I have a confession to make. I am an obsessive. Well, but that is not the subject of my confession. Being an obsessive may often be a misfortune, or sometimes a fortune, but it can scarcely be in itself a sin.
No, my confession is this – guilt!
At Mass today my hearing aids both packed up. The result was that I heard little of the homily. And my ever-active mind started wandering. I have recently completed the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. And three Ignatian themes in that very intensive time of prayer particularly struck home: gratitude, love and trust.
Gratitude surely has to be the beginning and the end of all that we do and are – gratitude for, well, absolutely everything! As our Lord famously said to St. Catherine of Siena, ‘I am He who is, you are she who is not’. All that is, all that is for us, is a gratuitous gift.
And love, of course. But I was struck there by Ignatius’ unpacking of love as sharing. Oh yes! Sharing, sharing. At this time of Lent, at this time of refugees, at this time of earthquakes, famine, plagues – sharing. God loves us; God shares with us. We love God; we share with God. And we love others; we share with others what God has given us so abundantly – that is, we share everything!
Trust! The culminating point of the Exercises, in a way, is handing the lot – really, everything – back to God in complete and utter trust in Him for Him to use for His purposes. That is all. So easy. As the Japanese Buddhist Shinran put it (in an analogous context), ‘easiest of the easy – and most difficult of the difficult’.
Oh, sorry folks! Not much of a juicy confession, is it? So far.
But my mind wandered still further from the unheard priestly homily at Mass.
GLT. Oh, I obsess. I especially obsess around words and language. Well, fancy that! GLT makes GUILT. Give or take a couple of letters. In fact, give or take a U and an I.
Oh, wonderful insight! What a coincidence!
Add a yo[U] and an ‘I’. And of course everyone knows that I and You are what the moral and spiritual life is all about. As the great Jewish sage Martin Buber put it, the I (ich) and the You (du) are two fundamental ways of authentic speech, designating a real human and divine relationship in which gratitude, love and trust can occur and contrasting radically and fundamentally with any mechanistic I/It relationship.
So – mix I and You with Gratitude, Love and Trust, and Guilt is transformed. Or – take from Guilt You and I and embed them within Gratitude, Love and Trust. From out of guilt comes such positive transformation. I even mulled over a diagrammatic way of representing all this, with a G at the top, a U and I on the line below, and L and T on the bottom line:
Oh, the fun I had with it all during Mass! Missed prayerful awareness of most of the rest of the Mass, including even the consecration, with all my mental wandering and obsessive mulling.
So – well, that’s it. That’s my confession.
Old Nick knows my obsessions. Did Old Nick nick me?
Was I, am I, guilty or not guilty?
Paul Williams (Bristol) February 2023