Sunday, September 17, 2006

24th Sunday in Ordinary time

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”

I write this in the middle of a diluted reality I’m trying to elucidate. She asked me, “How is your life going to change now?” And I knew right away that she was not asking about the externals, ministry, residence, name or title, etc. I knew it was a profound question, rooted in the spirituality of the congregation, but I didn’t know how to answer. Peter had no problem answering “You are the Christ!”
But I am weak and selfish. I am afraid I will not be able to respond like Peter. This fear comes from deep within, lives right next to the question I can not answer yet. I know where I want my life to go, I want to be a saint! But not a pale, long-haired hometown saint. I want to be a bone and skin saint, like those nobody recognizes when they see them. Like Doña Laura back in México who became my grandmother when I lost mine and the pain had made me a sad eyed little girl. She recognized my need, she sat me in her lap, made fideos for lunch, French braided my hair like Mamá Ofelia used to, became my partner in crime, spanked me when I was being a brat and most of all loved me like only grandmothers can. Mom and I will be forever grateful.
Doña Laura is now in her eighties but still has much love to distribute among the little ones of the Kingdom. She always a prayer on her lips, a hand ready to help, and a kitchen full of dirty dishes and a warm stove. She still walks to people’s homes to take food to the lonely, the sick, and the heartbroken. She feeds the whole neighborhood. I want to be a saint like that. That is how I want my life to change. But I know of the littleness of my heart, the many limitations that keep me from being an everyday saint.

My foolish heart! It has so many walls, so many fears. I used to be able to make friends right away. She came and she was immediately everyone’s friend and that makes me wonder where my heart stands. Sometimes I get this feeling of inadequacy, like everybody moves so much faster and I’m always trying to catch up. I used to wonder, “How can people live without literature, without philosophy?” But then I think that maybe those people have it inside of them, that they live it out. And that those people like myself, with pen and paper and music and brains infested with poetry are maybe a total waste of talent

I want to proclaim like Peter, “You are the Christ!” But I have so many limitations. I need music, literature, dictionaries and people to read poetry to. And as these things/people start becoming scarce and I only have a blank paper in front of me and a single, simple pen, I write to tell you that I am afraid of the page remaining blank because I didn’t have the courage to write a new life for myself.

May God give me the strength and the courage to answer your question and to proclaim like Peter, “You are the Christ!”


star said...

"It is true for me to say that for me sanctity consists in being myself and for you sanctity consists in being yourself. And that, in the last analysis, your sanctity will never be mine and mine will never be yours except in the communion of charity and grace... For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore, the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self... Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious people are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular monk or particular poet that they are intended to be by God. They never become the man or woman who is called for by all the circumstances of their lives. They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavor to have somebody else's experience or write somebody else's poems or possess somebody else's spirituality." (Thomas Merton)

little star said...

“…Lax and I were walking down sixth Avenue one night in the Spring…I forget what we were arguing about, but in the end Lax suddenly turned around and asked me the question:
‘What do you want to be, anyway?’
I could not say, ‘I want to be Thomas Merton the well-known writer of all those book reviews in the back pages of the Times Book Review,’ or ‘Thomas Merton the assistant instructor of Freshman English at the New Life Social Institute for Progress and Culture,’ so I put the thing on the spiritual plane, where I knew it belonged and said: ‘I don’t know; I guess what I want to be is a good Catholic.’
‘What do you mean, you want to be a good Catholic?’
The explanation I gave was lame enough, and expressed my confusion, and betrayed how little I had really thought about it at all. Lax did not accept it.
‘What you should say’ – he told me – ‘what you should say is that you want to be a saint.’
A Saint! The thought struck mw as a little weird. I said: ‘How do you expect me to become a saint?’
‘By wanting to,’ said Lax, simply.
‘I can’t be a saint,’ I said, ‘I can’t be a saint.’ And my mind darkened with confusion of realities and unrealities: the knowledge of my own sins, and the false humility which makes people say that they cannot do the things that they must do, cannot reach the level that they must reach; the cowardice that says: ‘I am satisfied to save my soul, to keep out of mortal sin,’ but which means, by those words: ‘I do not want to give up my sins and my attachments.’
But Lax said: ‘No. All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what God created you to be, if you will consent to let God do it? All you have to do is desire it.’”
(Thomas Merton)