I returned to Church today. I have not been since last May, and that was the only time in in the last year. Never in my life, since I began taking my faith seriously in my early twenties, have I gone such a long period without attending Mass. After my heart attack on Dec. 6, and my subsequent response, I have felt a deep need to return. Communion with Christ is too important to neglect.
Now, I still have my issues with the Catholic Church, but they involve mainly issues of Church teaching on human sexuality. Other than that, I pretty much believe in everything. I am particularly in love with the Eucharist and liturgical life of the Church. And yes, I do believe the Eucharist is the actual body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ. Why not? God can do whatever he wants. The Eucharist is wonderfully mystical as well as physical.
I stayed away for a year, disgusted by the unending sexual scandals and subsequent cover ups that continue to plague the Church. So I made my protest and stated my objections as best I could, by walking out. Now I am back. I simply believe the Church needs to update her teachings on human sexuality. We now know too much about biology, psychology, anthropology, etc., to continue to base the Church’s teachings ancient men saintly but hopelessly ignorant about the physical realities of human sexuality. It just does not make sense. This rigorous, legalistic and puritanical view of human sexuality is also destructive, dangerous and has led to some of the worst scandals in Church history. It is time to change. The first step would be to end the ridiculous requirement of celibacy for the ministerial priesthood. Men are men no matter what, as God created them, and all men have certain needs and desires. Although some people can embrace celibacy fruitfully, to try to universally suppress basic sexual desires in all men interested in the priesthood can only lead to serious psychosis for those not truly called to a celibate life. With the continuing growing priest shortage in the West, lifting this rigid rule would be quite beneficial in helping to keep men available to offer the sacraments to the faithful.
So I attended Mass again this Sunday and I felt once again at home. I was nourished by both the readings and the Eucharist. In today’s Mass we had a wonderful reading on love, by St. Paul. Many would consider St. Paul one of the most important figures in the whole “sex is bad” theology, and this is perhaps true, but when it came to writing about love, no one has ever said it better than this man. So here is the passage from 1 Corinthians 13 that I heard this morning. It is worth reading. It is also quite beautiful. I am glad I heard it on the day I returned to Church, because most important of all, everything Paul says here is quite true.
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
It is a beautiful passage, and I thank God that I am still alive to hear it. Now comes the hard part: I need to go out into the world a practice it. I trust God to help me with that, and God knows I need lots of help in that department!