Saturday, March 31, 2012

Basta!

Enough! It is the word of condemnation.

Some people use it to condemn themselves. “I do not pray enough,” they say in confession. “I do not love my children enough,” or “I am not patient enough with my kids,” they say.

I ask you, though, and often will ask them: Who does pray “enough?” How much prayer is enough? Only Jesus and Mary managed that. Who does love enough? Who is patient enough? Again, only God and His sinless mother really manage that; it is why we are so attached to them.

Some people say, I don’t go to Mass enough. But that is different: our obligation is every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, except when impeded by specific circumstances like sickness. More accurate is to say: I missed Mass last week for no good reason. That is a quantifiable reality, and thus we have a chance to remedy our shortcoming. The obverse would be, I lied too much. How much is the right amount (enough, but not too much) of lying? Zero! So, I lied several times, is a more honest self-analysis, and an error we can amend, with the help of God.

With quantity impossible to set, as for prayer, or love, or patience, the accusation of not enough is guaranteed to condemn. If we accuse ourselves of that, then we are damning ourselves to continual misery, since we are in fact constitutionally incapable of loving God, our neighbor, or even our spouses or children enough. We are all wounded by Original Sin, which leaves as its scar a large streak of selfishness and limitation.

Unfortunately for us, our culture has lost sight of the reality of Original Sin, and thus the universal insufficiency that characterizes the human race. The scientific and technological model of predictability and tolerances has been thrust onto human beings, and our laws and our society frequently pronounce judgment on whether someone did enough.

But if we cannot of ourselves ever do enough, then we are all vulnerable to outside accusations of insufficiency. If someone is injured on your property, then you obviously failed to do enough to prevent it. According to our legal system, that makes you liable. If terrorists fly an airplane into the World Trade Center, someone failed to do enough to prevent it. But who? The government? The airlines? The architects? According to our norms, we must find out, so liability can be assessed.

All that remains for us is to hope that we not be found out. I cannot do enough to prevent an elderly Mass-goer from falling and being injured approaching out church; I pray that no one be injured that way. Any time you read an article saying someone did not do enough – to prevent an injury, or death; to solve a problem, or make something fair; to avoid injustice, or thwart evil – say a prayer for that person as you say, there but for the grace of God go I! All power lies with those who publish and accuse our insufficiencies. Whoever they say did not do enough is already condemned – because they are right.

I do not do enough. I stand condemned. But: this day the Son of God handed Himself over to be crucified, in fulfillment of His Father’s will. He handed over His spirit, and said, It is finished. It is consummated; it is completed; it is sufficient – this, and this alone.

I am redeemed; it is enough.

Monsignor Smith

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