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Thoughts on coming home to Jesus

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A while ago someone sent me a newsletter from The Coming Home Network International.

Attached was a note that read: “Mrs. Kennedy, I understand you are a lapsed Catholic. If so, you may find this (newsletter) of interest. Why not return to our Mother Church?”

It was signed, “a friend.”

In the newsletter, a woman who had grown up as a Catholic wrote about meeting some evangelical Protestants, including the man she eventually married, and spent 20 years attending Protestant churches before returning to the Catholic Church.

She described it as coming full circle, “back into full communion with His (Jesus’) Church and complete union with Him in the Holy Eucharist.”

Through a series of events, coupled with an internal riling up whenever Protestants made “not-so-subtle” digs at Catholicism and culminating with a program, “The Journey Home,” shown on the Catholic television network EWTN, the woman felt drawn to return to the church of her upbringing.

In 2008, the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix piloted a “Come Home” advertising campaign aimed at lapsed Catholics. The ad campaign continues today.

Although it’s true that my religious upbringing is Catholic and I’ve considered myself an evangelical Protestant Christian for 33 years, I don’t consider myself a “lapsed” Catholic.

I admit that when I first started attending Protestant churches I had some anti-Catholic feelings. I thought they (whoever “they” are) had somehow hidden the gospel from me.

But as I read the Bible for the first time I realized I had heard much of it before — the parables of Jesus, the instructions from the Apostle Paul, various passages from the Old Testament. It hadn’t been hidden; I just hadn’t been listening.

In 2005, I wrote a column about attending a daily Mass at a local Catholic church. I wrote that as the priest held up the large, round Eucharist and said, “This is the body of Christ,” I remembered as a kid taking slices of Wonder Bread, smashing them and fashioning my own pretend communion hosts — the body of Christ from a polka-dotted bread bag.

As the priest held up the chalice of wine and announced, “This is the blood of Christ,” I remembered using Kool Aid as pretend wine — the blood of Christ, fruit-flavored, in shiny aluminum cups.

At that Mass, and at the dozen or so Masses I’ve attended since then, hearing the priest say, “Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again,” thrilled me. It thrills me as I write it now.

Has died. Is risen. Will come again.

That’s a belief that’s not exclusively Catholic, but universally Christian.

Over the years, I’ve erased any anti-Catholic feelings. That said, I don’t believe that the Catholic Church is something I need to come home to. That’s because Christ is my home, not a particular denomination.

My church affiliation is Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), but I occasionally attend services at several local Baptist churches and even a Pentecostal church or two. Those who belong to Jesus belong to only one body, and it’s his.

The truth is, I have a few theological disagreements with some Catholic teachings, but none with its people or its foundation.

As I wrote in 2005, what makes the Church catholic (with a small c), which means universal, is the belief in “died, risen, coming again” and all that that means.”

That’s the core of Christianity and the basics of our common faith — Catholic and Baptist, African Methodist Episcopal, Brethren and Church of God and every and all who preach that Jesus is Lord.

So, while I appreciate the gesture and concern of the person who sent me the newsletter and the note, I am home.

Thirty-three years ago, when I first heard the Word of God say, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:3) and “Seek my face,” and I responded with a wholehearted, “Your face, Lord, will I seek” (Psalm 27:1), that’s the moment I
came home.

I came home to Jesus, and I haven’t left.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via e-mail at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.