Friday, March 14, 2014

I'm Finally Beginning To Understand The Gospels

In my journey to become a better Catholic, I have been reading spiritual books. Each book provides one more thought, one more approach, to becoming holy. Having said that, the books do have several common themes: pray more; spend more quiet time; read the Bible, especially the Gospels.
I have been doing each of these activities. I set aside time every day to pray at least twice; I try for three times though I'm not so good at praying during the Hour of Prayer. I read the Bible every day; I read one psalm (spending 1 week on each one to give me time to think about it and understand it) and one additional reading from either the Old or the New Testament. I read the daily Mass readings. I try to set aside quiet time (not so good at this one yet).

Since I read the daily Mass readings, by default I read parts of the Gospel every day. I know that learning who Jesus is, and what he said and did, is incredibly important. My difficulty was translating that to my own life. Oh, sure, some things are pretty clear: blessed are the poor in spirit – work on becoming more humble. Do not commit adultery – check. Blessed are the peacemakers – got it, don't start fights. 

Some of the events that are related in the Gospels show a genius that I can only hope to attain. For example, when asked about paying taxes, Jesus replied: 'whose image is on the coin? Then render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's'. However, I'm not expecting to be questioned on whether or not we should pay taxes. And, when questioned about the Apostle's picking grain and eating on the Sabbath, Jesus replied: 'Have you not read what Davidc did when he and his companions were hungry?' Again, people don't usually challenge me about working on Sunday unless they think I'm not working hard enough.

But that brings me back again – how can I apply the lessons in the Gospels to me? I know that we are to understand the literal and spiritual (allegorical, moral, and anagogical) senses of the readings. However that didn't help. Until recently.

I was thinking about why people do things almost without thinking, that is, they act 'on automatic pilot'. Why don't they think about everything they do, look around themselves, and see the consequences of their actions? As I thought about this, I thought about how I have acted. Making turns while driving while I'm not supposed to, because I was on automatic pilot. Locking doors before everyone is in the house, because I'm on automatic pilot. Not bringing the juice upstairs from our supply in the basement, because I'm on automatic pilot. Ooops. I do the same things.

Then a thought popped into my head from Matthew's Gospel: 'Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?' That's where the teachings are in the Gospels – in Jesus's explanations and rebukes of improper behaviors! In Jesus's words! I think one key, at least, to my understanding of Jesus and the Gospels is to read the Gospels from the perspective that Jesus is talking to me about my behaviors. Each time, I should think of circumstances where I acted in a way that Jesus would have chastised. I'm guessing that approaching the Gospels in this manner will make them more humbling as well as more instructive. Maybe I should have realized before how to read the Gospels. But, God makes things clear in his own, perfect time. I'm glad he opened my eyes. I guess that means I'm growing spiritually, and now is the time.