Thursday, November 7, 2013
I Am a Stubborn Man
I awoke before the alarm, and as I lay there in bed I recalled that I had forgotten to say my nightly rosary and prayers the evening before. And so I thought: “Well, Lord, perhaps You woke me early this morning because there is someone You wish me to pray for.” And so I did, completing the last words of the rosary as the alarm went off.
I arrived at the church early, also. The building was still dark, the doors locked, and so I began reading my Morning Prayers while sitting on the cold, stone bench outside the church doors. The temperature was 35 degrees and I could see my breath, but soon enough I heard the doors unlocked, and Fr. Steve opened them and wished me a good morning as I entered the church.
Sitting in the pew, I began again to read the Morning Prayers. The Psalms of the Office seemed to speak to me this day. Psalm 50 had God talking to His people, trying to explain to them that things of this world are not that important, least of all to Him: “I do not ask for more bullocks … for I own all the beasts. Were I hungry I would not tell you, for I own the world and all it holds.” Sacrifices and rituals, He said, were not important to Him. And the people seemed confused at what He said. So what DID He want? “Pay your sacrifice of thanksgiving to God and render Him your votive offerings. … Offer to God the sacrifice of praise. I want a loving heart more than sacrifices, knowledge of My ways more than holocausts,” He explained.
God wants thanksgiving? Hey, I thought, this seems like God is continuing to explain to me (through these words) the thoughts I had written here the other day. Maybe I’m finally understanding what He …
The power drill echoed throughout the church, and I looked up from the words in the prayer book. Someone was repairing a pew nearby and …
I was a little irritated, and so I quietly stood up and walked over to him and asked: “What would it take for you to do this later?” I intended to offer him $10 or even $100 to come back to do his work later in the day; I’d pay him for his time --- and my peace. But before I could speak further he interrupted: “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m almost done.”
And so I walked back to my pew and began reading again. The words I read quickly touched my heart again, and I paused in the reading, and looked up at the huge crucifix over the altar and thought …
I glared at the working man, but lying on the floor, his eyes were on the wood he was attempting to repair, and he didn’t see my staring. And the noise continued. And then I put down my prayer book, picked up a book of short meditations I had with me, and walked out the church doors, sitting again on the cold, stone bench outside --- in quiet.
The book I opened was titled Christ in Our Midst, Wisdom from Caryll Houselander, and I began to read. “The basic idea of Catholicism is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in man, the Christ-life in the soul, and all that this implies, both as regards a man’s conduct in his own life and his charity to other men.” Hmmm, I paused. I guess I hadn’t been too charitable to the man in the church, I thought. Then I read from a short meditation titled: Christ’s Mystical Body. “Deep in the heart of everyone living is the longing to be in communion with other men. … The cause of this oneness is that all of the members of Christ’s Mystical Body live with His life. … It means that nothing whatever that one member of the Church does, is without its effect on all the others.” Um, yes Lord, I see that I certainly was impacted this morning, and I accept that perhaps even this is Your will, but …
And then I read words from the next meditation titled: I Am My Brother.
“It is time that Christians put aside the self-protective type of religion, with its interminable formalities and pious exercises and its careful exclusions and respectable cliques, and recognized Christ and themselves in the disreputable members of the Church: the socially ostracized, the repulsive, the criminals, the insane; the drifting population of the streets and the doss-houses, the drug addicts and drunkards; the man waiting in the condemned cell to die --- and the tiresome, thankless, and dissolute members of a man’s own household. It is time that Christians answered Cain’s question ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ by more than an affirmative: ‘I am more than that, I am my brother.’”
“Christ is whole in each member of His Body on earth now. … We cannot escape from Christ, the destiny of our being.” My brother is important, the author explains, all my brothers. And I cannot escape.
And here I was, I realized. I had gone outside, into the cold to escape one who I could not bear anymore, my brother. The irony of my action and the temperature did not escape me. But as the minutes passed, I read still more: “His revelation of Himself was always gradual, always told like a secret. Before knowing Him as God, He wanted men to know Him as themselves, so that they would not be afraid to come close to Him. … He knew what each individual needed to make their share in the joy of His resurrection possible. Peter is not asked to say that he is sorry, only to reassure himself and Christ that he really does love Him in spite of those denials. … Such are the sacramentals of our love, things ordinary with the ordinariness of the risen Christ. Our communion with one another, which is our Christ giving to one another, is in eating, working, sharing the common sorrows and responsibilities, comforting one another in soul and body, talking to one another.”
“The Catholic Church has a secret to reveal. The secret is, Christ risen lives in us.”
People began walking past me into the church, their numbers growing. Mass time neared. I glanced at the bookmark in my hand. “Twelve Things to Always Remember, And One Thing to Never Forget.” And I realized how much I had forgotten.
Lord, forgive me, for I am a stubborn man, in my ways, in not valuing my neighbor and his ways, and believing what he thinks is unimportant.
But Lord, I also thank You, that I am a stubborn man, in persevering, seeking to know Your will, trying to discern it from the stubborn wishing of my own will.
And finally, thank You Lord, that You reminded me, this morning, that I am just one small member of your Mystical Body, and that all members are important ---even the ones who at times irritate me, or who I so easily ignore because I am stubborn. For in them, You are there.
A glance at my watch said mass was due to start, and I went back to my pew. And the words of the mass had a renewed meaning for me this day.
“And the Lord be with you all.” “And with Your spirit.”