I started reading Matthew first and was greeted with a heavy dose of fear, grief and guilt. The author of Matthew was a strong writer and left very little to the imagination. And through those words, a very grim picture of the religion was painted for me. As I made my way through the Gospels, I tried to remain open-minded about what I was reading, but the well had been poisoned. I couldn't break the mold. Church helped only in healing the wounds that were made while digging around the Bible, but before they could scab over, something else would come along and discourage me.
Then, on Day 15, The Korean left a comment that stirred me a bit.
Obviously this is your personal journey, so my opinion does not matter one bit. But it is somewhat disappointing to see that instead of embracing Catholicism like you did with Buddhism, you appear to spend much of your Catholic month finding reasons to antagonize Catholicism/Christianity.It wasn't anything particularly rousing or genius, just a simple statement. I thought about it a lot though. Why was I focusing so much on the negative aspects of the religion so much? To that, I have no answer. I guess my gut instinct was always to reject Christianity and to denounce Catholics as a part of the problem with organized religion. Up until that point, I still failed to distinguish people from the religion itself. I failed to do so and because of that, I wasn't allowing myself to see the positive side of Christianity.
That was my fault, I guess, but my experience was what it was. I tried to be as open as possible from the start and find the connection. I thought that maybe if I kept reading the Bible and searching for God in its pages that something would be revealed. I was alone on this one. Perhaps there were just too many obstacles for me to climb to get to the true beauty of the religion. However, I was sent an article today that cleared some of my very own problems up or, at very least, excuse my 50:50 split on the month.
The article weaved in and out of Mark and other scripture, but it overall was briefly tracking historical Jesus. Towards the end, it landed on a book authored by Phillip Pullman titled, "The Good Man Jesus the Scoundrel Christ." The book discusses the two clear images of Jesus that Bible readers are presented with as they navigate their way through the texts. I identified totally. When I was making my way through the Gospels, I kept trying to make myself believe. I wanted to understand the Christian appeal, but the more I read, the harder it was for me to find said appeal. In turn, I was more irritated by the entire thing and, as The Korean said, I was more focused on antagonizing Christianity than appreciating the message.
And then out of nowhere, I changed. Just like the New Yorker article suggests, I somehow manged to sneak by that obstacle and find the joy of the religion. I started to ignore the "pesky" details that Paul threw out there and, instead, found myself focusing on the core messages of love, compassion and forgiveness. The people in the Church also helped with that. What I did was allow the goodness to slowly replace my doubt and cynicism. I don't know if that was helpful or not, but I do know that I would not have ever started to appreciate Jesus had I not let go of those details which were keeping me skeptical.
This swap characterizes religion for sure, but it also sums up how people deal with troubling situations in their own life. By focusing on the good rather than the bad, we allow our optimism to guide us to brighter days. I've been blindly optimistic in my life much more than not --almost to the point of detriment-- and seeing this change in myself highlights the duality of Jesus, but also in me. I have the capacity to change my conception of something surprisingly easy. I can ignore glaring problems just for the sake of it.
I don't regret the switch this month, but I do find it interesting that I could make the leap from cynicism and doubt to appreciation and enthusiasm on a single Sunday in mass.