They call themselves former Catholics. They were baptized and educated as Catholics but have chosen to leave the sacraments and the Church because they were hurt, scandalized, or disgusted with God’s Church. They might have been the faithful parishioners of the priests who got married and left the ministry. Before these ministers gathered enough courage to leave, so many were hurt by their double lives. They could be the ordinary Sunday Massgoers who stayed away from confession because of the unreasonable temper of the priest who last heard their confession. “May tampo sila sa simbahan at sa Diyos.” They prayed to God for healing, or for a job, or the conversion of an erring loved one. God took so long to answer. After praying and sacrificing long and hard, a loved one died. These Catholics keep a grudge against God and the Church. They are now outside the Church, denying that God exists or joining other Christian churches that are “more” alive.
Among the friends of Jesus, there was at least one who carried a great “tampo” against God and the friends of God. Thomas, the twin. He staked his best and his most for Jesus. He thought Jesus would liberate Israel. He thought Jesus would establish His kingdom, and he aspired to be a VIP in that kingdom.
It was a terrible disappointment for Thomas to hear of Jesus being whipped, carrying the cross like a criminal, and dying like a worm. Was this all that Jesus could offer? From the viewpoint of Thomas, Jesus duped him. He was disappointed and disgusted. He was hurting, and When the ten started to gather again, Thomas chose to stay away. He was too hurt, he was turning skeptical and cynical. The pain was too much. He thought he needed time to be alone, to lick his wounds and recover. At a certain point, Thomas was a “former Catholic.”
What brought Thomas back? He challenged Jesus and the apostles. “I need to probe my fingers into His wounds. Otherwise, forget about this resurrection story.” Jesus acceded to the demand and said: “Do it. Touch my wounds. Realize that all these wounds are for you. Thomas, even if you are the only person in this world, I will still choose to be wounded, broken, and killed. My wounds are proofs of my love for you.”
The “former Catholic” Thomas returned to the Church and became a great apostle in bringing the gospel to India. By the glorious wounds of Jesus, Thomas was healed.
Many others, like Thomas, are hurting and disappointed because of the ways of God and the ways of the Church. They cannot accept the Church in politics and its stand against population control. They cannot accept priests in fundraising drives despite the donation fatigue of the parishioners. They cannot accept the reality that good people suffer and bad people are prosperous. These people need to be healed of their hurts and pains.
They cannot see Jesus. They wait outside the Church and wait until those “hypocrites” inside are done. They find the liturgy meaningless and the smell of incense abominable. They cannot see Jesus. They only see the people who carry the name of Jesus. The Catholics. The Christians.
Can we show them our hands, feet, and side and prove to them that we have been wounded out of love for them? Can we show them our hands ready to reach out, or are our hands still clenched fists ready to hurt and destroy? Have our feet been bruised walking the journey of Jesus, or are they hurting because they kicked hard and strong? Is our side wounded, giving out the blood and water of mercy, or is it the side of the former Catholics that is wounded because of hurts and pains?
At the twilight of life, we will be judged according to love. At the sunset of life, Jesus will look not for our stars but for our scars.
“Former Catholics” is a contradiction in terms. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic. God’s call is irrevocable. We need the Words of Jesus to heal us. Jesus heeds our readiness to be wounded so that the world may know that we are His disciples.
Jesus Our Light