A Beautiful Reflection
January 24, 2013 § Leave a comment
From the USCCB’s Nine Days of Prayer, Penance, and Pilgrimage Novena, this is today’s reflection:
“On this feast of St. Francis de Sales, let us consider these words of the great saint: “All that we do must be motivated by love and not force. We must love to obey rather than fear to disobey.” St. Francis reminds us that all of our actions must be borne of a spirit of love, and that we find our freedom in living the truth. As we defend the dignity of human life, let us ask St. Francis to pray for us so that everything we say and do for unborn children and their grieving parents is imbued with both compassion and truth.”
What a beautiful reflection. The one line in this really jumped out at me. “All of our actions must be borne of a spirit of love.” I am not ashamed to admit that this is very hard for me sometimes. Danny always tells me I get angry or upset too easily, and he’s right. When I’m discussing abortion, or same-sex marriage, or any number of hot-button issues with people, it is so, so easy for me to grow angry, especially when I feel like people write me off or are condescending to me because of my religion. But that kind of anger is never the answer, especially not where religion is concerned, because it’s just my pride being hurt. A very wise priest once said to me during a Confession: “The emotions are morally neutral. It is what you do with them that makes them wrong or right.” And he’s right. Anger in itself is not wrong. It is not wrong for me to feel angry when I see the outrageous, egregious, horrifying numbers of babies aborted in the United States. But to grow angry at someone because they don’t treat me with the dignity that I think I deserve, because they call me names and falsely represent my beliefs, to let that anger affect my mood, my day, the way I act towards other people… that is pure pride. I struggle with that a LOT. The internet makes it even worse. People write very mean things on the ever anonymous internet. To let myself get angry because someone who doesn’t know me, who doesn’t care about me, has judged me and my beliefs on the internet, is just plain silly. Typing that out just now makes it seem even sillier. But it happens.
You would think that the two attributes they mention in this reflection would go hand-in-hand, and maybe for some people they do. But for me, having a “spirit of love” and finding “freedom in living the truth” do not always appear together. As the Act of Faith says, I believe “all the truths which the Catholic Church teaches”, and I really do. I try to live these truths and I have found freedom in that. I know that the Love I believe in is true, and good, and wise, and the freedom in knowing that is incredible. But then comes that other phrase again, that “all of our actions must be borne of a spirit of love”. Just in time to make me step back and realize: I am not a saint, heck no. Not yet. Love is a sacrifice, a giving up of yourself, and I struggle to do that with those closest to me. How hard it is to do it with someone I’ve never met before! But that’s what I am called to do. Love them, all those faceless internet strangers: the people who think I’m a bigot, the people who think I hate women, the people who call my beloved Papa Benedict vile names, the people who misrepresent my beliefs, all those unknown masses. Sacrifice my pride for them. Give up my anger for them. Love them.
“…a spirit of love…”
I think that’s what I’ll try to work on during Lent this year. (I always give something up as a penance and choose something to improve on.) Although cultivating a spirit of love sounds really basic and simple and something I should be doing every day anyway, it’s just not that easy. To me, that’s what Lenten sacrifices are for: to help us be more Christ-like in everyday situations. I’ll try to stop getting angry so easily, and move towards a spirit of compassion and truth, towards a spirit of love.
Say a prayer for me, ’cause it ain’t gonna be easy!