Yesterday I got my first look at our parish’s new monthly newsletter, DISCIPLE, which should go into the mail tomorrow. It looks great, and I am truly excited to share it with you.
It also took less than two minutes to find two small but obvious errors in the final printed version: a typo and a small oversight in layout.
Those two small blunders nearly derailed me from enjoying a good day yesterday. I kept churning it over and over in my mind: How can I review something so many times, and still let two mistakes slip through? Especially mistakes that are so easy to see after the fact? How many people will notice? What will they think?
But the more important question occurred to me this morning: Why I am so upset and impatient with myself over two honest oversights, but always ready to excuse and forget my countless actual sins?
When Jesus says, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), He is speaking first and foremost about being perfect in love—of God, neighbor and even enemy. He was not, it turns out, particularly concerned about parish newsletters.
Here’s what this Lent continues to reveal to me: I am entirely helpless to love as God loves. And I don’t like being helpless. I like to be large and in charge, or at least to appear that way, so the things I do that people can see matter a great deal to me. As a result, I am prone to obsessing over tiny details of my work and forgetting my fasts and prayer commitments, my family and friends.
More than that, in my pride, I want people to know that that I did my part. This manifests itself in all sorts of ways, but most notably in my tendency to say a perfectly correct thing at the wrong moment—offering advice instead of encouragement; listening to respond rather than to understand; lecturing rather than loving. I tell myself that I want to stand before Jesus with a clear conscience, knowing that I did all I could on His behalf. But in reality, I want to be the one who saves or is rejected, so I can check the box for that relationship and move on.
A wise friend of mine used to say, “Who I am to think I can restore a masterpiece?” Are my hands so steady? The answer, of course, is no. I do not have the ability to mend my own life, much less someone else’s.
But I can listen; I can love them; and I can pray. And here’s the thing: Poor teaching or bad advice can actually lead souls astray or drive people away from Christ and the Church. But prayer, sincerely offered, can only do good.
Does this mean that I have no obligation to speak God’s truth? Of course not. But in my effort to do good, I must not forget that prayer is doing. Prayer is real and effective. It is always heard and answered in God’s time, according to His will. No matter how distracted or stumbling it may be, how simple or grandiose—prayer matters.
The things we do for others to see are vanity. The mistakes we make are humiliations meant to turn us back to the One who alone sees the big picture and has the power to restore it. God, this Lent, has specifically pointed me to prayer: to surrendering my concerns to Him and acknowledging, time and again, that I am powerless to do anything well without His guiding hand.
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Blogger’s Note: This post first appeared as part of the Wednesday Witness blog series on the St. Michael Catholic Church website.