Once again in my life, the score is the Devil 2 and Greg 0 going into the third period.
The first goal in the Devil’s pending hat trick was my deciding not to donate to my diocese’s annual drive because of several emails that were never acknowledged in the past year. I thought “why should I donate to a bureaucracy that asks for money but doesn’t show me the decency to even respond to my offer in ministry?” Actually, I wanted to simply send in $1 with a note but my wife “put the kibosh” on that. I decided simply not to give this year. Back at ‘ya diocese…
His second goal was a shot on a Powerplay that had been wearing me down for months. Just recently I had long email with my brother about my issue with certain individuals. Per usual, the people who were burning me up inside didn’t feel the burn themselves. It was my constantly being reminded of this challenge that grated on me. I felt I had walked away but was constantly being pulled back. The Devil designed a masterful offense in my zone, and I could not keep the puck on the other side of the blue line.
I sought to defend my zone with throwing my best Ignatian counterattacks. This let me see the game more clearly. Yet, I didn’t feel the freedom I needed. I wrote a response to the situation and asked a buddy whose opinion I value if I should send it. I knew I had bullets in the gun but couldn’t discern whether the barrel was pointed at them or me.
I went on a Miles Christi retreat on the Spiritual Exercises in an attempt to reorder my thoughts. I knew that Jesus reminds me that I have to pray for the people I work with. I kept telling him “I don’t want to” and laughed… We both knew I had more to travel in my spiritual journey. I then think of the struggles of my niece and realize I don’t have it so bad anyway. No crown of thorns either. But where was the freedom?
My road to freedom began with a recent comment Fr. Richard Simon made during his show on Relevant Radio. I don’t remember the exact quote, but it was something like “anger is wounded pride expressing itself.” It was a jarring moment for me. Once again, I saw how my anger was holding me back. Not only holding me back but rooted in a wounded pride I have come to know as the key to most of my struggles. In the game, I let the Devil mask this Powerplay in battle. My ego was working so well for him. As he was about to take a shot to an empty net my best defenseman, Ignatius, stopped the shot point blank.
Yet, the puck rebounded and was still in my zone. I wasn’t yet ready to clear it past center ice. In the sacristy before Mass on the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, I told Father why I was boycotting the diocesan drive. Great timing, as this conversation was on a Sunday that he had to cover the drive during the homily.
During Mass, I began to focus on Jesus in our rose window that is visible from the altar. The Gospel I was about to proclaim, Luke 6:27-38, came to light. As I have said before, I don’t believe in coincidences:
Jesus said to his disciples:
To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.
Even sinners do the same. The words resonated as I realized I was about to proclaim a Gospel I wasn’t living myself.
The past few months I knew I hadn’t forgiven those I was in disagreement with for I could not rid myself of the burn. Jesus was telling me point blank – “Walk the talk, Greg. I told you how to be free and in your worthless notion of “pride” you are resisting me. Revenge is not going to free you. But I can.”
Bang. The puck left my zone and now the Devil is on defense. Walking out at the end of Mass I jokingly told Father – “That darn Gospel. Now I have a check to write.” I wrote the check. I tore up my letter. I will carry this cross with renewed rigor. Freedom! For today at least. The third period is not yet over.
Five hundred years ago Ignatius reminded us of the danger our pride and egos get us into. In a recent post “Pride: The sin that looks most like me,” Pastor Joe McKeever notes that pride is an exalted sense of oneself:
Lust is pride expressing itself sexually, as well as in other ways. It takes what it wants, uses it, and tosses it in the trash.
Avarice is pride in the marketplace and in our culture. It wants more and more and is never satisfied.
Anger is pride on the highway and in relationships. It didn’t get what it wants and wants revenge.
Envy is pride casting an evil eye at its neighbor, wishing for what he has and that he had a wart on his nose. (An old childhood curse we would inflict in jest)
Sloth is pride expressing its selfishness concerning work. None for him, thanks. He’ll sit this one out. Everyone owes him.
Gluttony is pride at the dinner table.
Over the past five years I have immersed myself in Ignatian spirituality Yet, society has had a fifty-year head start. Intellectual awareness can still get fooled by our ingrained concupiscence. The Devil takes advantage of any opening we give him. Our defenses go down while dealing with life’s distractions. We have to actively engage a world that seeks to corrupted us into slavery. We give up our freedoms without even knowing it.
Thankfully, Jesus tells there is a better way. His words seem silly in a world that tells us to look out for ourselves. Even with our best intentions we can miss His message. Yet, only through Jesus can I find the freedom to let go of my anger. Trust Jesus and be free. It takes prayer and constant effort to rise above the noise and life’s distractions to hear Jesus talking to us.
Preaching the Gospel of Jesus is the easy part. Living it daily is the challenge we are called to do. And keeping the puck on the Devil’s side of the blue line.