Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Forgiveness and boxes

Although the Year of Mercy has officially ended, the mission of mercy remains at the heart of the Christian vocation.  Motivated by our desire to work for authentic peace, a peace which can often only be achieved through heroic acts of mercy, the friars covered the song, “Brother,” by The Brilliance.  You are invited to read the reflection and then have “Brother” accompany you as you invite the Lord to speak to, and work in, your heart.

BOXES.  I’m really good at checking boxes.  Daily rosary? Check.  Daily Mass? Check. Holy Hour? Check.  Works of charity: feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, giving shelter to the homeless?  Check. Check. Check.  Obviously, as a friar, it’s assumed that we’ll be checking all of these boxes daily.  In a sense, it’s our day job.  It’s our duty.  For a lay person, on the other hand, it may be difficult to make it to Mass during the week, or downright impossible to make time for an entire Holy Hour, but with a little bit of effort, we are able to check the little boxes that make up our spiritual to-do lists.  Morning offering? Check.  Grace before meals? Check.  Prayers with my children before bed? Check.

Now, the boxes are important, but they are not everything.  It reminds me of a story... Boxes and boxes of food were lined up waiting to be unpacked.  The boxes were filled with different food items which we needed to move from boxes to bags.  The bags would be given out to over one hundred Hondurans families, most of them single-mother homes with four or more children, at our monthly food handout.  I was still a baby-friar, but the responsibility of organizing this particular “packing day” had fallen on my shoulders.  A couple dozen volunteers had joined me and one other senior-friar to check the proverbial food packing box. 

The problem was that the baby-friar became frustrated with the senior-friar.  I knew what needed to be done.  I knew the best way to get it done.  And I knew that the senior-friar should know what I know.  You know? As things did not go the way that I planned, I started to get irritated and apparently it was obvious.  Now, the senior-friar did not do anything wrong, he just didn’t do what I wanted.
Well, apparently the baby-friar’s frustration was evident to the senior-friar.  So, did the senior-friar sit me down and give me a talk and some good ole’ fraternal correction?  No, he didn’t.  He came very humbly to me and apologized (and he didn’t even do anything wrong!).  And you know the best part about it?  All it did was make me relive the frustration.  With my words, I waved off his apology, “It’s no problem.  Don’t worry about it.”  My face must have said something different.

The senior-friar could have checked the box.  He did his part.  Any remaining frustration or lack of peace was totally my fault—but, apparently, religious life works.  He was not willing to reduce his relationship with me to a box that needed to be checked.  When we crossed paths in the friary, he stopped me and apologized again!    And this time it worked! 

When he looked upon me, he did not see a task to be completed or a nuisance to be endured, he saw a brother to be loved. 

Lord, grant me the eyes to see as you see.

Grant us the grace
To see as you see
And to love as you love.