So often I, myself, and others have reflected, "Oh, I really missed understanding that person. I was only looking at the outside. Little did I know what was going on inside." I had a gentleman share something that amazed me. He said that he would automatically avoid any requests that his wife made of him. These were not gigantic tasks: mow the lawn, paint the kitchen, etc., etc. When asked why he excused himself, he did not have a really good reason except that "let’s get someone else…a kid in the neighborhood, or a professional painter. Definitely someone else!" This has gone on for years. As he sat talking with me his face brightened as he said, "I finally realized that something that happened a long time ago was blocking my willingness to do something for my wife whom I love dearly." He went on to relate that as a youngster his father repeatedly criticized him for anything he did. Nothing was good enough in the eyes of his dad. No matter what the young son did escaped this negative attitude. It went on for years. "Would you believe, Father that I realized this only two weeks ago? I am 62 years old! For years I have carried a fear that criticism was going to be leveled at me again."
Jesus, in the gospel today I see the Pharisees on the prowl to put you to death. Yet you kept on with your mission of healing. Oh, you told the people not to let the Pharisees know where you were. Your time had not yet come. The quote from the prophet Isaiah gives an insightful picture of who the "messiah" was to be. You certainly fulfilled that description. You grew into it -a month, a year at a time. Nothing automatic about it.
Jesus, I pray for each and all of us who refuse to acknowledge our total selves at any given time. Stuff gets pushed behind us. Stuff from the past gets denied. Stuff is avoided with emphasis put on the gaudy, the flamboyant. The true self is divided and causes us to limp. The awesome truth that you love us as a person gets overlooked. Perfection is our desire. Some things do turn out well but we are constantly "on the grow." Some things take a while to hone. Other things just simply show us that we do have some limitations! That isn’t really a surprise. But what a difference in the midst of it all to know that You love us as the person we are.
Fr. Peter Berendt, C.P. is on the staff of Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center, Houston, Texas.