My heroes did not draw attention to themselves, and they were focused on their task at hand – getting to heaven. The One I follow spent thirty years in obscurity, laboring hard in a small town alongside his foster father. John Paul II went to confession daily…and if he had cause to go daily, I could at least dust off my own examination of conscience more than the couple of times a year I drag myself there. Blessed Mother Teresa had a simple path and Therese the Little Flower had her little way.
Jesus did not carry his cross grumbling. I know he wasn’t skipping happily – it was too heavy for that – we have every indication that he was doing it out of love, with joy, and without begrudging his Father the burden he was carrying.
But when there’s a group of people insisting that I not be humble, that I take credit for those small things I do, it’s hard to be humble. It’s also hard to remain charitable, to keep myself from screaming in frustration. I wanted to shout, I DO IT FOR HIS EYES, NOT YOURS. Because if there are others who I’ve invited to watch me, then I’m doing it in part for them…and I have to question my own motives. If I’m bragging about a practice of sacrifice or a personal penance, then part of the reason for the sacrifice or the penance has been lost. If God gets the glory, then I need to be careful not to leach some of it for myself.
“How often do you go to Mass?” one person inquired, and another said, “Oh but you have an Adoration hour!” Yes, and they have no idea how much I NEED those two things. It is not a matter of being holy, being pious, or being a good Catholic. It is a matter of starving, of dying, of wasting away. I need the Eucharist as I need air. I need the Eucharist to keep me from falling back to where I was.
No one in the room knows where I was. It makes me human, that I have not always been this Catholic mother that I am now, but it also makes me ashamed. I have been washed clean, through the waters of baptism and the ongoing miracle of reconciliation, but I have so far to go. I look at my heroes, at the saints and at Jesus himself, and I see the chasm between us.
Are my standards set too high? Am I setting myself up for failure?
My goal is heaven. I’d better do what it takes to get there NOW, because I won’t have another chance.
I read a great book on purgatory from the 1950s. Two things that are seared in my brain from that:
1. ALWAYS keep your past sins before you to remind you of how despicable you can be and to avoid pride.
2. ALWAYS strive to attain heaven on the first shot: we will fall short of our goal. To strive for purgatory risks falling short and spending eternity in hell.
There’s nothing more annoying than being labeled a saint prematurely or undeservedly! Just another cross to bear…
I love your wisdom, Michelle, and it’s just what I was feeling was the right approach – but you gave it words! 🙂