One of the problems Catholics have in understanding their faith is that they don't know the Bible and they don't know Bible history. Last night's RCIA class helped us to break down the human journey found in Exodus, the central story of the Hebrew Bible. It goes a little something like this:
Realization that something is wrong
Realization that we are powerless to change
Being called and brought out
Wanting to go back
Making a choice
Entering a new land
"This is everyone's story," said Father Bob. Exodus is a universal story about the human journey. It we get caught up in the details of how many frogs and which direction the wind blew we lose the overarching narrative of the story. You may recognize yourself in this story for a variety of reasons.
God makes the first choice for the Hebrews by calling them out. But they are afraid of freedom because it's something they don't know. They want to go back because at least they knew what slavery entailed. After wandering (the Bible says 40 years but we learned that 40 is a numerical code for "a really long time" or "as long as it takes.") in the desert (actually it's not the desert we think of with sand and tumbleweeds, the Hebrew translation is wilderness, someplace where we are exposed and there is nowhere to hide from God), the Hebrews make the choice themselves to pursue freedom and only then can they enter a new land.
"Everybody has to wander," said Father Bob. Because the only way to make a choice on our own, just as the Hebrews do after wandering, is to have spent time wandering. The "dump method" of Catholic teaching (basically we had everything dumped into our brains by second grade, including answers to questions we didn't yet know to ask) does not allow us to have doubts. It's easier for us not to question and just go with the knowledge. But that's problematic for people like me and, I suspect, a growing number of Catholics.
We are no longer the peasants in the field with at most a grade school education. We are highly educated and yet many who can be incredibly intelligent in all areas of their life, put on blinders when it comes to religion because "that's what we were taught in second grade."
"A lot of you are here because you wandered — from church to church, trying to find a place where you belong and doubting both intellectually and spiritually," he said. But we made a choice to know our faith deeper and find our way to a new land, to new understanding.
Like the Hebrews, the second choice was ours.