If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Holier than Thou

Every now and again, I have a dream that greatly disturbs me because I am a willing participant in some sin. I wake up feeling dirty and ashamed, and usually have difficulty settling into my normal pattern of morning prayer.

I do not believe God holds me accountable for my dreams, but they do serve to remind me that lurking somewhere below my conscious mind is a person I do not like. And during those times of recognition, I so well understand St. Paul's cry:

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate . . . For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For . . . I practice the very evil that I do not want . . . Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? (Romans 7:15-24).

It was in this context, the morning after one of my despicable dreams, that I read a portion of St. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians: Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! (2 Corinthians 12:7).

Paul then tells us he asked the Lord three times to remove his thorn. And three times the Lord responded, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.

I'd always believed Paul's thorn was his poor eyesight, dating back to his Damascus road experience (Acts 9:8-9). His comment to the Galatians seems to also imply vision problems.

But now, after remembering my dreams, I think St. Paul's thorn was not an Acts 9 disability, but a Romans 7 problem. Because of the "surpassing greatness" of Paul's revelations of Christ, God permitted Satan to buffet the apostle with the memory, and the recognition, of the man lurking just below the surface of his consciousness -- to keep Paul from exalting himself, to prevent him from adopting a "holier-than-thou" attitude toward others.

I could be wrong, of course, about Paul's thorn. But of this, I am sure --my own "wretched man that I am" experiences help me place my so-called "maturity in Christ" in better perspective.

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