Monday, June 22, 2015

You Can Stop Preaching

The minutes ticked by, as I continued to read my morning prayers.  Rising late --- did I have too much wine last night? --- I arrived late to church.  I knew the priest was ready behind me, and the woman at the piano was set to lead the opening hymn.  And as I continued to pray, I was somewhat distracted with the thought:  Why wasn’t the mass starting?  Then, as I completed the last words of the Morning Prayers, like someone had watched over my shoulder and waited until I was done, then I heard:  “And the opening hymn for today is ….”
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I rushed home after mass:  I have things to do this day; I need to shower, to shave, and to get ready.  But even before the mass began and I felt disquieted with the delay, I knew there was something different about this day, and my heart was open to hear. 
Strangely, as the mass finally began, my thoughts drifted to the night before, and the Father’s Day dinner and gifts from a most dear friend, a daughter.  And I specifically recalled the words she said at one point in the evening:  “You can stop preaching, now.”  She has said those same words to me before, too often I’m sure.  She says them when I get rolling on some topic that irritates me and, as she notices, my voice often becomes raised.  I was getting irritated, and it showed.
I was reminded of that irritation during mass and thought:  “But why am I thinking this now?”  Then the Gospel was read:
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.       Mt 7: 1-5
The priest said that in his 43 years he is sure that he has heard that gospel at least once each year, “but I guess it must be repeated to me, so I don’t forget it.”  He mentioned how on the way to mass this morning the car in front of him was “only going 45 in the 45 limit zone.  Can’t you go a bit faster, maybe 50?”  And he noted that he was judging that person by their actions.  “I didn’t know what was going on in their mind, what worries, what sorrows, or things they ---- and perhaps even God --- really thought more important than racing to their destination.  I was judging their actions which I could see, AND their heart, which I could not --- because I had a log in my eye.”
The priest noted that introspection is a good thing, and being thankful for graces received.  Judging is not being thankful for our gifts, any gifts.  We judge too easily external events; we cannot see hearts, often, even our own.  And we need to.
This is posting number 900 on this blog.  Like many others, I don’t write this as a preaching, to you or to me.  This one is written so that something I SHOULD remember may be written down, and perhaps read again at some date.  It’s obvious that I, like the priest, often forget important lessons.
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And then the priest led us in prayer, for many people I didn’t particularly want to pray for --- because I was judging their actions.  And then we sat down and we began to sing a hymn, with words most familiar to me:
The Prayer of St. Francis
Make me a channel of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring Your love.
Where there is injury, Your pardon, Lord,
And where there’s doubt, true faith in You.
Make me a channel of Your peace.
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, only light,
And where there’s doubt true faith in You.
Oh, Master, grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of Your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving to all men that we receive,
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.
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And after mass was over, I began to read the daily Bible readings I had committed to, and I read the story of the Transfiguration, and the words God the Father spoke to Jesus:  “This is my beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased.  Listen to Him.”  (Mt 17:5)
And a few verses later I read the words a woman said to Jesus:  “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic” ---- as I am.
I wrote here recently of hearing words which called for the need in our world of a “radical love”, given even to those we might hate, or those who irritate us --- those we might judge. 
I think heard them again today.


  1. I have difficulty with a relative that at times I have even viewed as just plain evil. Malicious. Nasty, nasty. She's very difficult to be around, and I mostly try not to be around her. Then, when I'm praying I remember how she grew up - she was the last of three children, a late in life baby who was born almost 20 years after her nearest sibling. Her parents were prideful people but not affluent, and they were upset when they realized they were pregnant. Her father drank too much - every day. He was verbally (not physically) abusive. Her mom had a sharp tongue too. My relative grew up as essentially the "maid" for her parents, expected to keep the house spotless and make dinner. Her father died when she was in her late teens. Then her mother expected to be taken care of by her.

    All these things were what she grew up with. I knew mom and dad. They were hard to bear.

    So, when I think of all this and how much I dislike her, I pray for my relative, and remembering there but for the grace of God go I. Maybe she is wonderful compared to what she could have been given her environment. I do avoid her because of her cruel speech, but I do pity her as well, and don't hold it against her.

    Sometimes just knowing how a particular person became what they are allows one to extend the benefit of the doubt to others we find difficult whose background we don't know. My approach to these sorts of people is that I won't let them abuse or hurt me, but I won't condemn them either. I try to forgive through the Heart of Jesus, who knows better than I the mitigating circumstances.

    God bless you. Fran

    1. I forwarded your comment to a friend, who greatly appreciated your perspective. As you know from my own writings, I often find it hard to be humble.

      I've been praying the Litany For Humility as part of my night prayers for many months. It gets easier to pray it more sincerely over time. Monday I played in a golf outing and supplied more copies of the prayer, as requested by one of the women from the sponsoring Catholic girl's high school. I met her 9-year old son at the course, and although he had never played golf, he played with us in place of a last-minute absentee. (He had as great time, as did we.) I asked him if he liked reading the Humility Prayer (the woman said her family prayed it each night.) He said: "I like it, but I don't have to read it; I memorized it."

      Wouldst that I (and all of us) started out that way.