The Roman Catholic Church in The Bahamas is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope. The diocese was elevated to a full diocese, as the diocese of Nassau in June 1960. On June 22nd, 1999, the diocese was again elevated as the new Archdiocese of Nassau.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lenten Mission 2012 Day 4

Theme: Near occasions of grace

Topic: The pleasure of embracing the gift of imperfection

From the pleasure of “not knowing” we move to the pleasure and the gift of “embracing our imperfection.” Not one of us are going to die perfect, and probably all of us, to use a beautiful image from the language of St. Paul, “all of us will die with a big thorn (at least one) in our side.” A thorn in the flesh was given to me, and I begged God to take away the thorn in my side. Many writings have been trying to describe what this thorn could have been? An addiction, a compulsion, a bad habit; that’s your thorn! We need the thorn in our side to stay real. Can you imagine you wake up one morning and all of a sudden you are perfect, no blemishes, no more sins? Paul asked for it to be removed, but God said no. Our head will definitely grow too big without the thorn.

It’s okay to make mistakes. Retreating because you’re afraid to make mistakes is the biggest mistake of all. Why aren’t you engaging your gifts? Why didn’t you say yes to your pastor, to your Bishop or whoever it was who invited you because they saw something good in you; to become a singer, to become a lector, become a Eucharistic Minister, become a flower arranger. Be not afraid!

Isn’t fear the greatest obstacle of all? When we are afraid we retreat, we step back, we say no and stepping back is the biggest mistake of all. Allow for mistakes, that’s why at the end of the day we do an examination of conscience. At the end of the day close you eyes, scan through the day, you rummage for God in your day. Was I awake for the divine promptings of the Holy Spirit during the day? When the phone rang did I believe that it was Jesus on the other side? When I sent that email what words did I choose? How did I open the door for one who needed to come in? God comes in small doses, start with the simple things. Don’t wait for the extraordinary things. Mother Theresa reminds us, it’s not the extraordinary thing, it’s doing the ordinary thing of everyday in an extraordinary way, even if you make mistakes in trying to do it. We know we’re not perfect and God knows we’re imperfect.

A short poem from Rumi:

“Come, come whoever you are, come
Wonderer, worshiper, lover of leaving
It doesn’t matter, come
Ours is not a caravan of despair,
Come, even if you’ve broken your vow a thousand times
Come, yet again I tell you come”

Keep coming back home. We run away from home, that’s when we break down, and leave home like the prodigal son (the younger brother) who eventually comes back home. It does not happen just once, it happens all the time. Peter asks Jesus how many times he must forgive his brothers. Peter thought he was being generous by saying 7, and Jesus tells Peter, that it’s not 7, but rather 70 times 7, which in Hebrew mentality means every exhale is “I forgive you.” It has nothing to do with mathematics. There is no need to count.

There is a need to leave behind perfection. Rather than waste precious energy doing what is impossible to do (removing all your stains), invest that energy to do what you can do, that is, to become more compassionate, become kinder and more merciful. And that very act itself will take care of the rest. The moment you are compassionate, scripture tells us that Love covers a multitude of sins. You don’t have to worry much about it anymore, provided you are trying to become more and more compassionate, forgiving, merciful.

There’s a beautiful story about a monastery of 19 monks with the vow of stability. One of the monks can always be seen sweeping the stairs leading to the church. A woman every day jogged past the monastery and one day decided to ask a question him a questions. The monk was in his 90’s. She said; tell me brother, what do you and your brother monks do all day long in this big building. The monk replied, everyday we fall and we get up, we fall and we get up. The monk has been doing that for 80 years. That’s life, we fall and we get up. The biggest mistake is to fall and decide to stay there. To require perfection is to invite paralysis.

In Albuquerque Mexico they have these beautiful Navajo rugs, beautiful works of art for purchase. Which ever one you buy you will always notice an intentional mistake in the weave. It’s a perfect work of art, but there is always an intentional mistake; it’s a reminder. They call it the spirit line, an intentional mistake. The same thing with beautiful Japanese bags; perfect in every way except for an intentional flaw. We are creatures who make mistakes.

Being happy does not mean that everything is perfect; it means you have decided to see beyond the imperfections. Or rather, the virtue of love is not in finding the perfect person, but in loving the imperfect person perfectly well. Many people do not get married because they say they can’t find the perfect person. God uses our imperfections, our failure in our favor; we call that GRACE. Imagine your life is a symphony, with many instruments, and many notes. A beautiful melody. Now imagine sin as being the wrong note in the symphony of your life. God picks that one wrong note and starts a brand new piece of music with than one note as the very first note”, again we call that GRACE. He’s saying to us: Give me your imperfection, give me you brokenness, give me your sin and watch me.

A woman went into the market place and saw a sign that said “God’s fruit stand.” Thank goodness she said, it’s about time, the woman said to herself. She then went inside and said I would like a perfect grape, a perfect banana, a perfect mango, a perfect strawberry and a perfect peach. God who was behind the counter shrugged and said here we only sell seeds. That’s it. The important thing is to be real. What is real, asked the rabbit one day. Do you want a good children’s book.  is a children’s book, but it’s good for us as it is for children. There is one beautiful passage about being real in the children's book "The Velveteen Rabbit." What does it mean to be real? Am I real, and if you are real you would acknowledge your imperfections, your mistakes and you will do it without feeling guilty or unnecessary shame. It’s part of who we are.

Relating the story of the weed and wheat to our lives, so often we try to pull out the weed. It’s in the nature of weed to keep showing up. We many think that the weed is the bad people and the wheat is the good people; but actually, the field is each one of us and the weed and the wheat are both present in each one of use. God will take care of the weed, and once the weed is gone you will experience what it means to abide in God. Allow the weed and wheat to grow together, but it doesn’t mean we go and sin some more.

There is a story told about this man whose front yard was full of weed. So he sent a letter to the Minister of Agriculture to help him. And the Minister sent him something to put in the lawn. It worked for a couple of weeks, but of course it is in the nature of weeds to return. He sent a second letter and said that the weed was back. The ministry sent him a second suggestion with some other stuff. It worked again for a couple of weeks, but in the nature of weeds it returned again. This man persistent as he had just purchased this house with a beautiful lawn sent a third letter and received a third response with nothing this time and the letter simply said: We’ve tried everything; the only thing that’s left is “learn how to love the weed.”

Embrace your imperfections, and allow the real presence to hover over you, to touch you. Don’t hide your imperfection from God. Many try, but come as you are.

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