Lenten Resolution: Don’t take myself too seriously!!! ;->

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.(Gal 6:3)[1]

“Paul uses the word sarx [flesh] to talk about the separate self, the partial self, the entrapped self, the false self. It’s the self that is trying to define itself apart from the Spirit, apart from the Big Self. It’s you apart from God, the tiny self that you think you are, who takes yourself far too seriously and who is always needy and wanting something else. It’s the self that is characterized by scarcity and fragility–and well it should be, because it’s illusory and passing. This small self doesn’t really exist in God’s eyes as anything substantial or real…To easily get beyond this confusion, just substitute the word ego every time you hear Paul use the word flesh….The problem is not that you have a body; the problem is that you think you are separate from others. And then that fragile separate self tries to make itself superior besides.” [2]

I guess one thing I “learned” [in quotes because I just realized it as a result of reading the Pope’s Easter message and haven’t really groked it yet, haven’t ruminated over it a few thousand times, haven’t absorbed it, taken it “to heart,” made it part of my modus operandi…but, with God’s help and Jesus guidance and the Spirit’s power, I may just bring it off], what I “learned” from Lent is not to take myself too seriously…. ;-<…something I tend to do all too frequently!!!

Why? Well, a number of reasons…but the big one, the most important one, is….it’s not about me [horrors!!]…it’s about Him [Shucks!!!] That’s a tough one to swallow |:~O [Gulp!] You mean I am not the center of the universe? That the world does not revolve around me? You mean I shouldn’t trust in myself more than I trust in God? You mean I can’t control everything around me and make it do my bidding? Nope! [And, thank God, literally, for that bit of reality…do you realize how really screwed up things would be if I were in charge…the world would be in really, really, really bad shape…at least this way, You’re running the show!]

Another is that no one else takes me seriously….at least not as seriously as I take myself. So it is kind of a futile solipsism for me to take myself more seriously than others do. It throws my whole “calculations” of importance and “why he didn’t get back to me…immediately!” and “where is that package…don’t they know I’m waiting for it?” out the psychological window. Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am,” is really “I think I think but I am not who I think I am and that others know that I am not,” if I take myself too seriously. Taking myself seriously is a joke…the cold reality of me is quite a laughable sight.

Finally, and seriously, most important, God doesn’t take me too seriously. That may seem blasphemy when we are told time and time again how He loves even every little hair on my head. But when we truly love somebody, we cut them a lot of slack, we laugh off their foibles, in fact, in a way, we find those shortcomings endearing…we say: “that’s just him, that’s just her…don’t worry about it.” This slack-cutting seems to be the modus operandi of my best friend, our best friend, God.

This is not to say that my sin is something that He just sweeps under the rug; no:

  • You are not a god who delights in evil.[Ps. 5:5];
  • Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows,[Gal 6:7];
  • if one does not repent, God sharpens his sword,[Ps 7:13];
  • all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left…‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. [Mt 25:32-33;45-46]

But let’s look at the evidence of God’s mercy and friendship, starting with His own description of Himself as He passes by Moses:

  • The LORD, the LORD, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity, continuing his love for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin;[3] [Ex 34:6-7; cf. Num 14:18; Ps 145:8]
  • Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger, abounding in mercy. He will not always accuse, and nurses no lasting anger; He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve. For as the heavens tower over the earth, so his mercy towers over those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us. [Ps 103:8-12]
  • It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more. (Is 43:25)
  • He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love. (Micah 7:18)
  • For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more. (Jer 31:34)

And note that these quotations are all from the Old Testament, where we thought God was all fire, brimstone and wrath. God wants us to know that He knows our sins and yet forgives them.

Jesus and Abba and HS [the Holy Spirit] all operate on the same type of friendship, of love. They are in love; They are love. And Love is patient, love is kindis not pompous, it is not inflated,… it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Indeed, we are given the example of Jesus: When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. (1Pet 2:23) And we are told to do the same: Judge not, that you be not judged. (Mt 7:1)…to practice love which is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,… does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. [1Cor 13:5-6] Peter asks: “Lord, how often am I to forgive my brother when he sins against me? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22) Forgiveness includes not brooding, not reviling, not threatening, not judging. Indeed, this love we should practice imitates God: it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [1Cor 13:7]

Paul also urges us, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:2-3) and James tells us: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19)

One form of not taking myself too seriously is the ascetic Christian life, particularly in the Eastern Church, called foolishness for the sake of Christ. It is based on the theme of foolishness in First Corinthians.

  • If any one among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, 1Cor 3:18-19:
  • We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute, 1Cor 4:10;
  • The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1Cor 1:18:
  • For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. 1Cor 1:21
  • We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 1Cor 1:23
  • For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1Cor 1:25

More than ever the Lord needs a few fools to risk ridicule and hatred to proclaim his gospel to a hostile world that often thinks it is a foolish doctrine that is hopelessly out of touch with today’s reality. For fools like me and you, we can turn that belief on its head and know that, in truth, today’s reality is out of touch with God, but, due to His unconditional Love, definitely not hopelessly…after all, we’re hear and here…chortle. Amen.

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.”

[2] R. Rohr, OFM, Paul’s Dialectical Teaching: Flesh and Spirit; Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Friday, April 10, 2015, Center for Action and Contemplation

[3] We sometimes confuse forgiveness with guiltlessness. God doesn’t; this verse continues: yet not declaring the guilty guiltless, but bringing punishment for their parents’ wickedness on children and children’s children to the third and fourth generation![Ex 34:7; see also Ex 20:5-6; Deut 5:9-10; Jer 32:18; this version of God’s wrath on children is obliquely referenced in Jn 9:1-3 where His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. The NABRE note on Jn 5:14 makes the point: “While the cure of the paralytic in Mk 2:1–12 is associated with the forgiveness of sins, Jesus never drew a one-to-one connection between sin and suffering (cf. Jn 9:3; Lk 12:1–5).”

This condemnation of the children is reversed in other verses; as the NABRE note on Ex 20:5 states: “Other Old Testament texts repudiate the idea of punishment devolving on later generations: Parents shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their parents; only for one’s own crime shall a person be put to death.[Deut 24:16; quoted in 2Kgs 14:6, 2 Chron 25:4; and is the basis for Jer 31:29-30 and especially Ez 18:2-4;19-20]. “Yet it is known that later generations may suffer the punishing effects of sins of earlier generations, but not the guilt.”

While God forgives our sins, our guilt remains as does the effects of sins. This must be rectified, the scale of justice balanced, either here or in eternity, the basis for the purging of Purgatory.