Thursday, May 23, 2002

Mark 9:41-42,50

Jesus said to the disciples, "For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

Based on a little feedback from the few people who know me personally and also know this blog, it would appear that you the reader may have a mistaken impression about me. You may have the impression that I am in some way wise and knowing, at peace in my faith, or something of that sort. That would be the most wrong thing you can think about me.

Truth be told, I am basically just scared, and trying to talk myself out of fear. I’m scared of bad guys with bombs and germs. I’m scared they’re going to leave my little boy fatherless before he’s old enough to manage. I’m scared the economy is going to be ruined, and I’m going to wind up out on the street, starving and begging for scraps to feed my family. I’m scared my meager retirement savings are going to be made more meager by terrorism. I’m afraid my entire profession is going to disappear. I’m scared my friends in major cities are going to get nuked.

You see the pattern?

Forget the terrorists for a minute. They are the agents of my fear, but not the root of it. What I actually fear is losing this nice cushy life I have built for myself: a small but comfortable apartment; a decent but not thrilling job; money I don’t need for 30 or 40 years. I’m afraid of losing meaningless things.

Of course, I’m also afraid for my family, and that has meaning. But even that is a worldly thing, and as much as I like to pretend otherwise, it’s not the one True thing I fear.

I am afraid, in the end, for myself, though it shames me to no end to admit it.

Stumbling blocks appear in odd places, placed there by strangers and friends, family and coworkers. They usually amount to what St. Ignatius calls “unwarranted attachment.” In this case, I am attached to things that, except my family, have unwarranted sway over me. (Even a family can be an unwarranted attachment, I just don’t think it is one for me, at the moment.)

Lately I have been praying for release from my anxiety, and have gotten frustrated that such release has not been granted. But I have been praying for the wrong thing: I need to pray for release from my attachments, those stumbling blocks, placed there knowingly and willingly by myself. They are leaching the salt out of me.

I am also afraid that I am placing stumbling blocks in front of you. My opinions about the teachings of the Church are just that. I am no canon lawyer, no moral theologian. I’m pretty well read, and my arguments have some fact behind them, more than mere assertion. If they help you to understand your faith, then they are good. But if they cause you to stumble or to doubt, then step around them, and consult authorities more learned than I.

My brain gets all this stuff, while my heart does its own thing. Perhaps I’ll add myself to the intentions list tomorrow.


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