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Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Disappointment to God

"The essence of spirituality is contained in this phrase: 'complete and utter abandonment to the will of God.' By that I mean we should never think of ourselves, but be continually occupied with loving and obeying him. We must put aside all those fears, those uneasy broodings, those qualms of conscience, and those anxieties which can arise from the concern we have for achieving holiness and our salvation. As God wants to look after all our affairs, let us leave them all to him so that we can concentrate our whole attention on him....Let us take good care not to get foolishly involved in all those fears and doubts which, like paths leading nowhere, only tempt us to wander on and on until we are hopelessly lost. Let us leap over this maze of self-love instead of trying to explore its endless alleys."

~ Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence

I'm always worried about holiness, and growing in holiness, and constantly frustrated by my weakness. Some days it seems I can't even go five minutes, or even 30 seconds, without offending God. And then I berate myself for being worried about being holy, because of course I realize I can't sanctify myself...that's God's job. Today, as I picked up Abandonment to Divine Providence again and read the above passage, I realized it was speaking to me, and this very flaw. It's a very deep-seated flaw, one that trapped me hard back when I wanted to return Home to the Church.

I had come to realize I was still Catholic and I truly wanted to live my life as a Catholic. But that meant going to Confession, and that's where my fear shut me down. I couldn't go. I tried over and over again, but I couldn't go. I knew that part of the Sacrament required having a "firm purpose of amendment", and while I WANTED to have that, I was trapped in a life that I knew I couldn't just shut down by saying I was sorry. Big changes were needed. But as Providence had it, there came a time where some of that life was absent, even for awhile, and it fell upon Holy Week. I went to Confession for the first time in 12 years, and near the end of my Confession, I tearfully told the priest that I knew I was going to commit these sins again and I didn't think I could be forgiven. (I'm not entirely sure that last part was really stated or, if so, understood...but he did know where I was going with my thought process!). The priest gently explained that THIS was EXACTLY why Christ has given us this Sacrament, because under our own power, we can do nothing. We may return again and again with the same sins, but we HAVE to return or we'll never be able to overcome them. We need the grace from the sacrament. We can't make ourselves holy, and we can't save ourselves.

Although I left that evening with great joy, it was another three years before I returned to Confession, because I returned to the same trap; I had to perfect myself. I had to stop doing what I was doing before I could go to Confession. It was like a superstition creeping up on me, making me create my own "ritual" so I could get the antidote. It was so backwards! And I was so confused!

Even today, I tend to fall into that trap, although it has morphed from its original modus operandi. It's much more subtle now, much more difficult for me to detect. It's easy for me now to realize that even if I don't think I have a firm purpose of amendment, I will still go to Confession and let the priest decide if my imperfect contrition is sufficient. And all too often, when I get to the Act of Contrition and say the words, "...but most of all, because I have offended YOU...", the tears come, the contrition comes and my sin crushes me. Because that has happened over and over, I now no longer listen to the evil whispers that try to keep me from Grace.

But it happens differently now, and I don't always catch it, and can't even define it anymore. I simply don't even have the ability to articulate how this propensity of mine has changed, and that alone scares me and is one of the reasons I know I need a Spiritual Director...and I'm still praying to find one!

"Never mind weariness, illness, lack of feeling, irritability, exhaustion, the snares of the devil and of men, with all that they create of distrust, jealousy, prejudice and evil imaginings....We cannot help being aware of all these evils, of course, and we cannot be indifferent to them, but let us never forget that ours is not a life governed by feelings. We must live in those upper reaches of the spiritual life where God and his will are active in a process which is eternal and unchanging."

~ Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence

Sometimes I go into the chapel, and I can barely even LOOK at Jesus because I realize how fallen I am. I realize my imperfections and my attachments to the world. I think I'm a disappointment to God and if I can bring myself to lift my eyes to the crucifix, I ask how I could EVER have been worth THAT!? It's hard to grasp how much God loves us, and how freely Jesus went to the Cross...for each of us, individually. Personally.

The Cross changes us; we gaze upon our Lord and we understand that His sacrifice calls us out of ourselves and on to something greater which we can't achieve on our own. We are called to be joined to Him, and as Jesus himself declared, by being raised on the Cross, He would draw all men to Him. As the Cross was raised, and at each Mass, as the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity are elevated, we are drawn to Him, and united, throughout the world. We are called out of ourselves, out of our fears, out of our attachments, understanding that we are in the very presence of the God who died for us and asks us to die to ourselves. We offer ourselves on the same altar of sacrifice, as we are, including our imperfections. We offer ourselves so that Jesus can make us holy.

There is no room for fear, or feelings or worldly distractions. If we are focused on Christ, none of these temporal matters should distract us. We are fallen creatures; we will fall over and over again, but with our eyes on Jesus, we know where to go and our hope will never die.

We cannot go around worried that we are a disappointment to God; Jesus saw all even from his very conception, and still, He chose to be born, He chose to take us all upon his shoulders when He was baptized in the Jordan, and from the Cross, he looked into our souls and decided in both his humanity and divinity that we, individually, were worth it. Each and every last one of us.

The only way we can disappoint God is if we give up and stop trying.

Never stop trying. In the words of St. Paul, we must finish the race.



Lillian Marie said...

Thank you for this wonderful post!
Gives me much to think about.

justme said...

SD yesterday, confession today, and then I read this... together a spiritual 2 by 4 over the 'ol noggin. The same message through three mediums (sp?). POWERFUL stuff. thanks.

Cow Bike Rider (alias, Chris Sagsveen) said...

I agree. God Bless!