ByzCat sent me a quote from Abbot Joseph’s blog about keeping the Ten Commandments, preparing for the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas, to y’all Latins), and what we must do to gain the kingdom of heaven. The good Abbot writes:
Keeping the commandments is necessary but not sufficient. Even if we keep all ten commandments all the time, there is something we still lack. The thing we lack may not be exactly the same for everyone. For the rich man, what was necessary was that he divest himself of his riches and give to the poor. For a poor man, the one thing lacking would be something else. But is there something that applies to all of us, rich or poor, something that everyone needs to do in order to be saved, that goes beyond keeping the Ten Commandments?
He goes on to discuss the fact that most of us, through fear probably, hold back a bit of ourselves and do not embrace or welcome suffering as Christ did. So in this way we are not “selling all that we have and giving it to the poor.”
Sometimes our sins are not what we have done, but what we have failed to do. Ouch. I agree with the Abbot that the biggest obstacle to most of us is that old bugaboo pride. How most of us hate to stand out from the crowd, to be thought different, to be looked at as odd. And many people, I think, would say that if one is trying to stand out from the crowd, that’s pride, not humility. But bear with me. What if, after much prayer, meditating on Scripture, conversation with a spiritual director and/or confessor, one becomes convinced that it is God’s Will that you have to do something? Then to avoid it is pridefulness.
Example: at Mass or Divine Liturgy one Sunday, during your thanksgiving after Holy Communion, you are quietly in the Presence of the Living God and you think (but as this kind of thing is rather new to you) that you hear a ‘still, small voice’ telling you that you ought to make a full prostration (or genuflect on both knees) instead of that perfunctory head-bobbing thingy. Oh, argh! Nobody in your parish does that! What to do? So you pray. And it keeps rattling around in your head…..you read Scripture, and it still doesn’t go away. Then for a while you think it has, and then there it is, back again. You discuss at length with your spiritual director. Everyone is in agreement that this idea did come from God, and it would be a good thing to do.
But if you don’t? Most people can’t sit still long enough to get locutions like that, and if they do, they are all over going “oh, no siree, not me, I could never do that. If I did then half the parish would think I was acting holier-than-thou, and the other half would think I was completely nuts.”
Hey, wake up! Here’s a perfect opportunity to humble yourself before Him Who endured the ultimate humiliation for you.
Sometimes in order to be humble, you have to stand out.
St. Francis of Assisi tells us to ‘preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.’ So why can’t you preach the Gospel by your reverent posture, body language, whatever? You can preach the Gospel in your garments. Someone who’s tuned in can even hear the Gospel being preached by the furnishings in your home, etc. etc.
Even the Confiteor at the NO Mass includes the phrase “in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do” in describing how we have sinned. And sometimes what we must give up, in order to gain the kingdom of heaven, is our own selves – the desire to be just like everyone else, the yearning to fit in. God has a way of calling us out of our comfort zone to teach us lessons – no friendly grandpa-by-the-fireplace-with-a-cozy-cup-o-tea……no, He’s dragging us out into the brilliant white-glazed morning after a snowfall to show us snowflakes that we can’t see unless we stay outside where it is so cold we can hear the moisture in our breath freezing.
It’s cold outside, but the snowflakes I see are breathtakingly gorgeous. My prayer for you is that, when God calls you out to see them, you put on your coat and follow Him.