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.


Paul’s Conversion

Meditation following “Shame”, Spring Retreat, 2013

Paul, Paul,… why do you lack faith and trust in me, do not rely on me to care for you and sustain you, to have your back and lead you forward, to love you and cherish you, to give you all you are and all your gifts and to continue to give you the graces and mercy to enable you to do whatever I ask of you.  Be at peace.  Have faith.  Be My best friend and I will be with you through thick and thin.

It is hard for you to kick against the goad…it’s like the salmon swimming upstream against the rapids and dams and fish ladders, etc.  You have a easy yoke and a light burden.  I have made it so much more difficult and heavy by my totally unrealistic and illusionary envious comparisons, prideful judgments rather than being content, at peace with the me with which you have blessed me.

Who are you, Lord?…I have built up such a false image of me that I have a false image of you also, of your role in my life.  I do not believe that you truly mean all you say.  I have imagined, imaged you not as you are but as I wanted you to be, to conform to be, to box you in to my limitations.  You are not this figment of my imagination, my feverishly evil machinations.  You are YAWH, the I AM, Goodness, Truth, LOVE!  Help me, grant me your grace to let you be YOU, the almighty, the one, the True, Unconditional LOVE, who is all that I need, and give me yourself so that I may be all that I need in you, through you, with you.  Let me shed myself of my frailty, my timidity, my easily threatened ego…and use you as my bulwark, my defense, my shield,…or rather, let me progress to the point where I can be free from all such defenses and simply naked in your presence, trusting entirely on you.

I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Like Paul, I am bewildered…He was persecuting the Way.  Jesus, in his mind, was long dead, crucified some years before.  Paul knew he never even saw Jesus, just heard the stories of him from the Sanhedrin and the High Priest, wild, exotic tales of miracles and madness, fantastic predictions of destroying the temple and erecting it again in three days, of telling people they must become cannibals, eating his body and drinking his blood.  There was even some who said that evil spirits spoke to Him when they went out at his word…all in an attempt to bring down the Law and all who abided by its commands…what further proof of his vileness, his insanity, his evil origins…..and now, this voice claimed to be Jesus, who both his fellow Pharisees and the Romans themselves testified was dead, that he, Paul, was persecuting Jesus…How incredible, how unbelievable….and this Jesus answered when Paul addressed Him as Lord…was He claiming to be…could He be…Paul had heard stories about the Jesus claiming that before Abraham was, “I am”…the outlandish, irreverent way he used, no assumed the very name of God…no one could have gotten away with such blasphemy in this life and not be suffering for his sins in Sheol…the only possible explanation which contradicts everything Paul ever thought or learned about Israel’s One and only One God, that stretches his imagination beyond anything he ever conceived, that annihilated all his preciously meticulously constructed his mental constructs, is that somehow, in some unexplainable way this Jesus and the Way were inextricably linked.

So much for that Paul.  As incredible as it may seem, I believe that Jesus is saying the same thing to me.  No, I have not caused the physical death or even detention of anyone even loosely connected to the Church, Christians, the Way of today.  But, in refusing to accept, be satisfied with, indeed, be thankful for the gifts of the Spirit as given, from baptism onward, by always hankering after others gifts or belittling them when I couldn’t have them, I not only sinned against the Spirit through envy and pride, but also diminished the good that Jesus could have accomplished through me, and may even have communicated my dissatisfaction to others in such as way as to be an evil influence on their own appreciation of their gifts.

Lord, forgive me for this.  It, unfortunately, is of such long standing that it is an engrained, or rather, entrenched, sinful weltanschauung from which I peer, squint-eyed, judging the passing world.  While the revelation of it is a gift beyond all measure, enlightenment is not embodiment, understanding is not comprehension, the mind is not the heart.  I need to grok this to the depths of my very being and arise, new, regenerated, spiritually reborn, i.e. reborn of the spirit, that I may cherish myself as you made me, treasure my gifts as you so generously bestowed them on me and utilize them for your praise and glory and for the salvation of not only my soul but the souls of all to whom you would send me.  For this, again, overwhelming grace, for this new Pentecost which throws off the chains of self-inflicted fear, erases the worn out beliefs of long outdated tape recordings and creates a new me, a me that is a shining new tool for you to build your kingdom…for YOU to build your kingdom, not me.  Amen. Alleluia!!!


On the occasion of Spring Retreat, 2013:

The most difficult part for me is to truly desire humility through insults and wrongs leading to dishonor and shame, “provided only that I can suffer these without sin on the part of another, and without offense of your Divine Majesty.” [Principle and Foundation]

Dishonor and shame is something I experience inwardly every day.  It is the bravado of the external show that, in my feverish mind, “keeps me going.”  If I loose that semblance, that façade, fake and false as I know it is…which itself is the source of and feeds the dishonor and shame, I fear I will disappear, dis-integrate, become disparate parts without a center, without cohesion, without a me, or at least the one that I recognize as me.

This is something on which, in its destruction, the foundations of humility can be built. There is no sin on the part of another for it is an internal paradigmatic shift of under-standing of my being, of appreciation of what “God hath wrought,” of acknowledgement of the true gifts the Spirit has given me gratuitously, from His goodness and mercy, not the false appropriation of them to my illusionary self achievement.

There is no dishonor to your Divine Majesty, for this is the reality, the true picture, the untouched, unaltered photo of your goodness, your largess, your plan, your desire, your very self manifested in your creation, in me.  It is that of which I can, like Paul, boast, of Christ crucified, of the Spirit sanctifying, of the Father, indwelling.

Addressing this is a breakthrough, but it is still very tenuous and malleable.  Help it harden into reality from realization, into practice from a mere proposal, into my very self from a mental suggestion. I ask, I beg of you, Father, in the name of your only beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, and through the prayers and pleadings of the whole court of heaven, that you grant me the grace, the strength of character, the firmness of will, the stamina of integrity to integrate this true understanding of myself, this acceptance of you as the foundation of my true being, my very self and that I have the courage, the fortitude, the energy, the sustained will, to discard these outmoded, false, malicious lies with which I have built an illusory “reputation,” a false self-image, a pseudo ego, that I have defended, nurtured and harbored within and about myself for all these years. With Mary’s prayers and the Spirit’s grace and guidance, Amen.  Alleluia!!!