From The Imitation of Christ:
Would that in this world we had lived well throughout one single day. Many count up the years they have spent in religion but find their lives made little holier.
Rejoicing on this Fourth Sunday in Lent: Laetere Sunday! Am so thankful for many blessings and lessons learned this Lent.
While immersing the mind, soul-to-soul with Thomas a Kempis today, the nothing Catholic hermit chuckles at its own years spent as a consecrated hermit as well as the years spent as a Catholic, and the years prior spent as a devout Protestant. In all, even without counting the years--this soul's life indeed seems less holy than way back in the first years of life!
It is true, as many spiritual writers--saints or mystics alike--living a long life does not necessarily bring holiness no matter how much a person strives. The truth they tell, is that a long life brings about additional challenges, not the least of which are increased temptations in daily life.
Yesterday, the nothing Catholic hermit looked forward to getting running water back into the hermitage. On Friday, it had to shut off the water in order to run some new hot and cold water lines, as well as to re-plumb the kitchen drain pipe under the house, from 1.5" to the now-code 2".
Then a rather costly but worker with muscle strength far more than the hermit, was to come for a marvelous day of focused effort to bring the final five feet or less of 3" main drain pipe under the house, over and down into the main toilet stack that heads on out to the septic tank and drain fields beyond....
He arrived, sure enough, but he was yet again in a non-focused mode, was easily distracted, had not slept well, and admitted to his love of booze. (The hermit had suspected that in the nearly year of knowing this man, and has great empathy for such a tempting love of drink.) However, when not much if any progress was made by him in the work efforts, the tenor of the efforts changed. When he made outright errors and became petulant, it was time to accept that the hermit would be without running water for some time longer.
Doing the best in encouraging this worker to focus and to take the high road in the tasks at hand, nothing seemed to jog him in this second work day of little accomplishment and some frustrating mistakes that the hermit will have to correct. It all seems so needless--these personality issues that we humans bring upon ourselves--drinking too much, staying late at a bar socializing and muddying the mind, expecting hourly pay at a high rate despite the quality of work produced, and blaming one's parents for making a person take college prep classes in high school and saying it turned off the teen to college.
Is this why the person has no money despite a profession which assures high hourly pay and all the hours a person can possibly work in a day, six days a week (or seven if the person ignores God's request of us for His Sabbath rest)? Then the fault continues to cause the person to file bankruptcy, to become a self-admitted hoarder, to rent but be facing eviction, to not qualify for a mortgage, to drink away the wages earned, and those not always through diligent work ethics, to put on excessive weight, causing the body to not effectively work hard or long.
Yet, this one is a soul, like all of our souls, dear to God despite the problems. Granted, the nothing Catholic hermit did become firm--seemingly to a point of what it be horrified if it needed to be spoken to firmly like that.
[No, we are not going to work upstairs on the PEX plumbing. I need you to please finish the electrical that has been put off and is your expertise. No, again, I can do the PEX plumbing. Why pay a high hourly wage and take time and risk costly errors when I've spent hours studying and learning from plumbers, have it in my head, and can do it? Please, please just do the electrical wiring that is your forte. Let us just stay focused. No, PLEASE, get your head out from under the sink cabinet. I am going to cut that stub-out pipe, later. I had asked you to please remove the unglued drain pipe--not disassemble the entire p-trap.... Again, NO, I said I can cut the pipe tomorrow, and I really need you to finish the electrical. Yes, that includes putting the wire up into the gable attic area. No, the stairway does not have to be rebuilt first. You just drill a 1-inch hole through the attic sub-flooring. See? Right up there! Do you want me to go upstairs and drill the hole? I will be happy to do it, if it will make it easier for you to see where to run the wire and have it ready for a switch box....]
Well, again, what seems obvious and good work ethic to one, is not to another. And in "bearing with the faults of others", the "others" is a key concept to grasp. "Others" includes all of us, even ourselves. So the nothing Catholic hermit has considered in prayer, in Scripture, and in the silence of the hermitage on this Sunday in Lent (the 63rd of its life on earth--but why keep count?) the times its many faults have been unbearable to some. It also considers those of its many faults that were somehow bearable to those very holy people who coped with this soul of which God breathed into human form, more than that many years ago.
Yes, if this nothing Catholic hermit could live well through one day--even one hour--then what progress! But it is not easy. Why recall the frustrations of the situation yesterday, rather than think on the phenomenal work of Juanito who came unexpectedly, works by the day and put in a ten hours hanging sheetrock? He installed the heavy stuff meticulously in the living room and lower sitting area. He lived well yesterday, and in silent diligence.
We never know what is going on in another person's mind or heart; often we don't, at least accurately, know what is going on in our own. But silence can sometimes be a good indicator as opposed to loquacity, such as one talkative worker looking for jokes on his iPhone in order to distract the other worker who was working harder, longer, and for less wages. The ploy did not work. Juanito kept focused, smiling sweetly, and turning his head...then walking off to get another sheet of drywall from the pole barn.
How many ploys has this nothing Catholic hermit attempted over the days and years in distracting others or itself? The thought is boggling. The truth remains that it is quite some feat if one can live a day well. Only by God's grace can we even make the attempt, or even desire to make the attempt to live well--not just "good enough". Just to try to remove or even slightly reduce one flaw, such as drinking too much...or being frustrated to a point of lingering upset with someone who slacks on the job. Only by the grace of God and His mercy can we do it, and then not perfectly for the flaws keep rearing themselves, human temptation after temptation, human imperfection after imperfection.
Why count up the years of being alive, or, for some, the years of being a consecrated Catholic hermit? This soul has not found the years have made it much holier! This truth is wondrously amazing and worthy of the rejoicing that crowns this Laetere Sunday of Lent. Rejoice! It is not that we should not keep striving for holiness in the years that flow one after another in most of our lives. It is that we should grasp that the longer we live, the more we grasp that we are imperfect; and the more flaws of various types that we find in others, the more we also can find in ourselves. Take fault-finding, for starters.
[It is yet prudent for the hermit to read that book on electrical wiring, for God's money gifted to the hermit by its late parents is hemorrhaging profusely. Learn how to wire the switches and sockets into their boxes. Learn that it is not particularly thrilling, and understand the temptation to electrician burn-out when one is older, trapped by human flaws, and with no other career options easily at hand. All the same, why put oneself in the temptation of being frustrated, or put another into temptation to slack on the job and yet demand full wages? God will guide in this situation, as He does in all if we seek, ask, listen to, and accept His Providence.]
God bless His Real Presence in us! Little children, let us love one another, for God Is Love! Remain in His Love!