changed my life irrevocably when I attended my first Prayer Day and class.
I thought I would turn into a Biblical Scholar. I thought I would learn so much I would be able to argue successfully with my particularly argumentative Anglican friend who won every argument with me about my own religion. I thought I would become a holy woman.
And now almost four years later, I have a profound appreciation for my limitations. I am not a very holy woman. I am not a Biblical Scholar. I know a lot more than I did. I know more than most of the people I know, but that isn't something I say with pride. I know I need to study for the rest of my life. I am grateful that I will be able to do this. It is the joy of my life.
I did learn enough to know that Jesus isn't some sweet guy who happens to be God and "understands" and "forgives" me every sinful thing I do. When he speaks to the woman caught in adultery, he says "go and do not sin again," (John 8:11) he never says "I understand why you have behaved so badly, it's OK, keep on doing it." Jesus is forgiving, but we must repent. To repent is to have remorse for having offended God and requires a change in your life and a determination to avoid sin. And there is no fooling God himself about whether or not we are truly repentant!
I was also amazed to see that the God of the Old Testament was a lot more forgiving than Jesus of the New. I always thought it was the opposite, but a careful study will reveal an entirely different story.
Anyway, back to me... when I was a lukewarm Catholic, I was pretty self-satisfied and sure that I would someday get to heaven and get a nice pat on the back and a hearty welcome. Now I believe in all of the things I scoffed at when I left the church and kept a big dose of skepticism about when I came back, namely: Satan, the devil, hell, and purgatory. Now my best hope is purgatory.
I have done so many terrible things (I know I sound like I am being dramatic, but trust me on this one), I don't know how I can ever be purified enough to be in heaven. I had thought that confession erased all of this, but learned later that it didn't. This is very frightening to me. When I have read the writings of the Saints, I have been amazed at their being convinced of their own sinfulness! If that is sinfulness, I am in deep, deep trouble!
On the other hand, I don't want to fall into the trap of over-scrupulosity. I think that itself can hide a multitude of sins. But I do truly want to be pleasing to Jesus. I want to be the person I was born to be, not the person I willfully decided to be. I want to constantly be carrying out the will of God.
Perhaps if God has been able to change my heart to the extent that he has, he still has more in store for me. I do think the changes since 2006 are God-given. I could not have produced them. I want to keep growing and growing towards pleasing the Lord. I guess with that will come an inability to tolerate my own sinfulness. I also guess no one ever told me this would be easy!
Please forgive me for my inarticulateness - I am just a beginner. I don't know the right words. I hope to express my heart and these are words with which I am unfamiliar.
Thank you so much if you have read this long thing. I am so impressed with the generosity of spirit of the Catholic Bloggers who have come by and commented. Thank you.