Tuesday, March 31, 2015

confession... it's still all about me



“The first goal of spiritual combat, that toward which our efforts must above all else be directed, is not to always obtain a victory (over our temptations, our weaknesses, etc.), rather it is to learn to maintain peace of heart under all circumstances, even in the case of defeat. It is only in this way that we can pursue the other goal, which is the elimination of our failures, our faults, our imperfections and sins. This is ultimately the victory that we must want and desire, knowing, however, that it is not by our own strength that we will obtain it immediately. It is uniquely the grace of God that will obtain the victory for us, whose grace will be the more efficacious and rapid, the more we place maintaining our interior peace and sense of confident abandonment in the hands of our Father in heaven.”
~Father Jacques Philippe,
Community of the Beatitudes
as quoted in Magnificat Magazine

A funny thing happened to me on my way to Holy Week. 

I blame my good friend Susan Stabile, the prolific writer over at Creo en Dios. At the beginning of Lent, Susan wrote about an idea suggested to her by a friend -- where you take a calendar of the 40 days of Lent, and you mark each day the name of a particular someone you will pray for… with the caveat being it’d be someone who irritates you or drives you nuts or just rubs on you.

Here’s what Susan said:

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, chiding us that loving and caring for those who we love or are good to us is not enough.

Whether it is someone who has hurt you, someone who has done something to irritate you, someone who rubs you the wrong way, someone you are just “not too fond of”, why not find some time to pray for their wellbeing during this Lent. 

You can read the rest of her blog here.

The first thing I noticed once I decided to take up Susan’s challenge is that I needed more than 40 days!

Yes, it is true. I came up with more than 40 people whom I needed to pray for just because they “rubbed me the wrong way.” It was a humbling realization.

But what unfolded as I journeyed deeper into Lent also perplexed me. The further I moved into the season with this practice, the harder it became.

Before I knew it, the people rubbing me the wrong way were not merely names of people from my past or people in distant circles of my life—but rather pretty much everyone I am most intimate with!

When I took that revelation to confession last week, the priest seemed to get a real kick out of my admission of guilt.  With a smile on his face he simply said,

It sounds like the Holy Spirit is reminding you that you must be willing, 
but ultimately, even this good act--it is not something you can do by yourself!

How did I manage to turn even my Lenten prayer practice into an achievement contest?

In case you were wondering, the penance I received from my wise confessor was to pray with Psalm 51:

A clean heart create for me, God;
renew within me a steadfast spirit.

Do not drive me from before your face,
nor take from me your holy spirit.

Restore to me the gladness of your salvation;
uphold me with a willing spirit.