Friday, March 10, 2017
OMG! I Got What I Prayed For!
The Gospel (MT 6:7-15) was on the Our Father prayer, and forgiveness. The meditations in the book The Better Part (#16) brought it into focus for me:
“Forgiveness requires humility …, recognizing that you are not God. A refusal to forgive involves passing judgment …, (but) only God can see the whole interior world of a human being. A refusal to forgive comes, ultimately, from arrogance. We think we are so perfect. Those who refuse to forgive are acting like God …., (but) the throne of judgment only has enough room for one judge at a time, either oneself or God.
The unforgiving person ends up destroying himself in his self-righteous attempt to destroy his neighbor.”
Those words gave me much to reflect on, and I read them more than once. It was on the third glance, however, when my mind settled on that first sentence: “Forgiveness requires humility.” The one prayer Jesus taught us, The Our Father, has its roots in humility. And then I recalled that I begin my prayers each night with the Litany of Humility.
I pulled out the laminated prayer card with the prayer’s words and looked at it again. I recalled when I first read that prayer, years ago: I choked at its words. “I can’t pray for that!” I thought. But I did. It took a long time for those words to go down easy, and even longer before I began to pray the words with sincerity.
The first lines of the Litany of Humility have me praying: Deliver me, Jesus, from the desires of being loved, honored, praised, preferred or consulted. It’s saying that I don’t want my focus to be living for myself, my ego. I am important, but my life can’t be totally focused on me.
The next section of the Litany has me praying: Deliver me, Jesus, from the fear of being humiliated, rebuked, ridiculed, or from having my opinions rejected. It’s saying that I don’t want to live for other’s approvals, and I must be able to accept their rejections --- I won’t get mad. It’s recognizing that I am not perfect, and I must stop acting like it.
And finally, the Litany ends with me praying: Jesus, grant me the grace to desire that others are esteemed more than I, chosen, praised and preferred to me, and even that they be holier than I --- “provided that I become as holy as I should be.” I’m praying here that I may be one with the Holy Spirit, bestowing love on others as a focus of my life.
The fruit of the Litany of Humility is love. It’s the love that Jesus had, the love every parent should have, and every community should have. The Our Father prayer isn’t a petition to God for what we want, it’s a prayer that we might be humble enough to live as Jesus lived, with a focus on love of others, and to always be reconciled with them. The prayer starts with “Our” Father --- I don’t want to be treated as someone special. I want to be one of God’s family, all loved together.
The first parts of the Litany of Humility are me rejecting what I want, and the last praying I do as God wants. The prayer is saying I reject the self-centeredness Adam and Eve chose in the Garden, and accept the hard cross Jesus chose, of loving no matter the cost.
Later that same evening, I read these words from the book Divine Intimacy (Meditation, 97 and 98):
“The spirit of mortification has … renunciation of the ego …, inordinate tendencies toward self-assertion, complacency in one's own excellence. Unconsciously, we tend to make “self” the center of the universe.
O Lord, how often I have tried in so many ways to escape the mortifications, humiliations, and difficulties which You Yourself had prepared for me. Give me, O God, sight which can judge events in Your Light; strike my ego, my pride, my opinions. Here I am, Lord, mortify me, purify me as You wish, for whenever You afflict, it is to heal, and whenever You mortify, life increases.
The best mean of conquering temptations to pride and vanity is to choose exactly what humiliates us and makes us appear little in the eyes of others.”
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There came a day when I was asked to use my talents to help some people, but I discovered they didn’t want my help. The more I sought to give them benefits, the angrier they got. My ways of thinking were not their ways. Then the above prayers and reflections came to me.
I was seeking to use my talents wisely, and expecting honor (and cooperation). I was rejecting their anger and disagreement: Because I knew I was right! And in the actions I sought to take, I was, but I was not properly considering them and their feelings. And suddenly this night, with the reflections above, I realized: OMG! Praying the Litany of Humility each night --- in the rejections of these people I sought to help, my prayer has been answered! I have been humbled! But now that I found myself in the perfect position to accept and humbly love these people, more than myself, could I?
It’s hard to concede a good you want, for someone else’s higher good. In effect, I found I wanted to help some people save a penny --- a good thing, but my actions caused them to be distracted in anger, losing a dollar, a more important thing.
Love is the most important thing; a unity of family the most important thing; we must be humble enough to give it and to want it for everyone we meet, regardless to the cost of our ego.
And later that evening I read one more thing, from the book which always lies on my coffee table:
“Son, in many things it behooveth thee to be ignorant, and to esteem thyself as one dead upon earth; as one to whom the whole world is crucified.
Many things also must thou pass by with a deaf ear, and think rather of those things that appertain to thy peace.
It is more profitable to turn away thy eyes from such things as displease thee, and to leave to every one his own way of thinking, than to give way to contentious discourses.”
-- My Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a’Kempis (Chapter 44)