While at Mass today I began to think about the last year of my life. There have been some good things, and some bad things, mostly good. I have continued my journey back to the Lord, and have made some great strides, but as I always say, I have come a long way but still have a long way to go.
The biggest step in my journey was finally initiating the process to have my previous marriage annulled. I want to be back into full communion with Christ and this is the the first step I need to take in order to do it. One of the things I have learned as part of preparing to be a facilitator in the RCIA process is to let the participants know this might be a difficult process for some of them. To truly embrace Catholicism and really Christianity as a whole, in today’s world, they need to be ready to cut ties with friends and family who may not understand their choice. This is not to say they will have to, but they might. This may or may not be their choice.
When might it be their choice? Think of an alcoholic who is trying to quit drinking. What should be tops on his list of things to do? How about to stop hanging around with the same group of friends who still drink? If a person continues to go into the same bars to meet up with his or her friends, they are not changing their environment, and although they may be strong, they will have a much harder time resisting the urge to drink. It is the same with embracing a Christian or Catholic lifestyle. You might need to avoid old friends who like to gossip and tell stories about others. You may need to avoid those who don’t embrace a Christian lifestyle. Like the alcoholic you may need to change your environment.
There will be those who won’t understand what or why you are changing. There are those who won’t even want to listen. This could be friends or family. Right now my own daughter and I have become estranged from each other over my wish to get my marriage annulled. Although I have tried to reach out to her, she wants nothing to do with me. She will not allow me to explain why, or even what the process means, as she has some serious misconceptions as to what it is. While it hurts me more than she can know, I am standing by my decision and I pray that the Lord will open her heart.
In today’s Gospel, Luke 1:39 – 45, we hear the story of Mary travelling to visit Elizabeth to help her while she is carrying John the Baptist. Over the last few weeks we have also read about the angel Gabriel coming to both Mary (Luke 1: 26 38) and Joseph (Matthew 1:18 – 25). Even though both Mary and Joseph accepted their roles, you can imagine there must have been times when they both had to bear the disdain of others who didn’t know the whole story. It’s possible they had family members who wouldn’t talk to them, who would shun them because they thought this relationship wasn’t on the up and up. But they both had faith and trusted God and knew they were doing the right thing. They both said “Yes” when God called them.
It isn’t easy following one’s convictions. In this world we live in, a person of faith, a person who is willing to give their life to Christ is in the minority. It takes strength, it takes faith, it takes trust in God, but it can be done.
For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.
Say these things. Exhort and correct with all authority. Let no one look down on you
New American Bible. (2011). (Revised Edition, Tt 2:11–15).