Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Helpful Homilies: Figure it out yourself, and Suck it up

Every once in a while I hear a homily that peels me to the core. Most don't, which I suppose is good, since being peeled to one's core isn't something one can take that often. Many homilies leave me unscathed. Recently I heard two homilies that fell into yet another category for me: the "good insight" sort.

The first of these was last Saturday, on the Feast of St. Joseph. The priest who preached was a last-minute substitute, and the nature of his rather rambling homily betrayed that fact. (Truth told, he normally rambles, but this is something that endears him to me because I could imagine myself doing the same.) The helpful insight there was that God told St. Joseph, for example, to take the Child and His mother to Egypt. Period. No other instructions were given, like which route to take, exactly when to leave, what to take along, what to do when they got there, exactly where to live, etc. God gave St. Joseph the Big Picture command, and apparently trusted him to work out the details himself, trusting him to pray for wisdom and guidance.

This was good for me to hear. Spiritual insecurity, personal insecurity, has at times paralyzed me because I felt that I needed divine revelation or divine permission in all details to keep me safe. At times I have thought that following Christ meant waiting for Him to direct me literally in all things. But if I were St. Joseph's shoes, this mistaken notion of what it meant to follow the will of God may have looked like this:  Ok, yesterday I thought God told me to go to Egypt, but then I said, "But Lord, which road should I take?", and since I didn't get an answer, I can conclude that it wasn't God telling me to go to Egypt, so I'm just going to stay right here. 

I think this kind of notion, that the Father would trust St. Joseph with working out the details of how to get the Holy Family to Egypt (just a little prophecy fulfillment, that's all) is what has always struck me as Delightful Catholic Spiritual Common Sense. God wants the glorious to become common place in our lives. We work with Him in working out our salvation and in ushering in the Kingdom of God. We are not slaves ordered around by a master, or a micro-manager. God truly respects the humanity with which He created us, and wants us fully functioning.

Helpful insight number two was in a homily I heard today. This time a different priest was talking about how certain relationships with people can get tense when people argue and feel the need to be right. He said, simply, it really doesn't matter who is right, it matters who is loving. Suck it up, he said.

Now there's advice that would have made me go absolutely mad at one point in my life. Do you have any idea how psychologically damaging it is to suck it up? Don't you believe in truth? Doesn't truth count for anything?!? But today I realized that what he was saying was that one can choose to "suck it up." And this implies, of course, that one can also choose not to. That requires freedom. In valuing loving over being right, he was not asking for us to commit the suicide of our souls nor to disregard what we know is right. He was asking us to take a higher road, and not insist on our own way, even when we are certain our own way is right. St. Paul reminds us that this is part of the definition of love: seeks not its own way.

These homilies constitute helpful and necessary formation of one's thinking. 


E said...

Perfect. I am in a suck it up situation and trying to make it santifying! So hard!

Amy said...

I really needed to hear both of these things - especially the one about St. Joseph. I keep asking for "details" and am not getting any, but I think I know the big picture and just need to work out the details myself! :)