This morning when we went out for our walk, I caught a very familiar scent. I don't know its actual origin, but I knew what my senses told me. The smell of incense from high mass at church. For those who don't know, I was raised Catholic, along with my 4 siblings. And the smell brought back days of Christmas vigils and Easter mornings, of funeral masses and Good Fridays. And just for a moment, I was taken by the thought that something so intimate with the worship of God should seem so odd, so out-of-place.
Despite being raised in one church, not all of us ended up staying. Four of us have come to personal relationships with Jesus, a concept that really wasn't taught in Catholic church in our day. I mean, it was there if you paid attention, but buried, if you didn't, in the Pope and Purgatory and Saturday afternoon confession. Still, our mother planted a seed of simple faith in us, and our father showed us the example of not missing church- in other words, the importance.
One of my sisters was able to reach an understanding of worship beyond the ritual and politics that allowed her to remain at our ancestral parish. I was not, not at first, because I had to weave my way through the inconsistancies and non-Biblical teachings of the Popes to understand the truth of worship and salvation, and ultimately was led to faith through the agency of non-denominational friends. My brother had to learn the division between faith and religion the hard way when rigid adherance to misapplied Church Law would have led to his not being able to bury his first grandchild "in the church" had not the "money people" of the parish went to the Bishop.
But we all assembled before Christ in the end, because in the end, God is a very simple concept. All you really need to know are two things. First, you have to recognize Jesus as God, not a man but God manifest in flesh. Second, you have to accept that you have no means to enter heaven due to your fallen state, except through accepting His death for your sins in your heart. Simple.
What has made it difficult over the ages has been man's desire to apply his own logic to the situation. Within a couple hundred years of Jesus' death and ressurection, man was battling over the "nature of Christ". Was He God and man? Was He God, but acting through a human shell? Or was He a human given a divine task and Godhood became His reward at completion? Wars, murders, excommunications followed, because Jesus did not easily fit into the boxes of man's conceptions. Was the eucharist the transformed Body and Blood, or merely symbolic? Could heaven be bought by money? All of these and more were asked by men trying to "understand" Jesus.
But I don't think we ever had that problem. It was as simple as "God made man in His own image." Man has mind, body, and spirit, seperate things yet still part of one person. And God was Father, the will or "mind"; Jesus, the action, or "body"; and the Spirit. God was just on a higher scale than us. While theologians argued, "How could Jesus possibly be both God and man?" we knew the answer was, "Because He chose to be." Simple.
Man has difficulties in conception. One is a Catholic because he is aided in his faith by the ritual- the Palms on Palm Sunday, the ashes on Ash Wednesday, the Gregorian feel of the hymns, the focus that a PROPERLY prayed rosary can bring. Another has to ground himself in the Bible alone. One likes the feel of an open service, with singing, mingling, and Bible study; another gets more out of a traditional service with a sermon focus. One is lifted up by a service with a cultural identity, another can walk into any church and be comfortable. Non-believers laugh and say, "Oh yes, God tells so many stories it's impossible to follow"; but the point is that while God is one, we are many, and He took that into consideration. God is not the one who is limited in perception.
We are. We are too small to see the big picture, bound by time where He is not, limited in ability where He is not. And He brings comfort in His measure as well. I have friends right now dealing with cancer on every side, etc. And it is hard for us to see His comfort sometimes. But it is there; sometimes in burdens for our benefit, sometimes in the easing of them for our encouragement. But it is always with the big picture, the life beyond, in mind, not this life. And we who are bound in this life have a hard time seeing that, and He knows that.
And that's why He made us as an image of Himself. And why He only gave us two things we really had to remember. Jesus became man. Jesus died for us. Simple.