Last Sunday I was in the bathroom at church during the homily so I only got to hear bits of it when Father was particularly loud. Der Kinder has settled into some kind of a pattern in which his favorite time to want to eat on Sundays is during the homily. This is unfortunate as I don’t have the guts to feed him right there in the pew, and for some reason I feel like the cry room has their air of a private club about it; as though it belongs to the regulars who are all comfortable with each other and spend the whole Mass there, so I don’t want to use it either, which means I wind up in the bathroom. The highly, highly inconvenient bathroom where it is solely by the grace of God that I have not done anything disastrous like let the back of my skirt fall into the toilet water or drop Lucas on the floor because I need to adjust too many things at once. However, I have strict instructions from myself not to complain to much on this blog because people like to read about good stuff more than they like to read walls o’ whining, no matter how wittily written and I don’t write that wittily anyway. Harrumph. Where was I? Right, I was in the bathroom listening to tiny snippets of the homily.
Father said something along the lines of “Growing in holiness (or becoming holy) does not consist in being active (or doing things), but in being receptive.”
At first I thought, well, hmm, I’m not sure I agree with that, which means that I don’t understand it because let’s face it, this particular priest is wrong about very, very little. It sounded to me like the kind of sit-back plaster saints who I used to resent because being holy came so easily to them.
…. And those three paragraphs are all that remain of a once-glorious and 8x longer post which WordPress decided to eat after I had worked on it for six days and finally clicked the “Save Draft” button in case my laptop reset itself in the middle of the night as it is occasionally wont to do. I can’t possibly rewrite it. There were too many moments of inspiration that I have no hope of duplicating. It involved Star Wars, the Virgin Mary, and a great deal of soul-searching. I wrote it in the middle of the night so that it wouldn’t keep me from ignoring Der Kinder, which means that I just lost a LOT of sleep for nothing.
I guess I’ll just skip to the end then. So much for the elegance of writing, with definitions, examples, metaphors, distinctions… This will be bare-bones.
Receptivity is the key because we cannot take grace and wield it like a sword or a mecha. God must bestow it on us, and we cannot earn it. Grace is the key to holiness by its very definition, which is “the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.” Grace is God doing us a favor, because without it we can do nothing good. Oh sure we might be able to talk a good game, but really people can’t do good without God’s supernatural gift of grace when they are mired in bad habits and have the willpower of a wet tissue. Mental angst springing from slowly crushing one’s conscience aside, it’s very, very easy to sin. (However, it is not very easy to go to Hell, what with God loving us like crazy and just waiting for us to tell Him we’re sorry and don’t want to do bad things anymore so He can forgive us. Well, apologizing and trying to amend one’s life can be very hard. So I tried to be upbeat, oh well.)
But that’s where grace comes in! We cannot earn grace. We do not deserve grace. The splendiferous thing though is that God gives us to it anyway, in sufficient quantities to overcome WHATEVER difficulty is before us. It’s true. There is literally nothing on earth which we cannot overcome*. But this is only because of God’s gift of grace. A gift we cannot obtain by ourselves… one which we must receive.
We must also be receptive to it, and that is where the priest’s words come in. We must be open to God’s grace. We can’t grow in holiness without grace.
It’s not easy for me to be open to things that make me a better person, because they are generally hard work and require change, both things which I dislike and, shamefully, avoid as often as possible. There is also the Catholic notion of doing things to be more open to grace, which is NOT the same as doing things to “earn” grace, as we are often accused of doing. I am much better at putting up walls and being lazy. However, while I was reading Dwija over at House Unseen, she linked to a post by Dorian Speed which was about rewarding behaviors rather than outcomes. It condensed into deciding that my New Year’s Resolution is going to manifest itself as a sticker chart, which is a tad kindergartenish but hey, it sounds like it would work perfectly with how I tick and one must begin building self-discipline somewhere. I’ll write more about that later.
Well, in order not to make this turn into another six-day magical disappearing post, and also to finish clearing myself off the couch so our friend can crash on it since he gave up alcohol for Lent and has discovered tonight that his tolerance has gone significantly downhill, I will stop typing.
*Mental illness and disabilities brings special rules into play. Personal guilt for wrongdoing is proportionate to how much we freely choose an action. Mental illness and disabilities interferes with our ability to evaluate, choose, and act freely. If a person, by dint of their their brain chemistry or other messed-up mental wiring, is fully or partially incapable of properly assessing decisions and making morally correct choices, their personal guilt can be mitigated to the point of being nonexistent. This is why people who suffer from mental problems and commit suicide because of it can still receive Christian burial despite committing an objectively mortal sin without receiving absolution before death.