Monday, April 17, 2006

My being Catholic is secondary—some sort of Holy Week reflection.

I FOUND MYSELF EATING BREAKFAST last Thursday while having profound conversations with the maids. They were enumerating what was prohibited and what was allowed during Holy Week. This led me to bring up a simple observation that recapitulates another one of our culture’s quirks: though we appear so conscious to the restrictions set forth by the Church, we still manage to be so disrespectful to the simple laws of our country. In theory, there are probably a lot of jeepney drivers that have abstained from meat every Friday over the past month while still spontaneously changing lanes without signaling with their tail light to pull over to the side of the road to take a piss in a not-so-secluded public area.

Clearly, there’s something wrong here.

Then there’s another paradox: the “for-show Catholics.” They’re the ones so charismatic in church every Sunday, so outwardly displaying of their “faiths” while they knowingly or unknowingly live sinful lives.

Whatever the institution that determines them, we are all still choosers of our own beliefs. We choose what we want to believe in. We have faith in the faith we have decided to have faith in. (I believe that was really redundant on my part…my bad.) And we choose how we make manifest those beliefs.

I am a child of God first and foremost, even before I am a Catholic. That’s sounds weird but it’s what I believe. Our Islamic brothers and sisters are children of God too. Sure, their God and the stories behind their faith are different than the Catholic ways, but it’s all still based on the belief in a (or several, depending on the religion) righteous God.

My affiliation to the Catholic Church—and the practices and beliefs that go along with that—is secondary to the simple fact that I believe there is a God. It is only under this perspective that I can live my life. Traditions within a religion change. Holidays of Obligations have been reduced to the few that remain; laws and interpretation of scriptures take on new angles with every new generation of Catholics. Under a tradition that has been around for centuries, there’s bound to be many angles on the basis of the tradition that have been convoluted and manipulated by man. That’s why we are fascinated—sometimes alarmed—at new takes on certain aspects of our religion (like the ones proposed in the Da Vinci Code and the new discovery of the Gospel of Judas).

I think it’s this fundamental obsession with getting the basis of all religions to a state of indisputability that leads people to stray away from religion. Or to the other extreme, it leads many to be so passionately attached to it that they become radically defensive about the religion they believe in. The obsession with religion is extremely dangerous. It’s the stuff wars are bound to be started because of. While fighting for money can be settled by simply destroying nations and taking away their money, the ensuing resentment that comes because of it is further magnified if religion is added to the mix. When you are at the point when you are questioning the very basis of one’s entire belief system, the dangers that result can be catastrophic.

Religion at times gets in the way of believing in my God. Traditions knock righteousness off the map. Corruption becomes hidden behind the masks of scripture. What I am saying may be sinful, but maybe it’s because our whole belief system and the way we approach religion is downright sinful.

I am a Catholic in that I believe that, for the most part, the Catholic Church’s traditions serve in the best interest to its believers in serving a framework to which we should live life. But that’s all it is to me—a framework. But before being labeled a Catholic, I must be labeled a believer in God.

Believing in God allows me the kind of life that transcends all religions. It is a life based in goodness and in love. Whereas belief systems, in all their nobility, can often lead us to be good because the “Church says so,” my authentic belief in God just tells me to be good. While we can wrongfully misinterpret certain aspects of tradition, a genuine belief in goodness can to do us no wrong.

For me personally, to be overly caught up in the Catholic conventions can easily deter me to a very immature way of life. To use a bit of the psychology I learned, I can see (and have seen) myself falling into Kohlberg’s Pre-conventional Stage of Moral Development when it comes to my beliefs—one based on rewards and punishments that the Church speaks of. Sometimes, it feels like I have to do something or else I’ll lose points with God.

To be good to get to Heaven makes God an ulterior motive. Now I know that that’s downright sinful. But to be good—with no strings attached—is what I believe is more indicative of being a child of God.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m faithful to the prayers and scriptures taught to me by my church. I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Catholic Church. But I also know that not all of us in this world are Catholics. Does that make the non-Catholics “lost souls?” Well, it’s too easy for us to say that, and I don’t think it’s our right to judge them. But I do know that for all that are apart of any religion, we are all apart of a bigger belief system—a greater belief system based on goodness as guided by a God (or Gods). And I think that that’s most important because it leads to goodness and harmony in this world.

Quite frankly, as a Catholic child of God, that’s good enough for me.


3:16pm Sun 16 April 06


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