Monday, October 03, 2016

They Glorified God Because of Me

Hans Speckaert (circa 1540–circa 1577)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Melanie Rigney

And I was unknown personally to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only kept hearing that “the one who once was persecuting us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” So they glorified God because of me.  (Galatians 1:22-24)

O Lord, you have probed me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My journey and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you all familiar. (Psalm 139: 1-3)

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Lord, bless all the people who love me in Your name.

A parish council meeting that had gone on and on and on finally seemed to be ending. Then someone piped up randomly with: “Father, do you think people can change?” She was off to the races with complaints about someone who had done something egregious -- someone who always was committing the same offense, over and over again. Others joined in with their stories.

I started to say, You fools. Of course, people can change. I changed. I didn’t go to Mass for decades, and now I do. But I couldn’t get a word in. So, I started a new page of doodling and resigned myself to another half hour before we’d be done.

Then the pastor started to speak. I stopped doodling.

“Yes, I think people can change,” he said very slowly. “But it’s very difficult.” The conversation died down. The meeting ended shortly thereafter.

Years later, I get it. Going to Mass or calling yourself a Christian when you didn’t use to doesn’t necessarily change you. Much more than that is involved. There’s surrender of the parts of yourself that grieve the Lord and others in your community, parts such as gossiping and judging and, yes, doodling instead of paying attention during a parish council meeting. It is very difficult.

Paul knew that too, of course. He went from being a persecutor of Christians to being persecuted because he couldn’t stop talking about Christ and the Good News. Beyond his rock-solid faith, I’m thinking the willingness of other Christians to accept his story of conversion fed him as his evangelization ministry took him far and wide. They believed God was capable of anything, including touching Paul’s heart and soul… and in that belief, glorified the Lord. May we have that same faith.

Cut somebody who offends you some slack. Believe change is possible. Pray for the person.

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