“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.”
I give up! I really do this time! I won’t try to write my meditations the night before because every single time I try (to save time) I end up throwing away everything I wrote. As soon as I sat down to begin my morning mediation, my heart and soul moved me in a completely different direction than last night, when I tried to have my mind and reason move me! No more. I’m sticking to my normal routine.
As I was re-reading this morning’s Gospel passage, I immediately thought back to my seminary days in northern Italy, I thank the Lord for the amazing experience I had. Overall, it was a very good experience. All of it was very, very positive. That does not mean that there were no God fearing moments. There were plenty of them!
My superior at the time was not from the United States. He was not an Italian either. I won’t say where he was from, but I will say he had a negative bias towards Americans. He thought that Americans worried too much. I would call it “prudence.” About a year into my training, I began to develop a skin rash. It was in an area that was constantly covered. With all the heat, and the sweating, and the constant activity, it quickly got much worse. At first I tried to take care of it myself, and I thought I had solved the problem, but I actually made it worse! Finally, I went to the infirmary to ask for some medicine. The junior superior of our community, a young man around the age of 20, gave me an ointment for hemorrhoids! I asked him if he knew what this cream was for. He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. I gave it back to him.
Then I went to my superior and asked him if I could go see a doctor. After a very brief conversation, he told me flat out, “I don’t care if your leg falls off, you worry too much!” Needless to say, I was deeply offended. Eventually, I did go to the doctor’s office. I felt relieved when the doctor told me it was the worst case of a fungus infection he had seen in many years. I felt relieved because I felt vindicated.
I never forgot the incident because I never wanted to forget the lesson. In the seminary, we lived according to a very strict rule. Everything was monitored. Following the external rules was very important. Silence, table manners, dress code, punctuality, posture in the chapel, even how we made our beds and cleaned our rooms was very important! The superiors would often say, “Be attentive to the little things”, or, “if you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the big things.” These words eventually meant very little to me because I had experienced just the opposite. My mentors were faithful in the little things but failed miserably in the big things, such as love, mercy and faith.
With time, this would become ever more apparent.
Once, a very confident superior said to me, “Father, you should try to be more loving when dealing with others, like superiors.” I mentioned to him, “If I am not loving towards my superiors it’s because they never taught me with love.”
The Lord strongly encourages us not to be unfaithful in the little things, but to make sure that we are faithful in the weightier things. Remember, “Without love I am nothing.”
Too often, very conscientious and extremely religious parents spend time teaching their children the faith only to see them run away from it later in life. What were missing were not solid discipline or doctrine but mercy and forgiveness.
Way too often our Catholic Schools emphasize the education of the brain over the education of the heart. The Church has nothing to fear with intellectuals, except those who have no heart.
Finally, parents, spouses and professionals of all walks of life have a tendency to lack humility. What we need is not overly confident parents, spouses and professionals. What we need are parents, spouses and professionals who are much more confident in the Lord than in themselves.
I think at times we are afraid to be humble because we are afraid to appear weak. The Lord did not fear appearing weak, nor did he fear shedding a tear or getting nailed to the cross. If his “weaknesses” made it impossible to believe in Him, it made his resurrection all the more possible! “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”