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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Participation in the Suffering of Christ

Today I was working, once again, on my paper about prayer and suffering (and all I have left is tweaking and loose ends and a summary, praise God!). And I had an epiphany of sorts.

And there I sat, in tears, completely ashamed of myself, completely humbled, and completely joyful both at the revelation and of the event of being able to cooperate with God's plan of salvation.

Yesterday I wrote of my frustration, of the people who are calling last minute, who haven't bothered to participate in working their children towards their first experience with God's mercy in a direct way, etc. One thing I didn't mention which had rattled me was a woman stating that their biggest conflict was a sporting event about 3 hours away! I wasn't surprised at the "conflict" but I was surprised she was so indifferent as to mention it by name!

(Demon, thy name is Hockey Game...sorry, did I say that OUT LOUD!??)

I told her directly that this is the time that she needs to prioritize and that God should be coming first in her child's life, not sporting events, and that she has to make a choice. I also sympathized to the point that these sports are asking too much of children (they are 7!), but that this is also very important and is a one-time event.

When I left work last night, I was literally in tears driving home.

These people don't get it! They clearly don't take God seriously, and their children are suffering. And of course, my own selfish issues - it's inconvenient to me to have to continue pushing these people through the program. At the same time, it's also a detriment to others who are in need of my time and need me to get certain things done by certain dates. And it's just piling up.

The fact is, of the parents I've had to work with individually, it has been a gift, and I've seen God's hand in that. And yet, now, at "crunch time" I'm still saying "poor me" when I should be praising God that these very can't-be-bothered people have to go through some individualization of the program.These are the very souls that NEED to be addressed individually! And God is using me as His instrument to impart his Word, to impart the importance of the Sacrament, and to help form the parents so they can, in turn, form their children.

I'm starting to think that maybe God should make a whale swallow me, too. Thank God I don't live near the ocean. Just call me "Jonah".

So this afternoon, still frustrated, having had some contact with a parent who feels she should be accomodated for her laziness, and not at all pleased with the prospect of rushing the books or waiting until January to work with Father for their own special Reconciliation date, well, apparently this is a lesson in God's plan for both of us. Or all three of us, if we include her child in the mix.

As I read about suffering, I came across a passage I'd read over and over last spring in Salvifici Doloris. And I considered recently what I'd read in the Old Testament about God being a jealous God, because of how He sees his people (that would be us), and His own pain resulting from Israel's indifference, idolatry, spiritual (and actual) adultery.

I was forced to turn my questions and accusation from God and others to myself; why am I really upset? Is it my own selfishness, my own control-freak-ness coming out? Yes, partially. But there's more. I'm frustruated because these people don't get it. They don't care, and God means nothing to them. The Sacrament is just another "event" in their lives, it has no real meaning, it's extra work in their lives they don't think they need, and it's just a hoop to get through in order to get their kids through the picture-perfect day of First Communion, the photos of which they will put up on a poster board on the day of High School graduation and maybe parse into a DVD on their wedding day.

And suddenly I was realizing that this is the modern-day realization of the Old Testament text of Hosea. And I realized that I was seeing US through God's eyes, and that for some reason, I'm in the role of "prophet", that being the person set to call people back to God, back to repentance.

I don't want to be a prophet. They all come to scary-bad ends. But the role is important.

And to be clear, anyone reinforcing God's love, calling people to the Sacraments, and working to preach the true Gospel message is a prophet.

So all you out there working in RCIA, Faith Formation, Priests, Sisters, Religion Teachers, etc. Congratuations. You're prophets. And I'm guessing you're frustrated, too, aren't you?

Of course you are. And those of you who have been doing this for awhile are likely chuckling at my post from yesterday. Because you know better than I, and you likely realized long ago what hit me today.

My frustration, my stress, my anxiety, all of it, over this coming weekend and the next few weeks trying to get parents to get their kids through this wonderful Sacrament of Mercy is a participation in God's own suffering. I suddenly recognized the bloody face of Jesus, covered with thorns, his eyes tearing up due to the indifference of His people.

God is constantly rejected, and it seems that those who truly love Him and are willing to put Him before their 7 year old's sporting or dance events are few and far between. It's disheartening.

And I'm ashamed because Jesus Himself accepted this suffering silently, not wasting words, not complaining, not lamenting his condition. And he died on the cross knowing that first I abused Him and then when I finally "got it" I abused him some more by refusing to also accept the same abuse of divided hearts in the same silent suffering.

So I have been suffering badly because my last 24 hours has been spent not in accepting God's will and just loving His people as He does, but in crying and complaining.

That is NOT the way to "offer it up."

So today I've been chastized, and all I can do is thank God for that, because were it not for this, I would not understand.

I pray I can go into this weekend now renewed and refreshed with clearer vision and instead of being my crabby self, put on the mind of Christ and let my hands and voice be His, even in the face of those who just don't care.


Anonymous said...

Whoa! I needed this post! Thank you!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

I'd be ticked off too. You have every right to be upset. I'm upset and I'm not working with these folks. I'm just upset to see Christ treated so indifferently.

I think these parents will have a lot to answer for.

You are giving it your all. That's all you can do.

God Bless.

Adoro said...

Angela ~ Thank you, Jesus.

Cathy ~ NO! I have NO RIGHT to be upset at all! God spoke to His people, he made covenant after covenant after covenant in the face of their indifference and divided hearts, and finally said, "Well, I'll fix you! I'll DIE for you!" And He did.

And now he calls the rest of us to do the same thing. To suffer as Jesus suffered, silently, in submission to the Father's will, and LOVE His people as He himself loved him.

No, I have no right to be upset and angry and bitter. Because to suggest such a thing is to spit in God's own face and to say that when Jesus suffered silently, He didn't do it right and should have been angry.

Adrienne said...

From a one prophet to another:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

Anonymous said...

You said it well:
"So all you out there working in RCIA, Faith Formation, Priests, Sisters, Religion Teachers, etc. Congratuations. You're prophets. And I'm guessing you're frustrated, too, aren't you? "

Sometimes when you come up against people's downright laziness or insincerity--it makes you want to say--"fine--just burn in Hell--quit bothering me!" But, like Jonah--under the tree--God's ways are not Jonah's ways or ours.

When you see parents bring in children--just to get them baptized and first communion--like it was a "rite of passage." And then when they get their "token rites." They never come back to Church--oh the pain--especially when you deeply love Jesus--it's so hard to imagine their stupidity!

Keep doing your job well adoro--maybe something will rub off on them!?

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: I meant to say a human can be upset but it's working thru the upset into acceptance that makes us followers of Christ. I know I did not make it clear. I'm tired and drained this week. I'm really happy it's Friday!!!!

Hidden One said...

Jonah, this is when your standard pseudonym rings truest. I wish you worked at a parish local to myself! Ah, such selfishness on my part.

Melody K said...

Of course you are right that a lot of parents have their priorities messed up. It all seems to be about "sportsmania". God will bless you because you are trying to get them to focus on what matters ultimately. As a culture we are in huge need of an attitude adjustment.

uncle jim said...

I say to those parents who are struggling with the priorities between sports and sacramental preparation, MANY of your coaches would be pleasantly cooperative if you went to the them straight-up and told them your child would miss this and that date because of a church/religious function [ie: sacramental preparation]. I've seen it happen - even at high-school levels; the child may have to do some bench time, but the coach will cooperate.

But, of course, you don't believe me ... because you've got your priorities backwards.

Unknown said...

I used to think of it as I had to be the welcoming voice that brought them back at whatever point they were when they came NOT where I thought they needed to be. I had to be willing to throw open the door and welcome them straight from the Hockey game or with an impartial understanding of the sacrament because I wasn't the one who was calling them to conversion, God was. If they were actually making an effort, no matter how small, then I had to trust that God would do the rest and meet them the rest of the way.

In most cases I got to see the restult of my getting out of the way.

In the cases where I didn't see the result, the obedience on my part was just as important a lesson as seeing a change in the other person.

Remember the only person whose behavior you have the ability to control and change is YOU.

Be the loving welcoming instrument of God's call to conversion and see what kind of miracles happen in the lives of the families to whom you minister. (that became my mantra at every sacramental prep event).

You just have to do the welcome, they already have a Savior.

Adoro said...

Thank you for your comments, everyone.

Indeed, I had to get out of my way and out of God's way. People were great this weekend, and this week I'll meet with those who couldn't be present. In one case it's both another case, it's only one of them. So it goes.

But I'm praising God for the opportunity. God is so good, so compassionate...every day I'm trying to be so compassionate and failing miserably.

God have mercy on me.

And God have mercy on our culture...7 year olds should not have to go to sports tournaments HOURS away! And parents, what are you doing ENCOURAGING such things??????