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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

To What Do We Agree?

In the last couple years, I have received a great deal of help in both large and small things, from both people I know and people I've never met.

And in that time, I've reflected on the generosity and love of such people, which has made me also reflect on my own lack of generosity, or my own lack of helpfulness to others. I've mentioned before that I'm often lacking in the "hands-on" form of charity, at least, in my estimation. I also realize we are all called to different things at different times. As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, we all must fulfill our roles, none of which excludes the others, but rather, incorporates them while maybe one particular portion is what we have been designed to complete.

Lately this has been my struggle. I have one co-worker who is very service-oriented, and I used to be as well. But my life has pulled me into more of a contemplative stream, one involving more prayer and study than actual hands-on service. It makes me feel guilty. I have to keep reminding myself that the time may come where literally feeding the poor in homeless shelters might be my role, and of course, I would love it. Or maybe it'll be caring for the sick and injured.

Or maybe I'm already fulfilling that role, in caring for the spiritually poor, which is the REAL deficit of our nation. Of all nations. Ever since I added the widget to my sidebar and have seen all the people from all the different nations who have passed through my blog at one point or another, I've realized that I'm fulfilling the command of Christ as He ascended into Heaven: to preach the Gospel to all Nations.

As Catholics, that is our command, and we all do this in different ways, according to the gifts we have been given. Everything we do should be ordered towards spreading the Gospel. Perhaps we're not well versed in the Faith, but know Christ enough to act in love and maintain a strong moral stance as an example to others. Maybe we don't have the words to preach, but we have the hands, and we have our very lives to lay down as an example to others who may ridicule what we say, but can't ridicule the joy of our lives and our hopes. And in that, there is a door opened through which they may enter.

Several years ago, a friend of mine and I were discussing the lack of morality around us. Neither of us were exactly living moral lives ourselves, and we regretted our actions. My friend, after a long pause in our conversation, said to me, "Once you've said "yes" to one guy, it's harder to say "no" to someone else."

It had to do with a loss of moral ground. A loss of dignity. From the other side, a judgment of a lack of fairness: "You're not a virgin. You slept with that other guy, what's wrong with me that you won't do the same thing with me? It's not like it means anything!"

And yet, it does, and we all know it. My friend knew it, and she carried her warning with her. Once we've compromised by saying "yes" to the wrong thing, it's harder to fight in the right battle. One becomes disoriented, unable to truly discern any longer, especially when the culture around us all defines certain behaviors as proper, even as our souls scream at us to stop for a moment and reconsider. To use our intellect and wills, to look upwards towards what is good, to flee from what is only debasement and injury.

Jesus Himself tells us to make our "yes" mean "yes", and our "no" mean "no". There is no middle ground; not in oaths, not in our moral choices. In everything we do, even in the small things, there's an absolute. A small compromise here leads to a larger compromise there. A strong stance here becomes a stronger, more fortified stance there.

We see this in many ways. Recently I observed to a friend that sometimes it's hard to step out and help another person, especially a stranger. But we can be safe about it, and truly, once we are willing to break out of our self-absorbed bubble on behalf of someone else, it is easier the next time. Once we say "yes" to the right things, it's as though the wind fills our sails and helps us to engage more quickly, and with more confidence the next time someone around us needs our charity.

The converse is also true; when we say "no" to someone, it becomes easier to say "no" again and again to the needs of others, and in that process, our hearts become more hardened. That's what happened to the Israelites in Isaiah; they said "no" to God, and as a consequence, their hearts were hardened. They had free will; they chose to disengage from their relationship with The Lord. And because of their willing rejection, they continued to reject all the blessings that came their way.

Nothing has changed; we still have this same nature. We tend to say "yes" to the things that debase us, and "no" to the things that make us holy. We are prideful if we go about "helping" others, but don't see the moral poverty that we must address, and so what do our good works mean if they are divorced from the morality and holiness that should be driving all of it?

So it happens that when we give our acquiescence to the wrong things, we end up giving obesience to even more things, until we are slaves of the world rather than lovers of God.

But when we give our obedience and love to our Lord, we are lead into active accord with not only charity to our neighbor in whatever form is needed, but to a higher morality that seeks to elevate the sinner towards God and out of the mire rather than to tell the sinner (ourselves, mostly) that the mire is actually a "good".

God is not a gray object. He desires that we are clear in our intent, one way or another. A "yes" to Him is a clear "no" to the winds of fickle popular culture. A "no" to an immoral act is automatically a "yes" to the Most High and His love.

We must be clear in everything that we do, at every moment, surrendering to God in even the smallest things. It is the smallest sins that lead us to the bigger ones that rupture our relationship with God.

To what, then, are we giving our agreement every day? To things that are holy, or to things that debase us?

We must choose. We must examine ourselves.

What do YOU choose today?


uncle jim said...

"Nil hoc verbo veritatis verius"

for the un-enlightened, perhaps in parentheses underneath, a translation of this old Russian saying ;)

or maybe
check back with me later

Anonymous said...

well said

Mike T said...

Adoro writes:

I have one co-worker who is very service-oriented, and I used to be as well. But my life has pulled me into more of a contemplative stream, one involving more prayer and study than actual hands-on service. It makes me feel guilty.

I have always been a bungler and can timidly point to a 50-year record of sustained mediocrity.

But I have just returned from a service trip to a third world country. The remarkable thing is that in spite of my most half-hearted efforts, absence of foresight and social faux pas,
the trip was an unmitigated success.

To what can this success be attributed?

I have no proof to offer, but my personal conviction is that prayer was the direct cause of success, my own prayer and certainly the prayers of others.

Unknown said...

I havent made that much yet, i suppose if you have more traffic it would be more profitable.

Banshee said...

Do what I do. Make your friend feel guilty for not praying more!

Just kidding... I hope....

We have a right to use the freedom of being children of God. But we can't all do everything, or we would _be_ God. :)

karen said...


Christine said...

I think we are all called to speak the truth to whomever the Lord places within our sphere of influence , and I think you do that very well :)