Hello there! Is is cold where you are? As I write, it’s 30 degrees here – and it was 67 yesterday! We’re talking about Advent this month, and I wanted to piggyback on something I wrote before, and tell a story. So, grab a cuppa something warm, and find a comfy place to sit down and relax a minute. Remember awhile back, I asked if you were ‘getting anything out of this’? I had a great illustration the other morning. It was technically a holiday, although I went in to work. But first, I went to our parish daily Mass for the first time. I figured if it lasted longer than I’d been told, and I was ‘late’ to work, it wouldn’t matter. Great reason to go to church, huh? I just knew I was hungry for more of the Lord, and the best way to find Him is go to His house. When I got there, we had a substitute priest, and I had trouble following him. I could easily have let myself get distracted and missed what came next.
In a homily of under 10 minutes, this wonderful priest spoke from his heart about Advent, recent readings we’d covered at Mass, and talked about neighbors – how we don’t know our neighbors anymore, we don’t talk to them, help them, encourage them, or anything- in short, we don’t love them. We’re supposed to be the Church, the body of Christ, extending His love to everyone around us. It appears we are failing. Then in his next to last sentence, he mentioned those in our own families… and God began to work on me.
Nobody else has ‘that one’ in their family, do they? You know, the one who struggles with responsibility. The one you’ve always called a leech- or worse. Maybe they are highly intelligent, but just keep making bad choices. Maybe they abuse drugs or alcohol, or hang with the wrong people, or can’t seem to hold a job. Or maybe they’re just a little ‘slow’ when it comes to real life stuff – like remembering to pay their bills, or letting their car insurance lapse, or calling you every other month because they didn’t work enough to cover their necessities. But maybe, they actually have suffered some emotional or mental effects from their lifestyle choices, or from their parents’ early choices. Maybe there’s a reason they can’t seem to hold a job… and…
Maybe God put you in their life to take care of them.
I know, that one hurts. Maybe He put them in your life to pull you out of your own selfishness, arrogance, greed and self-righteousness. Maybe God allows them to sandpaper your rough edges, to help you learn to love as He loves. Maybe He put them there to help you hold lightly to the material blessings He gives you. Maybe He really gave that person to you as a special gift to help sanctify you. Maybe.
On the drive from Mass to work, I was humbled. I’ve been oh so guilty of all that with someone. The world around me, for the most part, says they need ‘tough love’ and should take care of themselves; they are plenty old enough. I always strongly disagreed with their parents for how they handled that one; that day I saw that I was wrong. Yes, the Bible says if we refuse to work and are just plain lazy busybodies, we don’t eat. But it doesn’t say that if we don’t ‘get it’, that we should be thrown to the lions. Jesus hasn’t given up on that one, who am I to refuse them? Just because they are in a ‘normal’ family doesn’t mean they aren’t part of the poor, broken and disenfranchised.
I saw in stark clarity my own spiritual pride and self-righteousness, compared to other family members who have always concretely loved this one more than I have. Some folks in my personal circle of friends may well disagree with my conclusion. That’s okay. I know what the Lord had to say to me about it that morning. I’ll take His opinion, as painful as it was. I journaled it so I can’t choose to ‘forget’ later on, rationalizing it all away again. I’ll continue to pray fervently that He changes my heart, my attitude and my behavior.
Somehow, I think this is what Preparing the Way of the Lord and Advent are really about.