Monday, August 1, 2011
Reflections on Charitability
I was thinking and praying today during mass about what to do concerning a specific situation. I thought it very important to discern correctly what to do as it concerned the well-being of another person. I began to feel overwhelmed because how can I, as a human being with limited intelligence and obscured by sin, be sure that I am right, especially when the other person is sure that the opposite is right?
That’s part of the problem—in today’s world, everyone thinks they’re right, but there are some situations where only one person can be in accord with reality. I see this especially in the Catholic world in the liberal vs. conservative debate. Conservatives think liberals are heretics, removed from the essence of the Church, and just weird. Liberals think the conservatives are uncharitable, lacking the spirit, and close-minded. Both are wrong. Is there only one right answer in liturgy? Of course not, liturgy is the praise of the people, and praise takes different forms. I agree, there is a definite area in which the liturgy must occur to be appropriate, but because something varies from the “norm” does not mean it is illicit, invalid, or heresy. If everything were in the norm then there would be no variety. It is the openness to variety while remaining true to the spirit of Christ and the Church that makes the Catholic Church a universal and global church. I’ll admit, it’s a hard line to walk but it’s possible.
The human condition makes us judge and think we’re right without really first considering the alternative. We want to feel “in” and seek the approval of our peers, so we naturally point out the flaws of the “other” instead of inherently seeing the holy, the Christ, in all things. No matter how far a Church or a Christian is from God, there is still goodness, there is still dignity, and there is still some form of divine work there. This is especially so with parishes and people who are seeking to do God’s will. Sure they may err, we all do, but doesn’t the very desire to seek holiness make you, in some sense, holy? We are too obsessed with condemning and judging the other that we fail to see the good in things that we don’t already agree with.
All this has led me to question whether or not I can ever really know if I’m right. I know that I can, God speaks to me, reveals things to me, and I do possess natural reason that seeks Truth in accordance with the natural order of things. There are times I am right in my actions and my beliefs. Of course, there are many, many, times in which I discern, act, reason, or believe incorrectly. This is what causes the doubt. How can I be sure that what I pray and decide is actually according to the Will and revelation of God. I guess what I end up falling back on is 1) God’s ability to correct me and show me I’m on the wrong path, 2) God’s mercy, and 3) the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
All this pondering and prayer led me to think about the gifts that God has given me. What are they? I’m not an incredibly good-looking person. I’m not strong, or exceptionally eloquent. I’m intelligent but not exceptionally or in a way that other people can’t fulfill that need. I’m musical, but not prodigious. So what has God given me? Basically, He has given me, as he has every human person, a unique capacity to love in a specific way and Charism.
Knowing this, it is now my job to discern HOW best to love. In a general way, I must obviously love as God does. How is this? 1) Meeting people where they are at: God will never turn his back on us because we do not do what he says. His love is unconditional, human love should strive to be that as well. 2) True love must respect free will: I must point out errors, pray, and continue love, but I must never condemn or withdraw my love because someone fails to align their will with the truth.
That’s really all I’ve come up with—in reality I haven’t answered any questions about liturgy or what is right and wrong. The only conclusion that I have come to is that I must be charitable in all things, for that will win more hearts for the Lord than legalistic rules. It’s a fine line to tread, and I will often err on both sides. Pray for me Brethren, and I shall pray for you.