A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Sunday, November 21, 2004

What’s with the bickering?

There is a lot of bickering in the world. There is bickering in families (ready for Thanksgiving, everybody?). There is bickering on the job. There is even bickering within parishes.

Bickering is harmful to relationships and to the people involved. It also makes people who witness it very uncomfortable.

Still, bickering persists. Indeed, sometimes it gets worse. The other night, during a “professional” basketball game, bickering got physical and soon violence erupted not only among the “players” but also between the players and the “spectators.” In its worst extremes, bickering can lead to bloodshed, murder, and even war.

In today’s Gospel we have perhaps the strangest instance of bickering ever, as a man being cruelly put to death chooses that particular moment to pick a fight with one of the other people in the process of being executed.

“Have you no fear of God?” yet another of the dying men asks.

What’s with the bickering?

A Dominican Priest, Victorino Osende, provides a pretty good answer to this question: one that fits today’s celebration of Christ the King very well:

“All the evils of life, all hatred, envy, discord and wars come from self-love which demands all rights for itself and rejects whatever hinders self-satisfaction.

“Therefore, once this great enemy of charity is destroyed, the world will enjoy the most perfect peace and union.

“In order to establish this kingdom in our hearts we must first destroy all other kingdoms and dominions within it, or rather, the sole kingdom of our ego, of our self-love, which is the origin, sum and compendium of them all, and which is diametrically opposed to the Kingdom of Christ.”
(Fruits of Contemplation, p. 336)

At the heart of our bickering, our conflicts, and much of our unhappiness in this world is out-of-control self-love. (The materialistic culture in which we live exacerbates our concupiscent tendencies to indulge our appetites and to follow our basest impulses.)

We let our appetites and our selfishness run wild. Grown men with riches and fame beyond anyone’s dreams fight like drunken vagrants because they feel “dissed.” Communities of love such as families and parishes are full of petty squabbles motivated by individuals’ disordered sense of wounded self-esteem.

Have we no fear of God? Is this how we want to meet our Maker? As a bickering people?

On this feast of Christ the King, we should not just be celebrating Christ as King of Heaven and Earth. We desperately need to be making Christ the King of our hearts.

Making Christ the King of our hearts means that we no longer let ourselves be ruled by our stomachs or by our pride or by any part of us. It means that we let Christ rule us. It means we let Christ rule every part of us.

It means no longer asking ourselves, “What do I feel like doing?” It means asking ourselves, “What is the right thing to do? How should a servant of Christ act?”

Certainly we must not ignore our feelings and the needs that pull at us. We must deal with them, but we must not let the things we feel cause us to contemplate or say or do things that are opposed to the Kingdom of Christ: a Kingdom of true justice, true love, and true peace.

That is the way the great saints have lived. Many of us, however, do not seem to have this grace right now. It feels so hard to really, really let go and to really, really subject ourselves to the Kingship of Christ IN EVERYTHING.

We may feel powerless, but God is ready to give us the grace we need. All we have to do is ask.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

“Amen, I tell you, this day you will be with me in Paradise.”