When We See People Mending Their Spiritual Cloak, We Must Not Put More Holes In It

When We See People Mending Their Spiritual Cloak, We Must Not Put More Holes In It February 8, 2011

A soldier asked Abba Mius if God accepted repentance. After the old man had taught him many things he said, “Tell me, my dear, if your cloak is torn, do you throw it away?” He replied, “No, I mend it and use it again.” The old man said to him, “If you are so careful about your cloak, will not God be equally careful about his creature?”[1]

We are sinners hurting ourselves each time we sin. When we sin, we are doing something which we were not made to do, something which runs contrary to who we are meant to be. When we sin, we aim to incorporate or follow a good which was not meant for us, and in a way in which it was not meant to be used. To do so means we damage that good and ourselves in the process, weakening both because of it. We get bent out of shape taking something not meant for us, breaking us, making us incapable of being the people God intended us to be. The more we sin, the more this happens, until at last, we are trapped by the habit of sin, having become crippled by our own acts of sin.

The only way out the damage done to us by sin is grace. God, who looks down upon us with love, is willing to free us from the bondage of sin, and in doing so, to heal our wounded minds, bodies, and souls. But his grace is a gift, given in such a way that it must be accepted; though God can prod us, motivate us to accept what he offers, in the end, he does not force it upon us; he has given us free will, and it is for us to turn ourselves in to him, to have him take us and mend us, from the inside out. When we repent, this is what we do. But we must repent in faith. We must know God loves us. Just as we will try to fix things which we like, so God wants to fix us. With faith in God’s love for us, we have good reason to hope that his grace will heal us. Our love for God will grow with the repeated application of grace. We must always keep in mind that, after our repentance, God is working in us. We must not give up hope, if it appears the process which leads to our spiritual healing is going slow. We must not despair when God’s work on us is painful.

When we see God is working upon someone, we must work with God, and help them keep their faith, hope and love intact. For those turning their lives to God, there is nothing more likely to get them to stop their spiritual journey than a compassionless Christian judging them, not understanding the process needed for their spiritual restoration. They need help, they need someone to encourage them, not someone to discourage them and make them fall into despair. When we stumble, we want someone to help lift us up. When we are wounded, we need someone to heal us. God, of course, is the source of all spiritual healing. But he also sends people into our lives, to be vehicles for grace. Abba Mius was able to be such for the nameless soldier. Thankfully, he knew his role, and didn’t get all sanctimonious and righteous. He knew his work was all for the soldier, and not for his own elevation. What about us? How do we treat those God sends to us?


[1] The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Trans. Benedicta Ward (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1984), 150.


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Catholic
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Bruce in Kansas

    “Hey dude, you missed a big tear right under the left sleeve there.”

    Is that helping, or is that judging them?

    I wish I knew.

    • Ronald King

      It all depends on the disposition of the messenger.

  • Thanks for this Henry – It is quite apropos of several things in my life right now.

    Asking for help – that is, letting others be vehicles of grace and thus contribute to my healing – is one of the hardest things for me; to surrender and say, “I am weak, and can’t do this on my own” is one of the hardest things for me personally to do. Maybe that’s a generational thing, maybe it’s a “guy” thing, I don’t really know.

    The thing about helping, when it is my turn to provide it, is to offer it in humility. Not, “Look: here’s what you need to to to fix the problem” but more, “I am broken too. Here are some things I’ve found to be helpful. Let’s help each other.”

    • The thing about helping, when it is my turn to provide it, is to offer it in humility. Not, “Look: here’s what you need to to to fix the problem” but more, “I am broken too. Here are some things I’ve found to be helpful. Let’s help each other.”

      I think that is the proper spirit. And it is one of the things I get out of the Desert Fathers, which is why I love their sayings so much.

  • Dan

    We are sinners hurting ourselves each time we sin. When we sin, we are doing something which we were not made to do, something which runs contrary to who we are meant to be. When we sin, we aim to incorporate or follow a good which was not meant for us, and in a way in which it was not meant to be used. To do so means we damage that good and ourselves in the process, weakening both because of it. We get bent out of shape taking something not meant for us, breaking us, making us incapable of being the people God intended us to be. The more we sin, the more this happens, until at last, we are trapped by the habit of sin, having become crippled by our own acts of sin.

    Perhaps the greatest single-paragraph description of sin that I have read. Kudos.

    • Thank you, Dan. I tried. Of course, it is Augustinian, but I think Augustine here does a great job in helping us understand why we choose to sin.

  • Of course, sin is not my problem. But I do find, after about 40 years of being skinny, and 15 years of being of normal weight, that eating what I am not supposed to, or when I am not supposed to, is amazingly difficult to resist. Actually, resist isn’t even the right word. It’s not like I struggle most of the time. I think, “Well, I actually ate very little today, so it’s okay to have some pretzels . . . and peanuts, and chocolate, and ice cream.” It seems perfectly reasonable at the time. And then 15 minutes later I think, “Now why did I do that?” It’s kind of like The Three Faces of Eve, where one personality would get drink, withdraw, and let one of the other two cope with the hangover. It’s like there is more than one “self” inside, and each one thinks a bit differently.

  • Cindy

    A perfect question Henry. What about us? What do we do with what we are given around us? What do we do with those blessings that God bestows upon us? I think that is all part of the seeking forgiveness process. I mean when we are sorry and take time to reflect, our thoughts move all over the place and we think on our circumstaces and those around us. When we recognize what we ourselves need to heal in ourselves, we can begin to recognize that in which others may need to heal through our very own trials. I guess we all of had our trials burning up inside. Yet we gain wisdom from those very trials that we have been given in our own lives. And free will. We have to come to it of our own design. No one can be forced to accept God. I dont even know if God would want us to be forced to him. Is that love? I guess that is why free will was implemented in the first place. That gift lets us recognize the journy or path that we all are on and taking.