Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
Saint James tells us, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” I would add, in the age of the internet, where we know the reality of the evil and pain that unbridled tongues (whether spoken or typed) create, we need to bridle our brains as well.
Our sinful thoughts, both those of desire and those of apathy, create the thorns of Christ’s crown. We evade, evolve, parse, spin, rationalize, philosophize and avoid. We do not often consider the sins of the mind to be fatal, yet these are the ones which cause Jesus to tell us, the Pharisee goes home unforgiven. He does all that is right, but he thinks and prays all that is wrong.
Jesus underlines this idea, that we’re all in when he speaks of spitting out those who are “lukewarm,” and tells those listening in no uncertain terms, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the sanhedrin; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
Catholics aren’t supposed to be about doing the least necessary. We’re to be about bringing people to the Lord, which means “doing little things with great love.” Little things we tend to brush off or ignore. We’ve heard it so often, it’s become almost cliché, except it can’t be because we all know how difficult the reality actually is. We tend to think somehow, we can splice our faith and our thoughts, but this is not how to eventually find ourselves in paradise. God doesn’t ask for half measures or clever answers or quality time. God asks for all.
When I look at a huge pile of bills, dishes or laundry, it’s hard for me not to do little things with great irritation. The weight of doing and doing and knowing I’ll need to do the all of it again chisels away at my will even if I started off with the best of intentions. Gritting my teeth to get through it somehow doesn’t seem to catch the spirit of the wisdom voiced by Mother Teresa or Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. It is slightly better than giving voice to the irks in my mind when my children leave a mess or get in a fight, but certainly not indicative of any graciousness or holiness.
Christ bears our wrathful pride bloated envious lustful greedy lustful jealous thoughts, and all our sloth in failing to dismiss such thoughts. Christ bears the injuries we create through our choices in words, whether to justify evils, or to ignore good all to illustrate to each of us, “I love you. I love you beyond what you deserve, beyond what you merit, beyond all you can imagine. I want to win you, all of you, for my Father.” It is a great proposal Jesus makes to us, to be all His. It is a call to give a daily, minute by minute fiat, if we’re not called for red martyrdom. To master the art of surrendering our egos in the day to day, each moment must be viewed as another opportunity for learning how to be meek and humble of heart.
The thorns in my own mind try to hang up my spirit on the tedium and constant need, to get me to do all that the day requires forgetful of Christ’s words. “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table?’ Being a follower of Christ means never saying to the Lord, “I’ve given.” Being a disciple means never telling those who come seeking help (be it your children or the person at work), “I won’t help.” I know the experience of forgetting one’s self in the labor out of love, but it’s not something one can grit through, it’s something each of us must surrender into becoming.