Last week, I wrote a reflection on the role of discipline in the Christian life. I concluded with the following:
Likewise, each person on the path to the “narrow gate” must follow certain guidelines so as to not get caught in the underbrush or ambushed by wild animals. But how one travels the path is between you and God.
I was quite pleased with the piece; it got many social media interactions.
But pride goeth before the fall, as they say, and God didn’t wait very long to see how serious I was about respecting different practices.
Just three days after the piece was published, I attended Mass at a Charismatic church. And the first thing I did, even before entering the church, was judge the priest and the parishioners for the style of liturgical celebration.
Please note that I don’t have experience with Charismatic celebration of the Mass – just what I’ve heard and discussed with a handful of people, and one six-hour retreat I attended in 2011. And I am at most a neophyte when it comes to examining the liturgy.
But there I was, judging away, even as I realized what I was doing, even as I noticed that the priest’s entire homily was about Our Lady. He told parishioners that they should be inspired to say a daily Rosary after reading about the recently approved Marian apparitions in Argentina.
He also walked the Eucharist through the church after Communion, carrying it reverently in a monstrance as the congregation prayed. And I don’t think I saw more than a couple of people take Communion on the hand – an even smaller number than is seen at my regular, quite traditional parish. (Though perhaps I should have been examining my own conscience as I received Our Lord, not watching what others were doing!)
Like any keyboard warrior, I’m very good at opining from the comfort of my apartment. And like most keyboard warriors, I didn’t really live up to my own (ONION article) expectations once I actually went to implement my opining.
But God wasn’t yet done showing me how far I had to go to be truly humble. On Sunday, I attended a parish reputed to be not only liberal, but possibly outside the Church’s Magisterium in at least one significant way. Once again, I walked in looking for flaws in the liturgy or a rejection of Church teaching.
What I saw instead was a church packed to standing-room only, and a visiting priest who spoke of the need to be humble with not just others – but also with ourselves.
Until this point, Our Lord’s lesson to me during Mass was quite obvious. I was to be humble, not so arrogant and full of my own imperfect knowledge that I judged others who – to quote my own reflection just one week ago – are within the “guardrails of the highway of life” but have practices that fit their personal personality, spiritual path, etc.
In other words, I was to avoid being like the Pharisees.
What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not.
Indeed, part of being humble is to accept that we are not perfect. To take from Father Jacques Phillipe’s Searching for and Maintaining Peace of Heart, Satan loves when we sin. He loves even more when we beat ourselves up for sin, assuming that we were so perfect that we should have risen above who we are.
To put it another way: Unnecessary self-recrimination blocks us from fully receiving God’s Grace and Forgiveness.
So this week, my reflection is this: My job is to receive, and to be the vessel of, God’s love. I am to help my fellow man to avoid sin, but only with the Mind of Christ can I do so properly.
But as some of us go backward on life’s highway, others will wander from lane to lane, and still others will charge forward so hard we trip and fall. But as long as we’re all on the same highway to the narrow gate, it’s also my duty to not judge the path of others.
My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God. What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not.
Dustin Siggins is an Associate Editor for The Stream and a public relations and media consultant. He most recently worked as the D.C. Correspondent and Public Relations Officer for LifeSiteNews. The opinions expressed are his own.
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