Monday, August 23, 2010

the narrow gate

A few assorted tidbits from the past week or so...

Faith leads to surrender.  Surrender leads to love.

Human rights come from God, not government.

God wants us to open our hearts to Him.

We are called to "Go out to all the world and tell the Good News." (Psalm 117)

Last Thursday, the First Reading at Mass was from Ezekiel 36: 22-28.  It started off:  Thus says the LORD:  I will prove the holiness of my great name, profaned among the nations, in whose midst you have profaned it.    Father says that the ancient Israelites were profaning God's name by their actions.  The question for us today:  Do we give God a good name by the way we act, or do we give God a bad name?  Honestly, I'd have to say that it varies sometimes in my life.

You try to do what is right, but sometimes the evil and the profane just sneaks in.  I have a new co-worker this year.  Actually I have several new ones, but one who teaches the same group of kids that I teach.  This is just an odd little person.  As in, I can't imagine that we would ever have much in common, someone who hasn't really tried to reach out or be included, someone who is just a little strange.  Or maybe a lot.  Someone who is going to be an endless source of aggravation and conversation.  I was feeling just a little bit bad about it.  A little bit like the mean kid on the playground.  Darn conscience. 

Confession was already on the agenda for the weekend.  Sometimes when I prepare (I can never just show up at church and "wing it", like my teenagers like to do)  I come up with "the list" and other times there are just a few general things that I know need to improve.  I don't know ahead of time what's going to present itself - the list or the top 3, but this weekend was a "top 3".

I wonder why gossip and work must go hand in hand?  Not once all summer, was that even an issue.  But as soon as school starts... it's as if you can't even have one conversation without it being about someone else.  And then there was the issue of my new co-worker.  I laid it all out there - my attitudes and their weirdness and asked for some perspective from my confessor.  (And there are some legitimate specific concerns that I won't put out here for the whole world, but trust me...) 

I know the Holy Spirit speaks through this man.  "Karen," he says.  "Think back to last you remember the question from the homily...I think it was Thursday...'do we give God a good name..?'"  I nod.  "Our lives must stand for something....there are no easy answers or quick fixes...but we are called to live so that others can see God's love in us....we bring Him to the world out there....God would not have put this situation in front of you, if He didn't also give you the grace to get through it."  I know all of this.  There is nothing new here.  He is an excellent homilist, and I listen - really.  But sometimes it is helpful to be reminded in context.  My penance fit perfectly - offering something as a sacrifice for this person.

For a long time I avoided confession.  Then I had a love-hate relationship with it.  But now I have a great appreciation of the sacrament.  Maybe that is why I write about it.  I know a lot of people in real life who haven't been to confession in a looooonnnng time, who think they don't need it, or who are just really uncomfortable with it.  But it is such a gift to us.  Yes, there is some humility and honesty involved; sometimes it's a little painful when pride takes a hit.  Some nervousness, but it usually passes.  Don't be afraid!

Several years ago, I knew I needed  to go.  It had been a long time, and I had a short list of serious things. (Not that I was an occasional sinner, but I just did the same few things over and over and over.  So short list + serious sins + long time  = need to go.)  One of the things that helped me greatly to find the courage to go was to read the experiences of others and see that they had, indeed, been to confession and lived to tell about it, and that overwhelmingly their experiences had been good ones.  And so that is why I share my stories, in the hopes that one person will find the courage to make their way to the confessional and be reconciled with a God who loves to forgive.  You go, and not only do you live to tell about your experience, you are filled with New Life!  A pretty awesome exchange:  humility + honesty + sins = forgiveness + grace + new life. 

The title for this post comes from last Sunday's gospel, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate...."  (Luke 13:22-30)  I read a book several years ago that pointed out that the narrowest door in many churches is the door to the confessional.  So, when I hear that scripture passage, that image always pops into my head.  Your mileage may vary.  :-)

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