25 July 2018

MINE! MINE! MINE!


+JMJ+

The 14th of 15 in a Series of Meditations on the 15 daily intentions offered by members of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity.
Wherein we pray for the grace of self-surrender and that we may never hand over to God anything less than our entire lives
This is really the point of the whole thing, or at least the penultimate point: that we give over to God everything. This prayer moves it away from talking about sex and lust and moves us into talking about everything. We've asked for each of the powers of our soul to be cleansed and purified. We've asked that all our interactions with the world be set into a level and plumb status. And now we want to take that package and say, "Here, this is yours".  But we do like to hold on to a few things, right? We want to be miserly with our treasures no matter how small they are. They are our treasures. "MINE!" As Daffy Duck would say. 

This struck me earlier, walking from the office. I remembered watching a video by my bother in Christ, which opens with these challenging words: If we deny who God says we are then we are wrong. That came to me in the context of a Rosary and thinking about a showing of the movie Desire of the Everlasting Hills at my parish tonight so it started with prayer and sex, but I ended up thinking about my job. I've struggled for years to become a priest, but I'm still a layman, and doing quite well at it. But I want to demand of God that one thing there that he won't give me. I can't seem to surrender that part of my life.  There are so many other places where this plays out as well.

We are convinced that "my experience" outweighs God's teachings and, even when we give lip service to God being in control, we want to read our experiences to support our choices rather than God's teachings. You know: that I have 35 years of failed sexual relationships must mean that God has someone out there for me and I've just not met them yet. The definition of insanity: trying the same thing over and over, expecting different results. This does not apply here, right? I know what God wants for me.

We make up words to describe ourselves and our choices, even when the words contravene God's plan. Sometimes we dress up our contravention in words that look as if they were God's plan in the first place. Can I get this blessed, Father? It's just the same as that other thing. This is where that video rises up to challenge me: Look, the video seems to say. If it comes down to a pissing contest between your words and the inventor of words, God wins. If it comes down to a choice between what you think is going on and what God says is going on, God wins. If it comes down to a debate between you and your creator, God wins. Every time. Hands down. He has all the cards, all the plays, and all the moves. But, says one, surely I have freedom.

Yes. We have freedom. Our freedom is not one of license, however. There are two free choices are are equally free to make: on the one hand, we can do absolutely anything we want. On the other hand, we can surrender to God and do what he would have us do. This is really the only question there is in any choice, although it must be said in that in some choices it matters not. God doesn't care if I have the tuna or salmon on a Friday. Should I use fragrance free soap? God won't care as much as the neighbors on the bus. Equally good choices matter not. Personal taste, you know. Other times it's a total reversal, should I cheat you or cheat them? Should I speed through all the yellows or run red lights at the speed limit? Equally bad (in that they disrespect the rightful laws) choices are equally sinful. The choice is not to chose.

We have freedom. But that's what this prayer is about. Our whole purpose is not to make money, not to be successful, not to be the envy of our friends and enemies alike, not to die happy and well remembered. The very reason for our existence - Catholic or not - is to become saints. 

The measure to which we want to hold on to something short of sainthood is the measure to which we need this 14th prayer.

We need also, to pray, as St Ignatius prayed, 
Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem. Accipe memoriam, intellectum, atque voluntatem omnem. Quidquid habeo vel possideo mihi largitus es; id tibi totum restituo, ac tuae prorsus voluntati trado gubernandum. Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones, et dives sum satis, nec aliud quidquam ultra posco.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.
Take everything I have, God. You gave it to me, I give it back. (St Paul asks us "Why do you act as if anything is yours? Why do you act as if anything you have was not given to you?") We give it back to God and say, direct me, use me, fill me with your purpose, make me into your tool - even if it's only a spade in your garden, only a recycle bin on the edge of Glory, as long as I become what you want and need, I will be satisfied.

In this surrender, we find our weakness as well. We lay down our faults as well as our strengths. We give over to God all the places where we insist on trying to go it alone, but we also lay down the places where we are helpless. Where we hide from inspection. We lay down the brokenness we hide from our closest friends. These places are just as dangerous as the places of our pride. These places make us turn away in same, like Adam hiding his nakedness. Self surrender means the entire self.

God made you this way. For his purpose, for his plan, and for his glory. How can you not be who you are? But you can't be "who you are" without God. Without the source of our being, we are nothing. We are building houses on the sand and when the wind comes the houses will fall. We want nothing to do with building on the rock because we might have to answer for it. We're happy being "our own man" or "our own woman".  We look around and see Presidents and Performers doing it "my way" and we think, "Certainly I can be ok..."

Psalm 72 (LXX) / 73 (MT) has it out for them and for us:
....

But as for me, my feet nearly stumbled,
  my steps were on the point of going astray,
as I envied the boasters and sinners,
  envied their comfort and peace.
For them there are no burdens,
  their bellies are full and sleek.
They do not labour, like ordinary men;
  they do not suffer, like mortals.
They wear their pride like a necklace,
  their violence covers them like a robe.
Wickedness oozes from their very being,
  the thoughts of their hearts break forth:
they deride, they utter abominations,
  and from their heights they proclaim injustice.
They have set their mouth in the heavens,
  and their tongue traverses the earth.
Thus they sit in their lofty positions,
  and the flood-waters cannot reach them.
They ask, “How can God know?
  Does the Most High have any understanding?”
Behold, then, the wicked, always prosperous:
  their riches growing for ever.

We are the Psalmist, as we wander between God and Mammon, between Sainthood and mere satisfaction. We turn and look, finally, to a God who loves us but will not force us. We wait and pray...

My heart was sore, my being was troubled –
  I was a fool, I knew nothing;
  I was like a dumb beast before you.
But still I stay with you:
  you hold my right hand.
You lead me according to your counsel,
  until you raise me up in glory.
For who else is for me, in heaven?
  On earth, I want nothing when I am with you.
My flesh and heart are failing,
  but it is God that I love:
  God is my portion for ever.
Behold, those who abandon you will perish:
  you have condemned all who go whoring away from you.
But for myself, I take joy in clinging to God,
  in putting my trust in the Lord, my God,
to proclaim your works at the gates of the daughters of Zion.

In the end, we can struggle, we can be angry. We can come back. We learn only that in returning is peace. Submission to the divine dance wholly is the only way to dance at all. "Those who abandon you will perish: you have condemned all who go whoring away from you."