When we clean for the holidays, we suddenly discover all the ways in which we’ve blinded ourselves to the surrounding clutter. It takes new eyes or being willing to look at our lives with new eyes, to see what needs doing. This happens when we organize. It happens when we plan a diet or a budget. It happens when we propose remodeling something. The newness of the new reveals the broken nature of what we’ve ignored, and so the project naturally exponentially gets bigger. Change the carpet, must paint the walls, must clear out the clutter, must get furniture that fits with what is, the lights need adjustments…and what about the next room and the next and the next.
Sin works the same way. When we admit to one sin, we usually discover, it’s deeper than that and requires more effort than we first hoped. It’s not enough to acknowledge, we have to confess (yes) but we also must cooperate with the grace offered in that sacrament. We must cease seeking out the sin itself. Entertaining what led us to sin, likely leads us “into temptation,” and we know from past experience, how good we are at avoiding the near occasion of sin. (Not).
The problem is, no one wants to talk about the reality, that all sin leads us away from love of neighbor and of God. All sin leads us away from being willing to cooperate with grace. All sin, every sin, each sin, puts enmity between us and the One who made us in His image, not because God doesn’t love us, but because all sin makes us less willing to love either our neighbor as ourselves, or God with our whole heart. All sin demands we surrender some part of our heart to something other than God. It is the nature of sin.
All grace cooperated with, leads us deeper into the heart of God, invites us to love better, love deeper, love infinitely more. There’s a trend in movies and televisions that involves saying, “I love you.” to which the response is “I love you more.” “I love you 3000” was an example of a child seeking to indicate the infinite. “I love you to the moon.” to which in secret, the parent bunny whispers, “I love you to the moon and back.”
The reality is love is about self giving, surrendering all. “I love you too.” is just as legitimate, because it is a recognition of the other and not a competition of who can love more so as to win, but to love more because that’s what love always demands. Love is sacrificial, and it is without end, because if God is love, (and we know this is true from the Gospel), then all love we offer, is an offering of God to another.
Therefore love is always oriented to the infinite. God cannot change His infinite nature of being irrespective of the person of the Trinity –God the Father, creator of each of us, imaging all of us into being with a plan to reveal all that we can of God’s nature, (having a destiny to be a saint), is love. Christ is love revealed to the world in the flesh, and the Holy Spirit stirs within us, inviting us to partake in the redemption of the world, to make it less messy, less bruised, less impoverished by sin.
We are to be the ones to do the cleaning, remodeling, the projects that will naturally also grow exponentially if the witness of the saints is any indication. How? Pick a corner of the mansion, of the family you live in, and start there really loving, really self giving. You will find there is more to do. You will be given the grace to do it. And, if you stay close to the sacraments and keep asking for that grace, more will be given, and the talents you invest will be multiplied to five or even ten. The goal is to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” and that only comes by being a good and faithful servant whether you’ve labored all your life in the vineyard, or just the last hour.
So the best prayer we can offer is, “Lord, please help me find where you want me to labor, put me to work and give me the grace to do it. Help me cooperate with that grace even when it is hard. Even when it seems fruitless. Help me weather the fallow times, trusting that you will multiply all we offer. I know you will use whatever we give to feed those who hunger, clothe those who are cold, heal those who are sick, comfort those who mourn, visit those who are isolated, bury the dead and care for all who suffer in this world. Help me do all you need me to do, so I may hear those words and so that others will find themselves also knowing the God who is love, loves them and so do I. Amen.”
To those who read this blog who saw my post on praying the Fiat every day as a request –this is sort of the same thing. It is just admitting as all of us who are not sinless by nature must acknowledge; we will need near constant extra grace to pull this off. Because we are very good at distracting ourselves from the good we would do, and from knowing even what good we should do. We also stink at surrendering. God’s will, not being always our will, means we have to surrender, and the prayer of asking to cooperate with grace is asking for the gift of surrender.
“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word.”
Good luck everyone. Time to get to work on whatever corner it is that you see, starting with your own house because this place is a mess. Together with God’s grace, we can make it closer to what it and we are called to be.