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

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dirty Faces and Eternal Life

“. . . but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence . . .” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

It was only a casual glance at the mirror as I walked passed -- a moment when my eye stole a glimpse at my reflection.  But what a moment it was! The whole of nature stopped, turned in my direction and waited for my response to that . . . that little white and grey thing hanging from my left nostril.  

"Yikes! Who’s seen me like this?"

I yanked a tissue from my pocket and attacked my nose, cocking and twisting my head to make sure I removed every last trace of that horrible sight. But then the knot in my stomach tightened. How long had I walked around totally ignorant of my desperate plight? When did I last blow my nose?  Just before I left the house? Three hours ago!

I tossed the tissue into a trash can and hurried off, wondering why no one had told me.  Surely they’d seen it.  Anyone looking in my direction from the next state could have seen it!

But the more I thought about it, the more I understood why they remained silent. They were as embarrassed to mention it as I was to discover it. They thought, "Maybe he'll scratch his nose and discover it without my having to bring up the subject."  Or, "Maybe someone else will tell him."

How do I know that's what they probably thought?  Because I have made those same dumb excuses when I've looked at someone's face and wondered "How do I tell him about his dirty nose?"

Well, believe it or not, there is a spiritual point in all this, because in dealing with my own embarrassment I learned two important things about dirty faces – and eternal life.

First, mirrors are very important. Had I not seen my reflection in the mirror, I might have continued through the rest of the day with that thing dangling on my nose. But that common looking glass reminds me of another mirror – the Bible. That is why the Holy Spirit tells us in the New Testament book of Hebrews:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

When I read the pages of God's "mirror" much more serious blemishes catch my eye. Like the piece of mucous stuck to the end of my nose, those cursed spots (God calls them sin) sometimes cling stubbornly to my life. And although discovering those blights are not among my favorite moments, without His mirror, my spiritual "nose-slime" would remain stuck to me, unclean, unconfessed and – consequently - unforgiven.  The embarrassment of discovering that thing dangling from my nose cannot compare to the shame I would eventually experience if I stood unclean before the Lord.

Which brings me to the second point: Walking around all morning with a dirty nose is not the worst thing that will ever happen to someone. But dying unclean in sin definitely is.

Yes, I wished someone had told me my nose was dirty, but I am forever thankful someone told me my life was dirty.  I am forever grateful that person pointed me to God's word where I learned not only of sin's stain on my life, but also of Christ’s blood which can cleanse me.

My dirty nose reminded me again how badly people need someone willing to risk embarrassment and tell them, kindly and with humility, their lives are dirty. They need someone - like you and like me - to tell them they need a savior.

If we don't tell them about Jesus Christ, who will?


Victor S E Moubarak said...

Hmmm ... now you mention it Rich; there's a piece of spinach between your teeth and ... ehm ... your zip is undone!

Seriously though, this is a magnificient post; thank you. But it raises a serious question. Is it our responsibility to point out to others their sins? Say for instance there's a married member of the congregation who is having an affair. Is it up to you, me or the priest to approach him and tell him it is wrong? Or do we mind our own business?

God bless.

Rich Maffeo said...

Of course, you ask a great question. I can only offer my opinion based on my understanding of Scripture.

First and most important, this is something we need specific guidance about from the Holy Spirit. We should not go around calling out sinners all around us. Doing so only brings, I think, great discredit to God’s work.

Second, since each situation is so different and there is no way for me to make a fair blanket statement, let me answer your specific question.

If I did not know the couple very well, I would probably say nothing to them unless I felt a continuous urging by the Holy Spirit to approach them. And even so, I would do so with great humility and deference. My purpose should always be to restore someone to right relationship with Christ. St. James tells us in chapter 5: 19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

However, if the couple were involved in parish ministry, for example usher or EMOHC, then I would bring what I know to the priest, being VERY careful, of course, that I am not bringing unfounded rumor or gossip. But you know as well as I the scriptural injunction about the requisite holy lifestyle of those in church ministry. Then I would leave it to the priest. He is responsible before God to do what is right with his flock. Not me.

I hope my answer does not seem too ‘squishy.’ You ask an important question, but one I am not sure is answerable with a blanket yes or no answer. “It depends” seems more reasonable, depends on the situation, my relationship with the person, that person’s influence on others (e.g. politicians, teachers, etc).

Finally, and to perhaps complicate the whole matter, Ezekiel 33 is an important chapter to consider as well.

Victor S E Moubarak said...

You answer very wisely, Rich.

This is a question I have tackled before on my Blog. There are times, especially in a closely knit congregation, when someone's obvious sin (e.g. adultery/drunkeness/violence) is known beyond being just a rumour. I doubt (in the UK) whether in such cases many priests would have the courage (is this the right word, I wonder) to approach an individual to put him right. Chances are the individual would tell him to mind his own business.

As you say, it depends on circumstances. Thank you for a great post, Rich.

God bless.

Rich Maffeo said...

There is an important Biblical principal in 1 Cor 5 where St. Paul addresses a commonly known sin in their midst – the guy sleeping with his father’s wife. He pronounces judgment against him and orders him excommunicated. The church does so – but look at the result in 2 Cor 2. The man is repentant and is reconciled with the church and with God.
I wrote an essay some time ago, Holy Mother Church and Child Abuse, in which I argue that we do no one any favors in our congregations when we molly-coddle them and refuse to call sin, ‘sin.’ We (or rather, the leadership) effectively ensure their damnation because the Great Judge will not at all molly-coddle them at the judgment seat.

I call it in my essay sappy, indulgent love, which is not really love. It’s cowardice and it’s destructive of the very one we say we care for.
Of course, one of the problems in today’s church is, if we excommunicate a parishioner, he can go down the street to another church. That was not an option is Paul’s day. Nonetheless, that does not in any way relieve our church leadership from their clear call to LEAD.

Here is a link to that essay: http://thecontemplativecatholicconvert.blogspot.com/2013/05/holy-mother-church-and-child-abuse_30.html

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Yet again, you touch on an important subject.

Priests have a special responsibility before God. They volunteered (or were called, and they answered,) their vocation. When they meet God He will ask them "How many of those I put in your care did you lead to Heaven?"

Right now, the Catholic Church's message is not clear at all, the shepherds don't sing from the same hymn sheet, and its like herding cats out there! The congregation, world-wide, is confused - on sin, excommunication, the Real Presence in Communion, divorce, re-marriage, abortion, contraception and a lot of other things.

God bless.

Rich Maffeo said...

Confusion is precisely the word. BTW, I received your book from Amazon the other day. It is on my list of 'to-do's.

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Thanx Rich. Which book is that? If it's my memoirs please be charitable towards me.

God bless.

Rich Maffeo said...

Your Visions book. :-)