PARADOXICAL

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

 

Lenten retreat reflection: Day 13 - My subtle ways of spiritual resistance

pp. 47-49 http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=EOg19fGyNyoC&pg=PA47&lpg=PP1&hl=tl&output=html_text

I'm no engineeer, but when I think of resistance, I think in term of ohms and those electirc wiring color codes to indicate electrical resistance. It never occurred to me that there is such a thing as spiritual resistance, and in the context of this retreat, the resistance in the form of willed venial sins despite the profession of loving God 100%

I have mixed thoughts on this topic, and I don't know where to start. For one, I am not comfortable with Fr. DuBay's earlier quoting of the oft-misinterpreted Biblical line, "Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect." From the lecture of the Biblical scholar Fr. Celestino 'Jun' Lingad, a graduate of Gregorian University in Vatican City (?)/Rome, I learned that this line should not be interpreted literally, or serious Christians would be on the verge of paranoia, if not a nervous breakdown, en masse. Taken in the context of the whole passage, what this kind of perfection demands is perfection in terms of the ability to forgive our enemies. In this passage, Fr. Lingad said, we are being demanded by God to be better than the pagans who, after all, share our ability to love those who love us; God is asking us to go one step higher, in fact a quantum leap, by loving our enemies. This is one of the most revolutionary statements I've ever read, among a unified cluster of such disturbingly 'illogical' statements, thus my enduring attraction to Christianity.

Fr. Jun said that God won't be so inconsiderate as to demand literal perfection from man, whom He knows only too well to be oh-so-fallible. Even in case of papal infallibility, the perfection is restricted to ex-cathedra pronouncements. In fact, even the pope is given a leeway for being human, for falling into sin, for what's the use of having a spiritual director/preacher and confessor for himself?

But I understand where Fr. DuBay is coming from. I believe he is not talking about that kind of perfection either, but perfection in terms of doing something more for the Lord, progressively routing inconsistencies, or conflicts within the self, between what we profess and what we actually do. I think what Fr. DuBay is really saying is this: There should be discernible growth in ascending the ladder of spirituality. For what's the point of repeating the same sin again and again? We might as well not bother with growth. Like a good father, God does not mean to be that foolish by being lax with us or unconcerned with our spiritual growth and more preoccupied with humiliating us again and again with our helplessness with ourselves and dependence on Him. Instead, the reverse is true: As in that fearsome Biblical account, committing the same sin over and over after having been forgiven of it results in more intensified possession by the demons, i.e., worse and worse sins.

At this point, I am reminded of those famous/viral memes about What other people say I do vs What I say or think or feel I do vs What I actually do, which strikes me as a profound illustration of how man is so fallible, so prone to error in everything especially in describing reality, always confusing and conflating cold fact from emotion-tinged fiction, with everyone guilty of it, to the point that other schools of thought think everything is relative, which has unfortunately evolved into the great modern sin of RELATIVISM (a subject that Pope Benedict XVI relentlessly discussed in his papacy).

I know I can never be perfect, even with my best effort. I will fall, I will sin, as inevitably as the next man. But since I am in community precisely to be a better Catholic/Christian, I am expected NOT to be like the next person, but to be not so much a superior human being but a more serious lover of God.

As to my own form of resistances, I am hard put to think up of willed venial sins because most of my behavioral problems are not in the realm of willed but more in the form of compulsive weaknesses. To illustrate, I grew up with various cultural and familial baggages about myself ("you are dark and ugly," "you are poor," "you are the intelligent one in the family, but the useless one in other fields," "you come from a formerly colonized, Third World and thus inferior civilization," "you are a nerd," "you are a klutz," and so on), which affect the way I react to certain people and situations. These are my great struggles, the source of my spiritual 'resistances.' These do not belong to willed venial sins, as I have pointed out, yet routinely lead me to sin nonetheless. The Lord, in His goodness, is so kind as to give an allowance in this case, but there's also the great temptation to stay stuck in the past, to use the past as alibi. God knows I do my best to never rationalize anything, but if I stumble, I ask for His patience, declare my hope and trust in His unconditional love for me, and move on from there.

Because of my anxious 'nature,' this thought is unfortunately always accompanied by a tinge of anxiety that my repetitive faults will be met with a corresponding punishment, not so much because God enjoys punishing or disciplining me as His son as because that is how the cookie crumbles, that is the nature of sin: it is its own punishment in that it has unavoidable consequence, in effect making any sin and its 'punishment' my own creation/responsibility.

Anyway, this (the cache of psychological baggages) is where my resistance majorly comes from, but it is not the sole source. There is also the tendency towards overscrupulousness. I know of several faults wherein I tend to linger on whether or not I have offended a person and by extension God with what I said or did. I know that God appreciates the paranoia somewhat for behind it is a sense of fear of offending God, even though it's an unhealthy one because it must be a fear that comes from the fear of His 'wrath' or 'punishment' (more accurately, my own projected wrath/anger/self-hate). On the other hand, I also know that I offend God by presuming too much that I can be perfect and that He is not gentle/kind/understanding enough to allow me to be wrong. I have learned that the real issue is one of humility; overscurpulousness is an indication that I think too much highly of myself, that I presume I can do no wrong. This fault is serious because I tend to mistake myself for being God, and because of that, I presume, wrongly, that God is a rigid Deity, I confuse God for the strict fatherhood (both at home, in school and elsewhere) I grew up with. What I resist, to be more specific about it, is God's goodness, God's love, and when I resist God's love/forgiveness/understanding, I resist God Himself, who we all know to be all-loving. One significantly sad consequence of this is that I will find it hard to forgive myself.

I can't believe I've gone this far in discussing the subject of spiritual resistance. Thanks Fr. DuBay, for provoking all these reactions.

Prayer:

Lord, you know how I can get so helpless with my host of weaknesses. May all forms of spiritual resistance in me be transformed into readiness for Your grace. May I learn to empty myself, taking to heart the concept of kenosis, so I can step into the realm of metanoia, and with it, real transformation, depth in conversion, and spiritual 'perfection' as You have commanded it.

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