Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday in the Catholic community. All around the world, people are walking around with dirt smudged into a cross on their foreheads. Today marks the beginning of the season of Lent, where ungrateful people complain about what they gave up and try to out do each other.
I grew up in a Roman Catholic household. I was baptized as an infant, received communion in second grade, confirmation in eighth grade, went to Catholic school from kindergarten to fifth grade and then again for high school and will most likely get married in a Catholic Church when the time is right and I’m with the person I love. I wear a cross around my neck, pray as often as I remember (which makes me sound like a brat but I remember often,) and I thank God for all the things he has blessed me with (I’m a pretty blessed person if I may say so.)
But after graduating high school and finally catching a break from the CCD classes and religion class every year, I began to really think about what my faith meant to me.
Sometimes people lose their faith once they start considering what it actually means.
My faith in God has never wavered. I always knew he was there and knew when to ask for help or when to say thank you. While I dislike a lot that the Catholic Church has done and a lot that they believe, I’ve never considered being atheist or agnostic. I’ve never considered another religion. I always knew what I’ve always known and always trusted what I’ve been taught. But there are plenty of things I don’t agree with when it comes to religion in general.
My dad always says, “even if there is no God and all these religions are wrong, what harm could come to you by just being a good person?”
For a long time that rang in my ears. And it’s one of the few things that truly makes sense to me.
After four years of digging and researching, learning and contemplating, I’ve realized that religion is a safety net. It gives people something to focus on, allows them someone to blame when things aren’t going well, and teaches them to stay humble when they are. Long ago, religion was used to comfort the masses; it eventually transformed into a way to control everything that goes on in someone’s world. Since its birth, people have used religion for the weirdest things. They’ve used it to justify wars, killings, and insane decisions.
But I don’t understand how people take a god so seriously that they kill their brother in his name.
A few years ago I learned that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all worship the same God. Think about that for a minute. Three religions, who dislike one another enough to kill in the name of their God, all come from the same one, all killing in the same name, most of the time without even knowing. Whenever I tell someone this, they don’t believe me. “How can those people worship my God?”
Ignorance can cause so much more damage than knowledge can, my friends. The Bible has a story that I’ve heard a hundred times, that never mattered to me until the moment I learned we are all one.
Abram and his wife, Sarai, were living in Haran, a city in upper Mesopotamia. God called to Abram and told him to move southwest to Canaan, a land that God promised to give to Abram’s descendant. Sarai could not bear children, but with the desire to be a good wife and give her husband an heir, she allowed him to sleep with her handmaiden, Hagar. Hagar became pregnant and began to think a little lore highly of herself, which pissed Sarai off, which caused the handmaiden to leave, fearing Sarai. God told Hagar that she would have a son who would be a “wild ass of a man,” (Genesis 16:12) and to return to Sarai, in order to have her child in Abram’s home, so Hagar went back and eventually gave birth to Abram’s first son, Ishmael. (It is after this that God makes Abram circumcise all of his descendants, as part of his covenant which will give Abram as many descendants as stars in the sky. Good stuff.) Then God promises Abram another son, but this one is to come from Sarai, who at this point in the Bible is 90 years old. God also changes their names, which is why they’re both now referred to as “Abraham,” meaning “father of many,” and “Sarah.” Soon Sarah gives birth to Isaac and forces Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away.
According to Islamic traditions, that boy, the one born of a Jewish man devoted to God and his wife’s maid, is the ancestor of the Arab people.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
Ishmael marries an Egyptian woman and they have 12 sons, each of whom became a tribal chief. Their second son, Kedar, is the father of the Qedarites, and, again, according to tradition, is the ancestor of the Quraysh tribe, and therefore the ancestor of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.
In the story of the prophet Muhammad, he says that while in a trance, the Angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him to “proclaim in the name of your Lord who created!
Created man from a clot of blood.
Proclaim: Your Lord is the Most Generous,
Who teaches by the pen;
Teaches man what he knew not. (Qur’an 96:1-3)”
The angel Gabriel is the same angel that appeared to Mary and told her she would give birth to the son of God, and the same angel who appeared to Moses. This angel is God’s messenger. In the Roman Catholic religion he is referred to not only as an archangel, but also as a saint. Gabriel is mentioned in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, the Qur’an and Kabbalah.
So in essence, Muslims, Christians, and Jews all worship the same God. And it is ignorance that pulls us apart when knowledge could ultimately bring us together and stop the violence that so many have grown up in.
Learning this has had a huge impact on me. It has changed the way I see others and the way I see myself. I have begun to think differently, act differently toward others and have started researching other cultures because my curiosity cannot be contained anymore. It has taught me to accept others, regardless of their religious beliefs or their “one true God.”
I have begun to see myself as a child of God and have begun to realize what a child of God really is. People need to realize that we’re a lot more alike than we think… People aren’t as “evil” as you think. And maybe if we began to see each other as brothers and sisters a lot less killings “in the name of God” might happen.

A girl can dream, can’t she?

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