Last Sunday, I arrived at Mass feeling a little less-than-enthusiastic. I was in the midst of reading Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd, in which she writes about moving from traditional Christianity into a more woman-centered spirituality. There wasn’t a whole lot in the book that was “new” to me, but it did make me extra sensitive to the patriarchal nature of the established church and the liberal use of “He” and “Father” as God and “men” as people. So I was going through my own internal dance that is familiar to me and probably familiar to many who write for and read this blog: Why do I really stay here? Is this really my faith?
I should have expected what happened next because it’s happened to me so many times before. I was called to reconsider.
When the priest reflected on the Gospel reading about Jesus and the Canaanite woman, he talked about how, in the reading, we see Jesus “change his mind.” His initial response to the woman was that his mission was to save the Jewish people, but she convinced him that his mission was to minister to all people. The idea of Jesus being convinced of his path through another human or the idea of Jesus changing his mind at all are intriguing concepts in and of themselves, but I’m not going to dwell there. Because what really spoke to me was what came next: the profession that over time, things change. The priest said, “In fact, over time, even religion changes. As we learn more, we’ve been called to change. And there are lots of people who think the Church should change, and perhaps, like Jesus, we’re being called to change our minds rather than called to keep upholding the past.” It didn’t hurt that the priest went on to say that if he were designing a new church, he’d put a statue of the Canaanite woman at the entrance to remind parishioners that Jesus came for everyone.
And in that short homily, I once more got the answer about why I stay: Because, despite the way it sometime feels, I’m really not alone, even within the more organized Church.
I was still thinking about the homily throughout the rest of Sunday. Of course, I had plenty of ideas for what could change! I thought, “Ah, he’s talking about ordination! Birth control! The dignity of GLBTQI people!” But because he was vague (which is the way of this particular priest, to be quietly revolutionary in a way that heartens hungry souls like mine but doesn’t alienate the more conservative among us), I’m left pondering what things I might be called to “change my mind” about, or at least to re-examine. I’m left wondering what the others in the congregation assumed the “changes” the priest referred to were: the translations to bring the Mass closer to the Latin form? (which I’m still against, but had to to chew on a bit nonetheless). And perhaps what was beautiful about it was the fact that it could have meant something different to each of us without ever ringing false. Because change is part of life, and our Church is a life-giving, life-sustaining Church. It’s just the how and what of the changes that are debatable. I think I will stick around for that debate.