I stared up at the Basilica in hate. I hated them. Every single one of them. I did.Yet more than anything I hated the Church in general. The Catholic Church.
I held the Catechism of the Catholic Church deep gripped in my sweaty teenage hand. I stared up at the peak of the tower. It hailed over me in unapologetic grace. Unaware of me. Uncaring. I stared at the towering mural of Jesus and the Virgen de San Juan del Valle. It stared back at me. Yet saw nothing.
I watched all the crusty Catholics crawl and kick around the church grounds like blind strays desperate for a teat. I felt so sorry for them.
I squeezed tighter the Catechism in my hand. It was stained brown. Nearly as stained as the Bible I held in my other hand. It was hot out. I remember that the most. The Valley sun squinted patient eyes at my obstinance.
I wanted to save each and every one of those Catholics. I wanted to save them. So bad. I did. I wanted to heal them, to release them, to help them find true salvation. They were so wrong to me. And it broke my heart. There was no echo to the shouting sound of my frustration, like a voice in the desert making rough silence.
I had shone up there alone. I’d drove there alone. It was Sunday. I had gone to my Assemblies of God church with my family. I was determined to stand in front of those large wooden doors and preach my heart out.
I had stepped out of the car. I stood beside it. I stood and stared.
“If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you;
if you trust in God, you too shall live;
he has set before you fire and water
to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.
Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him.”
“Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.'”
I read the readings for this Sunday for this Dark Devotional. I read through each one and saw one underlining thread. Maybe I chose to see it. Yet I saw it nonetheless. Brokenness.
Destruction was and is God’s greatest work in us.
We have set before us “fire and water…life or death.” And we choose, and rechoose, with every action and reaction.
Yet it says if “you trust in God, you too shall live.” The automatic assumption is that choosing to trust in God means peace. It doesn’t. It can’t.
Fulfilling the Law of God is impossible. It was, and still is. Yet some did it, chose life, and lived and drank the water of life and sustenance given to them in the OT. Noah did it. He was righteous. Job did it.
Yet we read the NT reading. And Jesus said that he didn’t come to change anything. Cool. But what does that mean for us?
Well, it means that Jesus rose the bar. He says that adultery isn’t just a sin, but even the thought of it can commit the sin itself.
What Jesus did in a way was make us more guilty. He raised the bar, so that we would try to jump higher, and jump higher, and jump higher, and stare at that impossible task set before us and fail. Fail somehow. Someway.
Worse, he became the large cornerstone of the Church, that would fall upon us to crush the brittle bones of our pride and self. To spread the blood of the man and sin from under the skin of an enemy of God.
To be destroyed in pride. In glory. In justice. That in the end we would be broken before him. And see that, man could not love God on his own.
That Christ be glorified all the more for His rule over sin. And that Mary be wonderful in her purity from stain.
The stain. Sin. The greatest and strongest thing under God. That which took all of himself to conquer. That which, with one kiss, changed glorious angels to demons. That which with one touch made purity rot. That with one ounce, would twist and curl a holy heart, to a heart that hates God.
Glory to the Christ through Mary.
The Christ who saw me staring at him from the parking lot. The same God that saw me drive away from the Basilica in tears. Broken. Knowing that I couldn’t preach. That I was afraid. I failed Him. That I wasn’t strong enough. I was too scared to love him. To serve him. To die for him. To give him the holy violent service of passion he deserves. That I failed him. And I did that day, and he broke me. And I wept in shame of my frailty. My infidelity. I wept as I thought of God. And as I thought of how I couldn’t truly please Him. That I could never be enough. Do enough. Say enough. I wept in humility, broken tears of pain, yet tears of worship.
Tears that slide down my face in sounds of praise. Praise to Our God. Because I was worse than Him. I wasn’t like him. I wasn’t like Jesus. I wasn’t faithful to Him. I wasn’t strong enough. And I never would be. Grace to You Lord Jesus Christ.
We have lost. That God may win.
Jonás Pérez is a middle-school teacher who lives in Fort Worth, TX, with his wife and two children. He is the author of Finibus, an epic poem about a priest condemned to Hell who witnesses the Apocalypse. Yikes. He is working on an EP for Marian devotion songs. Check out some of his music on his Youtube channel.