So, how’ve you been enjoying the Christmas season? It’s hard, huh? Just as soon as Catholics declare to the world that Christmas has BEGUN, the world starts with the AFTER-Christmas sales. Carols are mothballed, decorations torn down… Leave it to the world to get things backwards.
NOW, the world will tell you, ’tis the season for resolutions! Wait a few weeks, and ’twill be the season for FAILED resolutions. You know the drill.
The explanation most often cited for the failure of resolutions is “unreasonable expectations.” In our zeal for reform, we take on too much. We bite off more than we can chew, and end up having to spit it out. Very little reform actually ends up taking place.
This past year I instituted an early morning practice that has come to mean a lot to me. I actually got the idea from a bishop, but I don’t know which one, because I read about it on a blog which I now can’t locate. Anyway, the bishop had asked that Catholics perform an act of penance each day in reparation for the sins committed in their diocese. He asked that the penance be kept deliberately small and unimpressive, so that the one performing the penance might not boast.
Good thing he’s not my bishop! He obviously doesn’t know who he’s talking to! I am a lifelong, card-carrying member of the Church of One Fine Day. I sincerely plan, One Fine Day, to give to God a gift so large, so impressive, that it will bring tears to His eyes just thinking about the love and sacrifice that went into that gift. I really do! And I’ve been planning this for some 50 years now, so you can see I must be serious about it. One Fine Day, I’m going to present to the Almighty a gift worthy of the name. And until then, well….
Until then I’m not fooling around with the little stuff, stuff like driving the speed limit and holding my tongue when I get peeved, changing the subject when someone begins to gossip, and making a daily Act of Contrition. Small potatoes! What good will things like that do? – anybody can do that stuff! Me, I think BIG! As we all know, it’s the BIG stuff that counts!
Leave it to the world to get things backwards.
I trace this longing for living LARGE back to my spiritual ancestress, Jerusha of Capernaum, a woman who prepared and sold food for a living. She was actually present at the Feeding of the Five Thousand when the little boy offered up his loaves and fishes. Jerusha sniffed. “Hmph! Five barley loaves and two fish! I would be ASHAMED to offer that up for the feeding of this crowd!” Tradition has it that Jerusha, who unbeknownst to the assembled actually had several loaves of bread in her knapsack, walked off engrossed in her dream of opening a successful kebab stand back in Capernaum, a business which would grow and grow into a franchise with locations all over the Holy Land, and that One Fine Day Jesus would stop by her stand and say, “Jerusha, I was wondering…” and she would cry out “YES, LORD!” and turn the whole business over to Him!!! – and that while engrossed in this daydream, she fell into a hole and had to be carried home on a stretcher. No word on how that kebab franchise worked out. St. Jerusha, pray for us!
It wasn’t till I became Catholic that I first heard of the concept of “offering it up.” Protestants don’t exactly offer their sufferings up – they do “count it all joy,” but since the idea of reparation for sin is missing from Protestant theology, the act of “offering it up” doesn’t really resonate with them. Once I understood it, though, I liked it. But One Fine Dayism dies hard – so, of course I was going to offer things up – GRAND things. A paper cut? What a trifling waste of a prayer! As my right forefinger throbs, I look forward to some glorious day in my future when my entire right arm will be wrenched from my torso! THEN there will be some epic “offering it up”! A paper cut?? Not even worth my time….
So you can see, it was definitely a good thing, and “of the Lord,” when I heard what the bishop was proposing – every morning, make some small sacrifice and offer it in reparation for the sins committed that day in your diocese. It seemed eminently doable to me, so I instituted it, starting off each morning with a cup of diluted black coffee with a shot of skim to cool it off. It tastes like dishwater. To a morning wimp who can barely crawl into the kitchen and boil the water, it’s a penance – but I’m never tempted to boast about my “suffering”, that’s for sure. It just means that instead of beginning my day with a small pleasure, I deny myself ever so minimally, starting off my morning by asking what I can do for God. I offer up the cup “in reparation for the sins committed today in the diocese of Richmond against the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” It sets the tone, and I am then somewhat more inclined to drive slowly, speak kindly and pray harder.
Just a suggestion of something that you might try as a resolution. Start small, but start!
Because that One Fine Day is today.
On the memorial of St. Thomas à Becket
Deo omnis gloria!