Thursday, January 7, 2010

Grace Makes Sense of Things

A lot of my personal readings have been coming together in recent days, and seemingly overlap in explaining and enforcing ideas from different angles. I guess it started with the Blessed Columba book, which continues to be a great and intriguing read.

This morning I read the Office of Readings from the Common of Pastors, in recognition of today’s feast day of Saint Raymond, a priest from Spain around the 13th century. I read: If anyone wishes to be first, he must become the last and servant of all. These words tied to something else I recently read in Sower Magazine, which wrote about the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. It said: The Jews always regarded God’s choice of them as an immense privilege. The danger was that this privilege came to be seen as something earned. The challenge goes out to ourselves as well. Do we regard living the Christian life as earning our way into heaven? Is it not rather our joyful response to the privilege of being called to belong to God’s kingdom? If our hearts focus on the grace of the call, we shall not be tempted to resent those who receive the same grace at the last hour. This reminded me of Columba’s description of grace.

Another article in that same magazine spoke of the spiritual fatherhood of bishops and priests. Bishop Aquila of North Dakota writes how he felt called to “see everything through the eyes of the Father.” Putting this call into practice, he referred to his priests as “my dearest sons” during a retreat. He was overwhelmed at the response, the priests who wept over being treated as someone that important, that much loved. Do you see the relationship to my earlier quoting of Columba, on the Father’s Divine Plan, how close the Father wants us to be to him, and how we should love our families and those we meet in the same way?

I read further in the Office: When the prince of pastors comes again, you will receive from him an unfading crown of glory. And: You must have at heart every member of the flock, for the Holy Spirit has made you their shepherds (Acts 20:28). Again, the references to grace.

I read further: You will hear the word from my mouth. You will tell others what I have said. Then I read a segment from Fr Cantalamessa’s book on the Beatitude: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Cantalamessa notes that “what determines purity or impurity of an action is the intention, that is, whether it is done to be seen by others or to please God. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men (Matt 6:2). “Hypocrisy is the sin that God denounces most forcefully throughout the Bible, and the reason is clear. Through hypocrisy people dethrone God and put him in second place while placing creatures – public opinion – in first place. The judgment of Christ on hypocrisy is final: They have already received their reward! Jesus even said of himself: I do not seek my own glory (Jn 8:50).


Lots of insights in my recent readings, which I share with you, but even as I share them I have to look within me and ask why I am doing this. Where does the line get drawn between sharing/evangelizing the good word as I have perceived it given to me, versus speaking out with the big old capital “I”, as in “look what I found” – as if it had not been given to me? The fact of the insights I have felt and the warning I read in Catalamessa gives me pause.

I say to myself that I am not writing to seek any converts to my thinking, or laud for the insights given me. I KNOW in my heart, that anything I receive/perceive is a great blessing for me, a grace I was able to accept. And I hope to pass on to others, as in the parable about the talents – I must take what I am given and make it grow. Yet in my heart I know the warning about hypocrisy is given to me as a blessing even as much as the rest – temptations come so easily.

Relative to temptations, I want to leave you with one final insight I was given recently. A man called into a radio show and commented on giving up smoking. He claimed to have been an expert, having given up smoking himself dozens of times. But then he noted what made him finally quit. He said that in the past when he fell off the wagon, he hated himself for having such weak willpower, and it took quite a while for him to again make the commitment to quit. But then he had an insight: he should be treating his smoking as if it were a sin – which for him he felt it was. Once he approached it this way, when he gave up smoking and inevitably found himself “having to have one”, he treated it like a sin. He confessed and resolved to not sin again, and continued his pledge to quit. One failure did not mean he was a full-fledged smoker again; it meant he failed and would try harder. He said he only fell into smoking 4 times before his continued resolve made him stop completely. What a wonderful story. Don’t give up.

I resolve, my friends, to write here what God has done for me, and I will try to refrain from writing as if I had done some great thing. Please, if I fail, don’t look on me as a braggart, a hypocrite. And in the same vein, don’t look at what I am able to perceive through the blessing of having the time to read and study much as being some great wisdom, some great words of a holy man or such. I may be blessed occasionally, I may be TRYING to grow in holiness, but I am far from holy, nor an example of it.

PLEASE don’t ask those who have known me all my life. It may lead you to ask me to write some of my failures as examples, not my successes. And my failures would require at least ten times as many words, and you would probably quit reading after the first page.

Accept this for what it is, my attempt, no—OUR attempt at trying to understand what God has in store for us, and what he wants us to do, as we travel this painful journey through life, looking forward to the fulfillment of his Divine Plan.

No comments:

Post a Comment