Everyone Is Trying

We definately have work to do in this world.  Today at our Encounter with Christ, we got the distinct message that not only should we listen to God when He has an assignment for us, say “yes” and mean it, and complete the work we set out to do, but we need to begin with the understanding that we are only human, and going about it is a work of God.  It doesn’t end there…we need to have this same perspective for those around us, especially the being human part, as our case determined.  It was a great meeting with faces new to the group, and new to the world (welcome baby Joseph) and the sweet women who make up this growing family of Christ. 

Matthew 21:28-32

28 “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. 30 The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. 32 When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.

  • Jesus is calling out the duplicity in his audience (and in us).  When God calls me to do something, what is my response? Can I “walk the walk”?  We need to be able to act on our faith, not just talk about it. 
  • “…tax collectors and prostitutes…” What is it about tax collectors and prostitutes that is different from me, other than in the way their lives seem to be more “sinful” than my own? The difference is that they know and were constantly reminded of how “bad” they were.  In this sense, they were on the bottom levels of society; looked down upon, and were outcasts.  Because of all of this, a false sense of pride was probably not their issue. Perhaps it is this sense of humility that makes so much room for Christ to work in them.  They know they need the mercy of God and they are in a position to accept instruction.  I need to remember when I mess up that God can do His will in me despite my mistakes and short-comings, as long as I am humble and willing to accept His mercy like these “sinners” seemed to be.  
  • It is important to look at our own hearts rather than looking around to compare ourselves to others.  We can not use other people as a reference point for how we are doing in life. We must measure our own progress according to Christ is specifically asking of me.
  • We have heard from different leaders in faith that it isn’t enough to just avoid being “bad” or doing wrong things.  It is equally if not more important to not fail to do the good (what the church refers to as the sin of omission).  We must complete the tasks we have been given, not just start something only to leave off somewhere along the way.  Completion of our task is critical. 
  • Jesus begins this paragraph by asking, “What is your opinion?” How incredible to have been asked our opinion by God? If I were to answer any question of God’s, I must make sure that I have a well-formed conscience before I do anything.  If God assigns me a task, I need to make sure I am working from a place of purity of intention, which is clearer if I am well-formed.  Meeting regularly with other well-formed people in prayer is an important part of solid faith formation.
  • Following through on things can be difficult, especially when there is so much to do and so many priorities pulling at us.  It is hard to know what takes priority, and important that we pray about it each day.
  • It can be the small things we feel God is calling us to, for example, while taking a walk today, I kept smiling and saying hello to everyone; strangers.  I felt uncomfortable at times, but I knew it was on my heart to do so I as approached each person, so I continued despite my discomfort.

Our case study today was about a deacon’s homily during a mass at a girls’ retreat.  The young women were ages 14-18 and on a retreat for two days, where they attended mass  and the deacon gave a talk about the gospel reading for the day (the homily).  It was a very effective homily and really got them thinking and applying what they learned.  He said to try looking at others through the “lens” of “everyone is trying“.  Sometimes we encounter people in our lives who are cruel or don’t seem to care at all about anyone.  But we need to approach each person with the sense of charity that they are in the process of trying to be better.  Even if it were not true of someone at that moment,  we all were once in a situation where someone felt that we were the one who didn’t care or seemed unkind, and many times we have received forgiveness from another even if we didn’t feel like asking for it.  The Deacon was trying to impress upon the girls that every one deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Many of us discussed similar situations in our lives in which this principle has factored in to helping our sense of charity for humanity.  One member of our group used to work as an intake counselor, and said she must have interview hundreds of people in one year, all dealing with difficult disabilities and unemployment.  Her understanding of the situation was that we can never judge anyone or the source of their actions because  background, personality, and circumstances fold into the choices they make, and are layered into a complex compilation of factors.  Once you listen to the stories of so many people and what they have been through, you understand that it not our place to assume anything about anyone

Another person said her husband’s workplace has a policy  that is “assume good intent” with everything everyone does.  Assuming that people are trying to do the right thing helps make the work environment more affable and productive.

Looking at this case from the perspective of the deacon, one of our members said “you just never know the effect your words will have on someone”, and how we, in (almost) October, are still talking about the “Fr. William-isms” that were given to us at our retreat in January.  The stories and points we received from Fr. William during this two-day retreat, continue to positively affect the way we view God, ourselves, and others.  The music group “His Own“, who blessed us with music during the retreat (and participated as well), were even inspired to write a song from one of these stories on their new album, “It’s You”.  http://www.behisown.com/

The consequences of this case included the fact that the girls who attended this retreat were able to go back to the world of tricky teenage social standards, and use this idea when someone was coming against another person.  In offering the fact that we are all trying to become better, they could bring understanding and charity for others to witness.  Often we may be in a group social setting where gossip begins but can quickly be extinguished by someone extending a comment in support of the human element we all demonstrate at times.  The idea may be that shining a light on our own vulnerablilty as humans reminds us to be kinder in dealing with other’s failings. 

The theological virtue we identified was Charity; but hope was discussed as well.  

Charity: Loving God above all things for His own sake and loving our neighbors as ourselves for the love of God; sacrificing of ourselves for God and mankind.  It is the queen of all virtue. 

Hope: Trusting in God and His promises; thereby possessing the motive for living our supernatural life and persevering in prayer and virtue. 

The human virtue identified in this case:

Justice: Constant and firm will to give what is due to God and to our neighbor. Under justice is mercy. 

We set about finding a way to practice this virtue this week and came up with the following resolutions: 

Apostolic Action: Take a step out of our comfort zone to engage someone we don’t know well (or at all) a little further in conversation, with something as simple even as “How is your day going?” or something that gives them an opportunity to share.

Spiritual:  Ask the Holy Spirit each morning to guide us toward someone who we can engage in a conversation in which we can be an instrument of charity, justice and mercy for God. 

Last week’s resolution results:

We said last week that we would practice making the sign of the cross or saying the name of Jesus when we struggled with negative thoughts.  One person said they noticed that they make excuses often for the bad thoughts that come through their mind, and often thought, “Oh that’s not that big of a deal”, and made reasons for excusing herself.   Another said she often felt her thinking needed correction and used it all the time, perhaps being too scrupulous about our human thinking.  A final note was a member who attended a mass with her family and was a bit concerned with some things being spoken at church which derailed her attention to Christ; this is where envoking the sweet name of Jesus really paid off for her, helping to focus back on God.  Apostolically, we had fun chatting and assembling our college care packages for members’ kids, including rosaries for the kids, but also one for them to give someone else at school, the idea being that sharing their faith would help deepen their own faith in the process.




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