Our Lady of the Forsaken
That's how my prayer began today.
In fact, the recollection of the text was so impressed upon me, I was convinced it had to be the Gospel for the day. Of course it was not... but the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee formed my meditation this morning.
I always considered myself the publican, always repenting - in the sense of prayer and my stance before God, better put, as in the Jesus prayer, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. I sit to the side and back of church, I try to pray and remain recollected. Yet even in that, I can think, "Thank you Lord I'm not like the rest of men who don't know themselves, don't pray, don't follow the rules." Of course I can't acknowledge such an attitude - it isn't how I want to think, or what I want to say, you know, in the sense of Romans 7:15: "I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it..."
I lack charity.
But God does not - God is love. He knows us through and through... deep... deep down... deep calls unto deep. It makes me want to cry.
I was thinking how over the years, even under spiritual direction, I pretty much let my 'soul be my pilot'. I'm not an especially obedient soul - 'I can't be managed' - one of my favorite lines from Michael Scott. But I always went to confession when I ran aground. Sometimes about five times a week. Yet once I had the audacity to remark to a priest, who wanted me to join a third order or something, "I have more understanding than all who teach me because I do your will." (Ps. 119) Oh my God! I cringe now when I think of that - only Christ can rightly say that. I assumed I could because I had renounced a gay lifestyle, lived chastely - went to confession when I didn't - and considered that obedience. In a sense it really was. God calls us to repentance. Yet somewhere in all of that was the Pharisee who well could have added to his prayer, "Thank you Lord I'm not like those people who I ran into in the bar last night but don't go to confession..." Get it?
This morning I considered all the holy priests who heard my confessions and absolved me from my sins. None of them ever said, "You stupid twit - what are you doing!" "You're going straight to hell! You know better than go into that occasion of sin!" "You have to wake up! Leave your situation, wall yourself off, don't go near even the most remote occasion of sin." "You're so disordered and evil, you're a scumbag, a filthy homosexual pervert." Not one priest condemned me. Not one. Not one ever said: "I don't get it - I don't get you. How can you come here week after week confessing the same sins? You ought to be ashamed of yourself." No one said that. Not one priest condemned me. Not one.
No one who comes to me will I ever reject.
Jesus said that: "No one who comes to me will I ever reject" - though he knows the heart of man... he knows our adulterous generation, our propensity for sin. Not one priest ever condemned me - all of them were compassionate and kind and encouraging to me as I struggled.
As Catholics, like the priests who over the years directed me and absolved me from all my sins, we desperately need to see the person. We may already see a sinful condition - but within that disguise is a person. Beneath the façade is someones son or daughter, brother or sister, friend or enemy - there is a person, a real person who may not know of what spirit he is. Jesus told the disciples that when they wanted to call down fire from heaven on those who rejected the Gospel, "You do not know of what spirit you are speaking." I went through whole periods in my life wherein I did not really know of what spirit I was. Hence the prayer, "Of my hidden faults acquit me O Lord."
If called to do so, we must defend the faith - even with our lives - but we have to stop condemning one another and setting ourselves up as arbiter and judge of everyone else. We can judge behavior and recognize sin - and in certain situations - when challenged as to why we believe what we do, we defend the faith, the truth - in charity, but we must recognize and love the person who rejects the faith. We do not need to brow beat them, berate or 'hammer' the truth home to them. Many already know the things we can tell them - even though they reject it. To attack and condemn only drives 'others' away further - and discourages those who are especially weakened by the 'world's slow stain'..
Anyway - that's some of the stuff I've been thinking of while I was offline. It's really good to be 'cut off' for awhile, to pray and get to know oneself. This is my personal opinion of course, and I may be wrong. If what I write doesn't work for you or make sense - it wasn't for you.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
"Love is a teacher, but one must know how to acquire it, for it is hard to acquire, it is dearly bought, it is won slowly by long labor. For we must love not occasionally, for a moment, but forever." - Dostoevsky, Fr. Zosima