Every Sunday I tend to “hear” something that had otherwise escaped my notice. For reasons that are both personal and professional, I spend a good deal of time with the upcoming Scriptures every week. I am always struck by how I end up receiving something new when I sit in the pew, listening. Last week it hit me that I should stop grumbling. This week it was something from the second reading from Ephesians:
Brothers and sisters:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice.
And be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.
So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.
So many things come to me as I read this. The first is my own pettiness and how I might be grieving the Holy Spirit of God, the very thought of which makes me wince in pain. The second is that we live in a world that is filled with opinion, so much of which is justified with every kind of hateful talk. The words “bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling” sound like a breezy trip through any number of websites and social media tools. This will only get worse as we draw closer to the election and the vitriol of all sides increases.
Often the most egregious offenses are (regrettably) seen on Catholic social media sites. I never fail to be horrified when I read some of the screed, even if it is from someone who shares my basic position on a particular thought or idea, but then they take it elsewhere. And the worst moments of all come when I realize that I have let my fiery emotions say something that I wish that I could take back.
Some might say, well just don’t go to those websites. While there are specific places that I avoid, I am not going to stop living. And living means interacting with – well, everyone – at some level or another. Jesus came to us, he lived with us as one of us. To that end, we must keep living, but to do so in Christ.
How do we do this? And how do we do this consistently? Those are my questions as we enter this week. I guess as I close, these words come to me, from Richard Rohr, OFM, reminding me to live, and to live always in Christ. This is easier said than done, but what are the alternatives? There is not much to think about, but there is much to live for.
“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”
Who do I need to forgive today? How can I be kind? Where is my compassion? How is it that God is so endlessly generous with us, and yet we who profess lives in that same God, do otherwise?