Monday, December 28, 2015

Mercy and Correction

I took the older two with me to a funeral today. It was the father of a close acquaintance at our parish and it was nearby so we thought it would be a good thing to do. On the drive over, after finishing our rosary, I resisted turning on the radio/video and instead posed a challenge.

Since it's the Year of Mercy, I asked them to review the 14 (7 corporal/7 spiritual) works and see how many they are doing, how many they could do, and how many about which they had no clue. This was a good exercise because we found that, although we have the corporal close in memory and action, the middle spiritual works are easily forgotten...mostly because they are sometimes hard to practice.

I brought this up because I had been thinking about it, feeling called to it and last night found a nice group of activities from the Jesuits that show different ways we can live the works of mercy...this year and always.

When I feel "called" to something I always wait for the other shoe to drop. Sometimes it's a soft, fuzzy slipper that feels cozy and right. Often, it's more like a brand new leather shoe. Lovely to look at but hard to break in. The lesson I ultimately learn from the call usually involves more than a little bit of struggle. Our good deacon used a Flannery O'Connor quote in his sermon kind of fits here
“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.”

Flannery O'Connor,
The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor
So, on we went. We agreed we were helping to Bury the Dead by attending the funeral and we had, just then, prayed a rosary for the living and the dead (I always start at the end of the list, don't you? ;0) ) Then there was our monthly visit to count as Visit the Imprisoned and Feed the Hungry. As a mom, it seems that and Giving Drink to the Thirsty and Clothing the Naked never really ends.

After a short discussion, we agreed that everyone in our home could work harder to Bear Wrongs Patiently and Forgive Offenses. Comfort the Afflicted also comes to mind as something that can be practiced often in our family unit. Instructing the Ignorant brought ideas such as teaching the younger ones about the faith and life in to be a good person and how to follow God.

Admonishing the Sinner took the longest to discuss. (I can feel a big penny loafer sitting just above my head) They didn't understand "admonish" so we looked it up.


1. warn or reprimand someone firmly.

"she admonished me for appearing at breakfast unshaven"

take to task, read the riot act to, rake/haul over the coals; 
     2. advise or urge (someone) earnestly.

"she admonished him to drink no more than one glass of wine"
I suggested that, perhaps, the Spiritual Works are referring more to #2. It is unfortunate that many people jump to #1 and that's probably why we're all kind of hesitant about the whole situation (me included, thus the penny loafer). I think if more people believed they were supposed to earnestly advise someone, they would respond more favorably (on both sides) than if there were to "read someone the riot act". I'm pretty sure Jesus wasn't shy about #2 while almost always avoiding #1 (you know, He did turn over a table or two).

The funeral was lovely and it was extra special for my daughter and me because of the presider. This lovely priest is old and slow and deliberate. He takes time to discuss important matters and likes to talk about anything and everything to anyone who will stop to listen. It's such an easy thing to become impatient when he is saying Mass. Today I was given the grace (because Grammy had the little ones) to just sit and listen and walk slowly with him through the beauty of the funeral liturgy. I even chuckled to myself when I closed my eyes as he said "Thrones and Dominations" (he says it every Mass) because I could just envision the Dominions smiling at that.
The "Dominions" (Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16) (lat. dominatio, plural dominationes, also translated from the Greek term kyriotētes, pl. of kyriotēs, as "Lordships") or "Dominations" are presented as the hierarchy of celestial beings "Lordships" in some English translations of the De Coelesti Hierarchia. The Dominions regulate the duties of lower angels. It is only with extreme rarity that the angelic lords make themselves physically known to humans.
The Dominions are believed to look like divinely beautiful humans with a pair of feathered wings, much like the common representation of angels, but they may be distinguished from other groups by wielding orbs of light fastened to the heads of their scepters or on the pommel of their swords
Is what the priest said incorrect? Of course. Can people get themselves all worked up because he said the wrong word? Yes. Still, this is an old man who has dedicated himself to bringing the Body and Blood of our Savior to people through the Mass Really. I think the angels can appreciate that a little more than the fact that he gets stuck on one word. They're like that. Being angels, in heaven, they're full of joy and don't tend to nit-pick everything.

So, in this Year of Mercy I'm going to try to be more like the angels in heaven. Close to God and not nit-picky (you know that phrase refers to picking lice nits out of someone's hair? don't be like that!).

If someone is taking the Eucharist to a home bound parishioner and decides to stop and talk to everyone on their way out, I'm just going to tell Jesus I love Him and ask His healing for the recipient. If I attend a wedding and the vows sound more like they came off a reality show than the norms for a Catholic wedding, I'm just going to ask the Blessed Mother to wrap the bride up in her mantle and lead her to the truth of being a wife in a sacramental marriage. If someone is sitting in church and speaking badly about someone or something...especially if they're doing it in direct sight of the Tabernacle? I'm walking away. Perhaps my flight will speak volumes and perhaps it won't. Hopefully the prayers I invoke while leaving, that God may open their eyes to the truth of their behavior, will help change the situation.

Ultimately, I'm not God. I sin nearly every hour of every day. There are sooooo many things that I do wrong. That doesn't mean, for even one moment, that I can't instruct someone who doesn't know what is correct in a certain situation or even "admonish" someone who is hurting themselves or someone else. I say that specifically because I don't want anyone to stop their loving correction and instruction of me because they are also a sinner. If you see me (or my children) doing wrong, it's the correct thing to point it out. If you find yourself unable to point it out in a loving and merciful way (this is why I walk away and pray sometimes) please at least ask God to open my eyes to the situation. I would like to believe that, as a community, we want what is best for one another. As I told my kids this morning, we tell them when they do something wrong because we want them to know that it's wrong and because, ultimately, we want to be with them in heaven. That takes a whole lot of correction and instruction (on both parts...just after that, my son reminded me I was a loving and merciful manner).

Thanks for listening. I passed up a chance to do a Spiritual Work of Mercy today and it's been troubling me. It helps to write it down. I will be praying that we can all be more merciful and earnest so that we might lovingly correct others when it's clearly needed. I think that would please God greatly...if we start helping one another grow closer to Him.

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”
Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor 

We are blessed.

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