Though I was raised Catholic and believe in an all powerful, all knowing, all merciful God -- after all, somebody had to create the bean burrito -- I've always questioned my religion.
In CCD class I would ask questions like: "Why are there 12 Apostles yet only 10 Commandments?" or "Why are there 8 Beatitudes yet only 7 Sacraments?" or "Okay, I understand 'the Father' and I understand 'the Son' but I just don't get 'the Holy Spirit' ... could you explain the Holy Trinity again?"
To which my religious education teachers would throw their hands up into the air as if appealing to a greater power and offer rebuttals like "That's just the way it is!" or "Because that's what it says in the Bible!" or the usual comeback "'Cause that's the way God wanted it to be!"
I didn't mean my teachers, or my Catholic religion, any disrespect. I just wanted to know the answers. Yes, yes, I realize I was born with Original Sin just like everyone else. But heck, I was named for two saints - John and Thomas - so that's gotta count toward something: John being the author of one of the Gospels and Thomas being the apostle who doubted Jesus' resurrection. Thus my inner battle with faith. At times I am the believer "John" and at other times, the doubter "Thomas." Most times, though, I'm the catch-as-catch-can "Jack" - residing somewhere in the middle - full of the usual sin and guilt of any typical Catholic, yet just one deathbed Sacrament of Reconciliation away from a good, clean slate for all of eternity!
For instance, here's a question that has plagued me for years: In the Garden of Eden, during the fall months, who was responsible for raking up all the leaves that no doubt fell from the multitude of trees and bushes? Was it Adam? Or Eve? Or the Serpent? Or was a landscaping crew hired? Or perhaps God just raised His almighty hand and the leaves of Genesis magically jumped into oversized black trash bags. As far as I can tell, there is not one mention of leaf raking in the Bible, so one would assume that fallen vegetation of any kind was left to decay and compost for the betterment of all Mankind.
Here's another question: Why do they call it the New Testament when it was written nearly two thousand years ago? Isn't it about time for a second edition to be published? After all, there have been some major developments over the past two millennia (i.e. the Roman Empire adopting Christianity as its official religion, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reformation, Vatican II, the release of Madonna's "Immaculate Collection" CD).
And another question: Why did St. Paul write all those letters to the Corinthians, and the Colossians, and the Philippians, and the Thessalonians? Wouldn't he have saved time and money (on paper, envelopes, and postage) if he had sent postcards instead?
For instance, in 1 Corinthians 13, instead of all this business about speaking "with the tongues of men and of angels" and becoming "as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal" and seeing "through a glass, darkly; but then face to face" and "though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing," couldn't he have simply scribbled out the following on a postcard:
AD 54, August 10
My dear Corinthians,
Hope all is well with you. I am doing fine. Weather has been seasonably warm for Macedonia. Very little rain, dry and warm most every day, although yesterday morning there was a brief cloudburst. Anyway, just a quick thought - it occurred to me the other day that in life the three most important things are faith, hope, and charity, with perhaps the greatest being charity. Think about it. Well, that's all for now.
Best to all,
And what of 1 Thessalonians 3 concerning the visit of Paul's delegate Timothy to Macedonia ... could he not have summed it all up with this postcard message:
AD 51, May 12
Greetings from Corinth! All is fine with me. Been taking a little time off -- reading, writing, playing some golf. Thanks for being such wonderful hosts to Brother Timothy. He has been such a great help to me in spreading the Word. Upon his return he informed me that you maintain good remembrances of us always. He also brought me good tidings of your continued deep faith and charity, which provides me with great comfort. Keep it up - stand fast in the Lord! Sorry gotta run - 10:00 tee time.
Now back to the issue of raking leaves -- in the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah makes mention of the "fadeth" and "falleth" of leaves as follows:
Isaiah 1:30: For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.
Isaiah 34:4 : And all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as the falling fig from the fig tree.
Isaiah 64:6: All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Yet nowhere does the prophet mention the raking of leaves. Perhaps God did simply raise His almighty hand, which would have saved tremendously on dump fees!