Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!
It's a dreary, raining mid-March morning here in Chicago. There is flash flood watches and warnings all across the area and yet, our day trudges forward. We look ahead to coming sunshine and Springy weather (and meanwhile try to find the beauty in this watershed of a rainfall).
The gospel reading today is one of my favorites. (Mathew Chapter 23: 1 - 12). I took out my Daily Roman Missal this morning (it's a book that has all of the collected readings the Catholic Liturgy uses in its yearly cycles and Seasons and whatnot) and noticed I had marked up much of the words in the gospel as I read it last year. In the reading, Jesus tells people to look beyond their outward appearance and pray from the heart, so to speak. He is condemning scribes and pharisees who make sure they look great when they pray but fail to actually act on the words they offer to God.
Jesuit priest Mark Link, in his daily reflection book Action poses a question that stems from the gospel reading. He asks, "Is any of my religious practice done to impress others?"
Reflecting on this, I come to the realization that yes, I do try to impress other people with some of my religious practices. It's natural to seek gratification and acceptance from other people. To conform oneself to teachings and ritual and practice can lead us to want to be a part of the group. But it is not the group that we ultimately seek to please–––we seek to please God in solidarity and service with the group. Together, we come to worship or work or play. Together, we can see the Lord face to face. But if we don't see God in our own unique way, what can we bring to the group that shows we have our own God given gifts to bring to the table? (and we ALL do possess such qualities).
If we don't realize the potential of God within ourselves, we run the risk of measuring ourselves against those around us. We fall into the trap of constantly judging our neighbors---and consequently judging ourselves. If we take the time to judge the prayer life of others, we are in jeopardy of removing some of the sincerity of our own prayer. It is one thing to care for others, to sincerely hope that they may find God in a deep way every day. But this care, this concern, can be cultivated in the form of a positive, optimistic prayer that brings us closer to the One we seek, while, in turn, providing our neighbors with an example of the power of a prayer sincere.
It's not always going to be easy and feel fruitful, this praying thing. And in terms of refraining from judging others, well, that's something we need to work on every day. I can't count the number of times in every day when I am either tempted to judge one of my brothers or when I see a person on the street and immediately jump to conclusions about who they are or what they do. And I think of judging that goes on in a broader sense, the judgments I make regarding politicians, government officials, church leaders, criminals. We judge the saints and the sinners. In a sense, we look in a mirror and realize that our own reflection is not always what we want to see. And so we judge, to try and clarify our own image. However, all that happens is a mirror on the wall lies to us and tells us we are the fairest of them all.
The fairest thing to do is to be like Snow White, to be a servant for others, living life for others and not trying to impress anyone. Prayer can be a tool to bring me closer to my desire to LOVE unceasingly. If I pray unceasingly, there is no room for judgment. There is no need to impress others with our prayer and our way of life when we come to realize that we are ALL called to holiness, all called to be saints. The potential is there. The power is in our ability to come together and realize how to minister using such a power.
We ask for strength in our God, who is Love.
peace and with love,
your friend bob : )