The LORD said to Abram:
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.”
That is the beginning of today’s first reading for Mass. It is well known, God tells Abram get up and go, and Abram gets up and goes. The rest of the reading consists of what God promises, who went with Abram, where Abram built altars, etc.. It’s not a particularly inspiring piece of writing, since we know that Abram has a long way to go before his descendants will inherit the land of Canaan.
Today the bit Paul said about Abram acting in faith popped into my mind, and in the scriptures Abram says nothing, he just gets up and goes. That got me to thinking about faith journeys. My own specifically. I started in the Church of Christ, by my early teens it clearly was the wrong place for me, so I was called to “go forth from the land of [my] kinsfolk.” That was a risky thing, because my kinsfolk were all, to the last one of them, solid Church of Christ.
My next stop on the journey was at the Episcopal Church. Just as Abram built an altar where he had a meeting with God, I made a home in the church I felt most comfortable with, half way between protestant and catholic. There followed years of in and out of faith and in and out of mortal sin, etc, this, that, the other, blah blah blah…until finally, a retreat at Gethsemani Abbey provided my next truly powerful encounter with God.
When the Episcopal Church split over sex issues, I realized that my home was ruined and once again God was calling me from the land of my kinfolk — I spent 30 years in the Episcopal Church — and into a new land. I became a Roman Catholic.
I can imagine any of you reading this saying, so what? You had a faith journey, big deal, we all have faith journeys. True, but what is it that brings the sticking power of faith into one life, and not into another? Why am I willing to remain a Catholic in a church that strikes me as largely sexist and phobic in many, many ways, not to mention often intellectually dishonest? Because I became quite clear what I do, and do not believe.
God called me on this journey, protected me when I wandered off, guided me back, took care of my faith when it sagged, and heard me when I repented. The Episcopal Church lost focus on Christ, I wanted to focus ONLY on Christ, and let the rest sort itself out. So why the Roman Church? Because it allowed me to use the word transubstantiation, which I knew the meaning of as a child, long before I knew the word. It also allows me to venerate the Virgin Mother, which I do, and have done for close to twenty years. Solemn Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament! I can attend, worship, and not have to hide it from my coreligionists.
I’m really not trying to pat myself on the back, but today God granted me a great grace, to see that when he said get up and go, I got up and went. This could not have come at a better time, because I am in physical pain all the time, and in the past few months have seriously questioned my vocation to the solitary life. I was afraid I’d made it up. Today God helped me to see that faith sticks with some and not with others because some people will repent and others will not, some will tend their faith, and others will not.
I’m not special, I’m just willing to tend to my faith, and to repent.