Monday, June 06, 2005

hard of hearing

From the first reading at church yesterday:
Your piety is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that early passes away.
For this reason I smote them through the prophets,
I slew them by the words of my mouth;
for it is love that I desire, not sacrifice,
and knowledge of God rather than holocausts.
Hosea 6:4-6
And then came Psalm 50:
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,
for your holocausts are before me always...
Offer to God praise as your sacrifice
and fulfill your vows to the Most High...
Then, in case you didn't catch it the first two times, the Gospel reading quotes Jesus saying:
Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.
What's that, God? I didn't quite get that.

I went home and checked my email. Each day, I get a Spanish saying or quote sent to me. Yesterday's was, "En muchos casos hacemos por vanidad o por miedo, lo que haríamos por deber." "In many cases, we do out of vanity or fear what we ought to do because we should," a quote by Concepción Arenal, a Spanish sociologist. Rather appropriate, isn't it?

I didn't think too much about it. It seemed like a nice quote, though, so I put it up on my instant messenger profile. One of my friends saw it today and started talking to me about it, saying that it reminded him of a discussion we had at our young adults fellowship group a while back. We were talking about the line from the Our Father to "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." Someone had said that we should forgive others because we want to be forgiven, but others had said that doesn't seem like the right reason to forgive someone. We shouldn't forgive simply because we are afraid of what would happen if we are not forgiven; we should forgive out of love for God and others. "Oh yeah!" I said, "I remember that conversation." Then I forgot about it again.

God knows I can be a little hard of hearing. I'm glad He doesn't give up! I was looking at Catholic Exchange and began reading "Religiosity or Holiness?":
[Original sin] introduces into our lives a tendency to disconnect the outward from the inward, so that outward acts, if we are not careful, become mechanical and devoid of meaning. In fact, they become dangerous, even treacherous. Because they are designed to express love, we are fooled into thinking that we have love for God and others because we do them, even when that love has grown cold. And then love of God becomes replaced by love of self, since we become very impressed by what we wrongly perceive to be our own holiness.
Finally, I heard what He was saying! And what better way for Him to show me than this? I had been going through the motions, passively listening at church, recognizing truth in a saying I read but failing to ponder what that truth implies, reading articles on a Catholic website, and doing all of this out of vanity, believing that my actions would be enough although my heart was not in it.

It is not just religion where this realization is important. There are so many areas of our lives that can become overshadowed by the drudgery of sacrifice without love. In our friendships, we easily lose sight of the love we have for a person and become frustrated with his or her demands on our time or our behavior. In our work, we lose sight of why we chose this job in the first place. The vision that we had in the beginning slips away and we begin to wonder whether it will all be worth it. I think that what my friends said at our fellowship group was right. We can do things out of vanity or fear. It may even be a good start. But it isn't enough. If our good actions are to last, we must be doing them out of love.

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