Saturday, July 8, 2017

I'll Take Mercy for 500, Alex

I try to go to confession every Saturday. For two months, over the various parishes and priests I have visited, every single one has said a variation of the same message. "You need to focus on God's mercy."

My mind revolts at that message.

It seems such a screen to make excuses: excuses for my sinfulness, excuses for my committing the same sins again and again - and dammit, again. Like a smoke screen for moral laxity or a touchy-feely code word that wants to make everybody feel okay for daily refusing to take on the challenge to be a saint.

I want a priest to throw the book at me: I want to hear about hell, fear of the Lord, heroic virtue. I want confession to feel like purgatory - a burning away of the dross that prevents me from being pure gold.

Yet those men that God has put in my life to be Christ to me - these men have stood with one foot in Heaven and one on earth and the message they give me is different, again and again - and dammit, again.

They beg me to take up Christ's yoke of mercy.

Yet it seems so heavy, such a hard burden to bear, this mercy. My soul recoils, "what could mercy have to do with me?" Part of it is a misunderstanding of mercy - mercy does not excuse sin. Mercy does not say that sin is not sin; mercy is "love reaching down to lift people out of their physical and spiritual miseries." (see here) Mercy is God loving us so much, he provides us with a way out of our own sinfulness - through confession, through the life of virtue, through Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

The crux here is that, to receive God's mercy, I have to admit that I cannot make a path on my own. I cannot, by any amount of willpower, mental tricks, or new routine, make myself virtuous. I cannot save myself. For me, an American millennial young woman, that's so hard to accept. I pay lip service to this concept, but my actions do not bear it out. Every day, I wake up and instead of begging for the grace needed to be virtuous just for today - I resolve to just be better! My new self begins today! Today will be Day One of Martha 2.0, no mistakes, no more being my same crappy self. Haha, I will just resolve that and I'll be fine, I will power through, just like I have powered through hard things before. Hey, I graduated law school, okay. I'm smart and capable! I'll make a chart, buy a new planner, look up routines on Pinterest, get some inspiration from some peeps who seem to have it all together, and get going!

It lasts for two hours, if I'm lucky. Sometimes the jig is up in 30 minutes if my kids are really on point.

Mercy demands that I be humbled, that I come to Christ as what I truly am - a sinner in need of a savior. I cannot save myself - I'm such a mess, I can't even successfully pretend to save myself. I have to sit at his feet and say, "how do I do this?" I have to listen to him - in prayer, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in the words of the Church Fathers (and Mothers), in his saints and holy ones. When I listen to myself, to the messages of of this world, I'm just listening to an echo of nothingness - just 'sounding gongs' and 'clanging cymbals.' There is a path, an ancient path, to peace and joy, to Oneness with God. It is not an easy path! But it is the way of mercy and Jesus walked it before me, and walks it with me now. In fact, we are not even alone - there is a multitude, a great cloud of witnesses, that every moment cheers me and calls out how to go, warns of pitfalls, points back to the Way.

Dear Jesus, help me to accept your mercy every day: it will be enough, you will be enough, and united with you, even what little I am will be enough.

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