Everybody's Got One
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Saturday, November 02, 2002


How did it happen that the Feast of All Saints has become an occasion for the fawning self-congratulation of all the faithful? Did I miss an encyclical or something?

We have not merely defined deviancy down – we've also defined sanctity down. In our new version of the one drop rule, a single drop of holiness is considered sufficient to make you a "saint." As, in the implacable economy of grace, it actually is – but only after long, arduous, blind, extensive striving and self-surrender. Which the new version conveniently neglects to mention.

Here's what the kingdom of heaven is not like – it's not like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, that gets planted and doesn't grow, that doesn't provide a sheltering place for the birds of the air to nest in. It's not like a portion of yeast that a woman doesn't knead into three measures of flour, so that the whole mass to fails to rise.
It's not like seeds that fall on the footpath, on shallow soil, on rocky ground, that spring up (or not) and bear no fruit.

Spiritual directors say that prayer that doesn't change you isn't really prayer. And sanctity that doesn't transform you isn't really sanctity. CS Lewis (I think – or maybe someone else using the Screwtape conceit) tells a story about three imps discussing the best ways to persuade Christians not to work out their salvation. One says, Tell them that there's no Heaven. The second says, Tell them that there's no Hell. And the third, wise in the ways of men, suggests, Tell them that there's no hurry.
In our times, a fourth deception has arisen, which reassuringly whispers to us, "There's no problem."

Yeah, there is.

Update: From the alternate prayer for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (with readings that speak of religious leaders concerned more for themselves than those they supposedly serve and teach): Remove the selfishness that blurs the vision of faith. Rephrase that as self-absorption, concern for self-esteem, and I think that points to the source of this particular unclarity. Or at least the avenue through which it comes to afflict us.

posted by Kelly | 12:47 PM link