Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Beneath My Mask

Yesterday seemed to have a theme to it - "Who are you under the surface?"  I came across it both in the Liturgy of the Hours and the first reading at Mass.  St. Dorotheus (4th cent) wrote:
The man who thinks that he is quiet and peaceful has within him a passion that he does not see. A brother comes up, utters some unkind word and immediately all the venom and mire that lie hidden within him are spewed out. If he wishes mercy, he must do penance, purify himself and strive to become perfect. He will see that he should have returned thanks to his brother instead of returning the injury, because his brother has proven to be an occasion of profit to him. It will not be long before he will no longer be bothered by these temptations. The more perfect he grows, the less these temptations will affect him.
And then at morning Mass the Book of Tobit ended in this same vein.  The blind Tobit refused to believe that his wife had earned a bonus through her needlework and she tells him off:
So she retorted: “Where are your charitable deeds now?
Where are your virtuous acts?
See! Your true character is finally showing itself!”  (2:14)
Ouch.  I know Tobit wasn't the last husband to be put in his place by an insightful wife.

I totally identified with both readings.  I will seem to be going along well enough, loving my neighbor; and then someone wrongs me or someone I love, and all of that venom comes to the surface.  Those occasions are when Jesus puts me in front of the x-ray machine and shows me how much work remains to be done.  And I think Dorotheus was right on the money when he said that it will take concentrated effort to overcome such deep-rooted sin.  I don't think I can brush it off forever with a comforting, "You'll do better next time."  No, at some point each of us "must do penance, purify himself and strive to become perfect." We either do it now or in purgatory.  In the end we must be perfect as our Father is perfect (Mt. 5:48).

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