I never had thought about these things. I was a Catholic, but I wasn’t a Catholic. I was born into a family that wanted to say they were Catholic and that is about it. Growing up, there was no mastery of the mystery, only the misery of the rules.
There were a lot of rules about being Catholic. Chief among them, as I recall, sans Wikipedia, were the sins. You could make big sins, or you could make little or venial sins. Big sins were called mortal sins. A lot of my early childhood religious education emphasized the various penalties for committing one of these varieties of transgressions. If you died with a mortal sin “on your soul,” though, you were in a heap of trouble. You would go straight to hell, and there would be no way you could break out of there. So an after-life sentence was guaranteed. If you died with a couple of venial sins there, you would simply be sent over to this place called Purgatory, where you would lament and whine but you had a hope of getting out, eventually.
Funny how we use time in a sense where there can’t be time, in the immortal afterlife. I do believe in something, if not a consciousness, so this makes me uneasy. What if they are right! But then reason prevails, and I carry on hoping that I can leave the world a better place. What more can I ask?
Forgiveness is what I can ask. It used to be enough that Easter was honoring the death of a person whose father sent him here fully knowing he would be executed by the ruling class, for being a radical. For challenging the old way. For eating with sinners. I don’t think they had figured out, by the way, what the sins actually were. Because how could it be a sin to have like 40 wives and then kill your neighbors if they stepped on your sandaled toes, and things like that. I guess those were the days.
But we celebrate the death of a man who lived over 2,000 years ago each Easter. And I, a Pagan Unitarian/Universalist, am stuck with the goods. Long ago, in my adulthood, I was able to shake loose the chokehold of the confusion that being Catholic caused. I was lucky to be able to replace that tradition with one that made sense to me. One that embraced the natural world as all there is, and one that gave me a chance to do good here and now. So what – I would never be able to meet the Virgin Mother of Heaven or St. Peter as he guarded the gates to Heaven, or even reside in a place prepared for me since the beginning of time.
I could simply be simple. Live and die, and in the meantime, practice the example shown by the man who was called down from Heaven to live among us for 33 years only to die a thief’s death on Golgotha. Be that as it may, I’m grateful for the reminder that to be a truly real person, forgiveness has to come from your heart, your spirit, not from the fires of Hell or the heights of the sky.
So Happy Easter – make it a good one!