As I nervously sat down in my first RCIA (Roman Catholic Instruction for Adults) session, the last thing I expected to hear from one of the sponsors was, “That Martin Luther, if only he’d gone about things differently he’d be a saint by now.”
“Excuse Me?” I thought. “Didn’t I just introduce myself as a former Lutheran in a Catholic Church?” I thought for sure Catholics as a group must have it out for those big bad Lutherans! It turns out that while some Catholics are very against all things Luther, many are graciously accepting of his human nature. I have found most Catholics are actually fairly indifferent and know very little about him at all. For many years I had been selling Catholics short.
It took time for me to come to terms with the fact that no one looked down on me as a former Lutheran. The truth is I had to rectify this discovery with my former image of the fuddy-duddy old Catholics who thought they were better than everyone else. I had a problem though… I couldn’t stubbornly resist an attitude towards me that didn’t exist. It turned out that the Catholics weren’t going to put me down. Teach the Truth of the Catholic Church and instruct me when I was wrong or misinformed, yes. But treat me as less of a person or less of a Christian because I wasn’t one of them? Not once.
I have thought about that day many times as my family completed our journey into the Church. I have gotten to know the sponsor who made such a shocking statement to me quite well. She is a person who perpetually sees the good in a person’s actions. She accepts their human nature and looks beyond that to how she can serve their needs. Legally blind, she comes to mass with a giant magnifying glass so she can witness the consecration in colors and blurs each week. She regularly organizes teams to cook for our weekly dinner following evening mass on Sunday. When my boys told her she was like a rhino because they can’t see so well either, she laughed and thanked them for sharing. She told them to always come and say hello when they see her so that she can learn their shapes and voices. She has every reason to be bitter and cold, not to see the best in people and situations.
So what’s my excuse?
I don’t need a 500-1,000 year wait like Luther to know that I could be going about things differently. Every day is a new opportunity to treat people with dignity, compassion, and respect. Every day is a new opportunity to be a vessel of grace to those who surround me. I’ve been a confirmed Catholic for 6 days and received Holy Communion exactly once. It is probably time for me to start doing things differently.