So Far To Go

If we were to really take an honest look at our lives, we would probably be struck by how far we still have to go in the spiritual life.  For one seeking to grow spiritually there is no such thing as good enough.  No matter how good others think we are we will always see that we still have a long way to go.  I bet even Mother Theresa felt this way.

We can go to Mass every day, pray for hours, not curse, lie, cheat, steal, express anger or even watch TV at all but still discover other faults.  The reality is that we aren’t here to live our life but His life.  We are here to live for God to serve God and to glorify God.  We are called to live according to His law of love.  We are called to surrender our will to His.

Most of us will probably admit to failing to surrender completely to God’s will.  We can do well in the big things of life like following the career He created us for andstill fail in the little day-to day-things.  Too often we insist on having our own way rather than compromising with others right away.   We may ignore His call to turn away from TV shows which are violent or compromise our values.  We may also fail to surrender in our prayer life.  We insist on saying the same prayers compulsively rather than spend time in the that He may be calling us to.  We worry instead of trusting God to take care of us.   If we’re honest there are just too many ways we fail to totally surrender to God.

One reason we fail to totally surrender is that our hearts are divided. We are called to love God with our whole hearts, putting nothing ahead of Him.  It is here taht many of us fail.  No matter how hard we try, we still find that we let things get ahead of our relationship with God.  We try to focus on God while at Mass or praying, but too often we fail.  We’re thinking about our job or lack of a job.  There’s this problem or that that we keep trying to figure out.  We start thinking of what we plan to do later.  We’re distracted so much it seems we waste much of our prayer time.  We may rush through our prayers because there is something we feel we have to do.  We all do this.

We have a tendency to pray with a watch.  We tend to be so caught up in this life that we’re constantly checking our watch to see how much longer we’ll be there.  We rarely get so caught up in prayer that we forget the time.  We also ted to pray with our heads, when we need to learn to pray with our hearts, slowly thinking about the words, not rushing. One rosary prayed slowly and thoughtfully is better than rushing through all four sets of mysteries.

The other area where we fail most often is in loving other people.  It is not enough not to do others harm.  We are called to love.  We are called to love unconditionally expecting nothing back.  A major part of loving people is to accept them with all their faults.  Too often we fail to do this.  Too often we criticize over and over again.  I’m constantly reminded that Jesus said to take the log out of my own eye before I attempt to take the speck out of anothers’ eye.

Jesus also said what was in our hearts was important.  We need to work on our hearts so that not only do we respond to others in love but also feel love in our hearts for them.  As difficult as it may be to force yourself to treat someone who hurt you with love, we all know it is still harder to feel love for them.  This is probably something we all have to work on for the rest of our lives.

Look at our model, Jesus.  He knew that He would be betrayed by Judas.  The gospels tell us that He told Judas to “go do what you have to do. ” This was after the Breaking of the Bread, the first Communion.  Jesus accepted Judas as an apostle.  He spent about three years with Jesus.  Jesus knew Judas would betray Him but He still loved Him.  He even forgave those who crucified Him.

Jesus was perfect.  He had no faults yet He accepted the faults of others.  Look at how many times He corrected the Apostles.  They weren’t perfect, but weak human beings, yet He always treated them with love. 

We have so many faults, we are far from perfect.  As imperfect human beings with many faults we should be able to forgive the faults of those around us.  If we’re far from perfect how can we expect others to be perfect?  Yet too often we do expect that of others.  We refuse to forgive.  We hold grudges.  We may smile and say hello.  We may even be really good and not talk behind their backs, but in our thoughts it is an entirely different story.

We are called to be better than we are.  It is a life long pursuit.   We’ll probably never get there all the way but we are called to keep working to keep trying, keep praying for the grace to do better tomorrow and the day after.  Someday we’ll look back and be amazed at how far we’ve come.

Ron Quinlan is a former teacher in the Archdiocese of Newark, now living in South Carolina.