I should read the daily scripture readings more often. Today’s first lines from Paul’s letter to the Hebrews was just what I needed to hear:
“God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones.”
Like most people who believe in a “traditional” God, I worry about God judging me. I think it goes hand in hand with organized religion, for better or worse. I was in the shower this morning thinking about my need to go to confession, and about what our deacon said at Mass this weekend – we don’t listen to God because we are afraid He will tell us to do something uncomfortable. Ya got that right!
My daughter is currently going through preparation for her first sacrament of reconciliation, and the director of the program handed out an anonymous survey to parents at the first class, assessing our attitudes about the sacrament. One of the questions was a multiple choice about why we don’t go. We could choose more than one. I don’t remember all the choices, because my reason for not going wasn’t on there.
I don’t believe it’s unnecessary, nor do I doubt my own personal need for the sacrament. And it’s certainly not because I haven’t sinned or done something the church tells me is wrong.
I don’t go because I’m not really sorry.
I DO feel guilty that I’m not sorry, though.
Maybe I should go and confess that. I suppose it’s a start.
Part of my spiritual practice includes being willing to be willing. This is particularly helpful when I am just not quite ready to let go of an outcome or a behavior or a relationship I know deep in my heart is not serving God. I’m rarely willing to let go immediately. I joke and say there’s not a relationship I’ve had that doesn’t have claw marks in it from when God wrenched it from my tiny, clenched fists of rage. I may not be willing, but I can ask God to help me be willing to be willing to let go.
Help me to be willing to seek You in the sacrament of reconciliation.
I have a tool borrowed from the 12-step tradition that helps me with this. It’s called an inventory. There’s no one right way to do it. The 4th step talks about a “fearless and searching moral inventory” while the 10th step talks about a continuous inventory.
There is a wrong way to do it. It doesn’t say “list only your failings.” That is what most of us do when we examine our conscience, isn’t it? Today’s first reading encourages me to see myself the way God sees me – with justice. He doesn’t overlook the love just because I have sometimes failed to love. He doesn’t overlook my service to others just because there are times I’ve neglected to serve.
Truth be told, I’m afraid to look at why I’m not sorry for some of my willful disobedience. I just don’t want to go there. I don’t want to go there alone, and I don’t want to go there with God.
What I’ve learned is that God will take me there whether or not I want to go. It’s up to me whether I open my eyes or keep them shut. What am I missing if I keep them shut? I miss seeing my virtues when I shut my eyes to my vices, and seeing my virtues is what fills my heart with healthy esteem for myself. Without taking that fearless searching inventory of myself with a just God who sees it all, I’m dooming myself to a life of low self-esteem and a bottomless black hole in my soul, and an ever-widening gap between myself and the God I profess to love and serve.
Well, if that’s not motivation, I don’t know what else is.
The Gospel reading today also touches on this idea of being judged – not by God, but by our peers, or people in authority. The Pharisees criticized Jesus and his disciples because they were picking heads of wheat in the field they were walking through on -GASP – the Sabbath. Was it breaking the church rule? Technically, yes. Was it a sin? Well, Jesus doesn’t actually answer that question. He merely tells a story about old King David and states, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” We can extrapolate and say the same of any of the commandments, can’t we? After all, God created humanity in Genesis, and it’s not until the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy that we get Ten Commandments and all the other Hebrew laws.
I’m not saying that we start calling them “the ten suggestions.” I’m not saying that the church doesn’t have the authority to say what is right or wrong. That would be justifying harmful behaviors that those commandments address directly. What I am saying is that sharing my struggles with Jesus may yield some surprising answers. But I won’t get those answers unless I invite Him into my fearful heart.