07 May 2014

The Undeserved Key of Grace

Sometimes the very real choice is between being right and being loved by everyone. Of course, this is impossible. It is impossible to stay faithful to what is true, while maintaining the love and friendship of others. You cannot please everyone all the time, as the saying goes. Or to quote Scripture, "No man can serve two masters.... You cannot serve God and mammon."

People have different views. This can be a very beautiful, inspiring, creative and thought-provoking thing. At the same time, the more people there are, the more opinions there are; the more opinions there are, the more people will clash. Sometimes it works for good: our reasoning skills improve, we arrive at new conclusions, or we learn to respect the autonomy and individuality of others, the uniqueness each person contains, without which they would not be themselves. Other times, however, we check off our bullet points, develop counter-arguments, attempt amiable discourse and then the whole thing blows up.

What was once a friendship forged over years disintegrates like movie-version Voldemort at the end of the Battle of Hogwarts: just like the frayed pieces of his body and cloak floating into the air, you never quite know what is happening to the friendship until one day it is just gone (so unlike the book-version Voldemort, whose body hits the floor solidly: at least then there is a finality, a firmness, an understanding that we can at least nod at, and then depart from each other).

At some point you think, "Oh, what a pity party this is. 'It is so difficult being so right all the time.'" But that isn't what is going on. A hundred thousand times at least have I been wrong: I have knowingly led someone astray (usually myself), I have squashed the truth I do know into the deepest recesses of my mind so that I may not stumble upon it, I have taken the easier, wider paths so as not to disrupt my comfortable routine. But as the ever-used cliche states: "The truth will set you free." I used to picture that as a bird finally let free from a cage, spreading its wings in flight and disappearing into the broad, blue sky. Now, I know it isn't quite that easy.

When you're stuck in these totally awful for you repetitive motions which some people call sin, it's hard to even want to be free. You don't see the point. When you do see the point, though, you realize freedom is something worth having. Freedom isn't just handed to you. You have to work for it. So instead of seeing a bird fleeing gleefully from its cage, I picture myself in that prison cell, chipping away at the bars with some blunt object like a spoon, scraping against metal, breaking my nails, bloodying my fingers. It isn't such a lost cause: the grace of God, the help we need, is in the form of Jesus, standing on the other side of those bars, giving me a balm to sooth the cuts on my hands, taking away the spoon I have and replacing it with a key.

Maybe that spoon was the sum of my pathetic prayers, maybe the injuries I inflicted on myself are every time I remained unrepentant, maybe the balm is the completely undeserved dusting of grace I receive from a blessing and maybe Jesus is saying, "I've had what you've needed all along right here. Take this key, seek me in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Everything will become new."

It is truly an undeserved key, an undeserved grace, granted through an undeserved redemptive act by a man with undeserved punishment. Is there any point, though, in wallowing when presented with such grace? Is there much fruit in remembering fractured conversations, broken friendships and the unchangeable past beyond acknowledging our failures and firmly resolving to do good, avoid evil and amend our lives? For these can only happen by undeserved grace. Ruminating on our failures does not seem to accept the offered grace, at least not fully, and why would we not try to accept it as fully as it has been granted? Perhaps the best we can do is be grateful, humble ourselves, see what has been given to and for us and respond accordingly.

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