Jesus Wore Sandals: A Reminder To My Fellow Catholics
My dear Catholic Brother and Sisters,
We need to have a little pow wow. And I’m going to hold the talking stick for a moment, if you don’t mind.
First, I want you to know that I love you, and I am so happy to be at home among you. It’s very important that we start there.
Second, I would like to remind everyone that Jesus wore sandals. And sometimes, Mother Teresa wore socks with her sandals.
(Again, remember that first thing I told you! I love you! You’re so beautiful!)
So why am I bringing up Jesus’ sandals and Mother Teresa’s sock/sandal combo?
Well, I just feel like maybe some of us need to recall this, because I am a former non-denominational evangelical, and most of my friends and family think I’m a little nuts for becoming Catholic. But I know what I’ve discovered (what's discovered me), and I’d like to be able to help them understand. It’s just that I can’t do it by myself. I need your help. You see, they think we’re the modern day Pharisees, all self-righteous and missing the point in our fancy rituals, and it would be awesomely helpful if we could stop proving them right so much.
(I love yooous!!!)
For example, my brother in-law, D, is also a former non-denominational evangelical, but instead of becoming Catholic, he’s now atheist/agnostic-ish/why label it? I have been able to have a few small conversations with him about the Catholic Church, though, when he brings it up. He’s a police officer, and on some of his off days, he works security for a Catholic Church in the wealthiest part of town. He once told me he thinks it’s neat that everyone seems to be on the same page, unified during Mass. He didn't know it, but he was actually touching on a common, and deep longing of so many non-denoms of our generation. So I was able to explain to him a little bit about our liturgy and how not only are they all on the same page in that particular Mass, but the whole Roman Catholic Church is literally on the same page all over the globe during Mass, including myself. He said it was a nice parish, and that I should try it out when we move back to town.
I’m glad he has good things to say about it.
But then, last week happened…
D told my husband (his brother) that he got—in his own words—b*%ched out by a parishioner because of a man that seemed like he didn’t belong there.
You see, this is an Italian suit with Prada shoes kind of parish, which is fine. That’s the culture they live in, so that’s how they dress. But apparently, a man came in wearing socks and sandals, obviously not very wealthy or stylish, and a little odd.
And apparently, this was a problem.
A parishioner approached D and said something like, “You need to keep an eye on that man. He obviously doesn’t belong here.”
(Hold on... Excuse me while I pause for a moment and let the smoke from my nostrils clear so I can see what I’m typing here… ahem…)
D said he was on it. He saw the man, and didn’t think he was a threat. Just different.
Then, my bro-in-law had to step out and make a quick phone call, and when he came back, that’s when the parishioner b*&ched him out. This man was irate, telling D that the odd man could be there to shoot the priest, and he’s going to tell the Pastor that D isn’t doing his job.
You see, my dear spiritual Catholic family…
This is why people don’t like us.
I wish I could say that it’s because we’re so holy that evil is repulsed by us, but usually, it’s just because we tend to think we’re better than everyone else while simultaneously being worse. We say we’re Christ’s Church, and then act like we have no idea who Christ is or what He is about.
This makes the devil’s job way too easy. In fact, I'm pretty sure Satan kicked his feet up after that one, and said, "You've got this. Wake me up when Mass is over. I'm just gonna take a little cat nap."
I do understand why some of us are a little nervous and paranoid right now. After all, so many cultural and legislative trends seem to be undermining what we’re about, and we’re wondering what that means for us as we now have to make so many distinctions between the values of our country and the values of our faith. How hard is this going to get for us? We don't know for sure. And that bomb that went off during Mass at the Catholic Church in New Mexico does not help us feel better at all.
I told D that the bombing is probably why the paranoid guy was freaking out, and I thanked D for making sure the parishioners are safe. And then we joked about it a little, because that’s what we do in uncomfortable situations.
Text conversation with D.
I know that I’m still kind of the new girl, and I still have so much to learn. And I love learning it! But at the same time, I know Christ in His Church, and I began to know Him outside of it, too. If I may, there are some things I would like to help us all understand about how we can better conduct ourselves in order to be who we are meant to for this generation of God-seekers.
The reason I told the story about D, the Socks and Sandals Man, and the Paranoid Parishioner is not to point fingers and be angry at my nervous Catholic brother. I bring it up so we can turn the magnifying glass onto ourselves to see where we might be missing the point, too.
How many of us—like the Pharisees eating with Jesus when that strange woman came in and started washing his feet with her tears and hair (Luke 7:36-50)—get really upset when someone who “doesn’t belong” presumes to welcome themselves into our home, looking for the One we’re sharing a meal with?
How many of us forget that the people in our everyday community—like the unbelieving police officer working security on his day off—are watching us to see how we respond to life’s challenges? And what they see tells them what we believe about God.
When you read the story I just told, did you recognize that the odd man in socks and sandals was not only someone Jesus loves, but that he was Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:37-45)?
I hope so.
But say that the Socks and Sandals Man had come to Mass with the intention of shooting the priest. I know this is hard for us comfortable Americans (becoming less comfortable?), but when we are fully who we are meant to be, wouldn’t we understand that our true concern is how we can help rescue a man who would do such a thing, and not how we can rescue ourselves from danger?
Because that is like Jesus. And that is what we’re supposed to be.
Because fear is natural. But peace and charity are supernatural. And we have access to that.
I say this as one of your own, but also, as an ambassador from a generation of non-denominational, evangelical Christians who were raised to love Jesus, but as we grew older, saw all the holes in our understanding. Some of us went deeper; some of us went away. But we are all looking for the Truth. And I know that what so many of my peers are longing for is the reality of the Catholic faith. They just can't see it past all of the Catholics. I know Holy Mother Church is home to all Christians, and that as followers of Christ, we need to resolve our issues from within her graces, united as one the way Christ intended. Not fractured as we are.
But what do you know about us?
Do you know that most of us were first generation non-denominational evangelicals because our parents were raised Catholic, and left because some other version of Christianity was more open to the movements of Grace and the Holy Spirit?
Do you know that our parents told us they never knew Jesus loved them until they left the Catholic Church and, in their words, “Became Christian"?
Do you know that they thought Catholicism was all about rules, shame and empty religion? And so did I?
Do you know that they were raised in the Church their whole lives, and didn’t understand who she was at all, because the sins of the people got in the way?
Do we understand who Holy Mother Church is?
Do we understand who we are as part of who she is?
Or are we getting in her way?
As one of you now, I see why they need to be here, and I also see why they left.
I love you, my dearest Church. I love what we are called to be. So let’s pray for the courage to be that. And it will take courage for everyone involved. Because if you think it's scary when odd people walk through the doors of our parishes, try to imagine what it's like to be that odd person. I can tell you, it's uncomfortable. Walking into a Catholic Church when you're not Catholic is pretty much terrifying and weird. We could stand to ease the minds of those who work up enough nerve to actually do it. We could make them feel welcomed, like, "Oh, good! You're finally here! We've been waiting for you! Come sit by us! And just let us know if you have any questions, okay? Even if we don't know the answer, we'll find it together. It'll be neat."
What if we were more excited to see people who obviously don't belong than we are to see our friends who obviously do? And what if we met their curiosity, even apprehension, with joy and humility and kind wisdom?
What if we said, "Hey, I like your socks! Where did you get them?"
Because walking into a Catholic Church is a challenging thing to do, but never walking into one is so much worse.
…Okay, I think I’m done now.
Would anyone else like to hold the talking stick?