I saw my former spiritual father today. The only reason he is my “former” is because he is 40 miles away, and when gas hit $4/gallon last year — and we finally had a decent priest — I got his blessing to start receiving Confession from Father Count. Now, as well all know, Father Count is a sweetheart, a dear, a wonderful priest — of only four years. And when I asked his assistance for a scene in my book, his response was (very properly), “I don’t have the experience to handle that kind of thing. I think you should ask Father Retired or Father Right-on-the-Money.”
Father ROTM (the latter of the two), although Greek, is actually more in tune with Russian practices than Father Retired, so I got an appointment with him and drove over to see him today. Boy, was that nice. I do miss him. I don’t know how he knows so much about spiritual warfare, and I probably don’t want to know, but among the troops, he is a general. Nobody in parish practice knows spiritual warfare like him.
As we usually do, we drifted from one topic to another; I got his input on the scene I had planned for my book, and was relieved to learn that Orthodox practice would require pretty much what I had planned out. As we drifted from one topic to another, Social Activism came up.
As regular readers may have noticed, I have a Thing about Social Activism. That is, I can’t stand it. Both Father ROTM and Father Count have the same “take” on it: It’s not really about helping other people, it’s about making ourselves feel good. We Help the Poor, or March in Pro-Life Demonstrations, or Work in the Soup Kitchen, and we go home and say, “I feel so good when I do that!” Uh-huh. And while you’re feeling So Good, what exactly is this doing for your relationship with God?
Yeah, yeah, I know all about Feeding the Hungry, Giving Drink to the Thirsty, etc. But does anybody ever think anymore — as they used to teach in Catholic school, prior to Vatican II — that there are spiritually hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless, etc.?? We all know them. They are called the heterodox. So, what, we go out and stand on street corners and push tracts? I mean, when was the last time you tried that? It doesn’t work for the heterodox, and it sure isn’t gonna work for us.
Last Thanksgiving, our Outreach Committee prepared Thanksgiving dinner for the local soup-kitchen habitues. One of the ladies in our Bible Study group assured me earnestly that “that’s what it’s all about.” And when my face showed my doubt, she nodded emphatically. “That is what it’s all about.” Later, I brought that up with Father Count; today, I mentioned it to Father ROTM; and they both agreed:
That’s not what it’s all about.
As we prepare for Great Lent, we come face to face with what It is all about. It’s about betrayal. It’s about our Savior betrayed by His friends and His society. It’s about our betrayal of Him, and of each other. It’s about Communion, broken and restored. It’s about making a new start, not even day by day, but moment by moment. It’s about trying to figure out ways to mend the broken places in our lives, and, where we cannot mend them — I have two situations in my own life, that I can think of — commending them to the One Who came to heal and to restore.
So I think I’m going to skip the Soup Kitchen Easter Do this year (as I do every year). There is nothing I can do, on my own, to fix my relationship with the brother who wants to Bring Dad Home to Die (despite the fact that he wouldn’t be around to share the burden of caring for Dad), or my daughter, who simply will not respond to any overtures from her father and me. But I will focus on my own relationship with Christ: allowing His light to penetrate my darkness, and trusting that in time, my less-darkened self will shine a faint gleam into the darkness of others.
Trampling death by death. That’s what it’s all about.
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