Today’s reading at Liturgy was about friends; about some friends who helped their paralytic friend seek Jesus. Father Michael gave a wonderful homily about friends and how we help our friends find Christ. And he also spoke about our faith, do we love God 100% today, or maybe just 50%? Because the man in the Gospel reading was healed because Christ could see, in his face, that he believed, 100%, in Christ. 100%…all the time. And it was so weird because I had been thinking about friends and family, and how we share our faith with them.
Sometimes we are in the midst of life and we forget why we are where we are. We forget that we should always have an intention. When I go to Church, I bow and cross myself; I walk to the back and obtain some beeswax candles; I then deposit my stuff in a pew, and take my candles to the icons in front of the Church and I say prayers. But Fr. Michael challenged us last week to always attend Liturgy with an intention. I have never done that, in all my years of attending Church. I just always went to celebrate with my community, and to pray. But I never thought of an intention. Today, I asked for my intention, while thinking about being a sponge. Being a sponge for all the stuff in life that gets in the way of us living our lives. The “flotsam” and “jetsam” of living. I prayed I can soak up what comes my way; absorb it so it stops with me; but most importantly, to not spit back something similar to what was spit at me by life.
There are so many types of sponges. The one above is a common kitchen sponge. It has a side to soak things up, and another side to scrub with. Father talked today about being sponges when it comes to our faith. Perhaps we have questions about our faith and we don’t understand. Like when to sit and when to stand; why we do what we do. And so, we dip a dry sponge in once; we understand a little bit. We dip it again and again, and eventually it becomes saturated – we understand. But we need to not just “know” what we absorb about God, we need to believe it, too. And his analogy was perfect for me today. Because taking what we know, making it our belief, and then living that; that is the rough stuff. How can I really say I believe I need to love my enemies, when I get upset by the actions of others? How can I say I forgive others, feel good about receiving communion with a clean heart and intention, when I am still not talking to my brother? How can I hold grudges and still be, still live as, an authentic Christian?
This is an orange sponge. I think that the differences in sponges tells us how we need to forgive in all sorts of ways. The kitchen sponge has a side to soak up and rub, and the other side scrubs. Sometimes people hurt me and I try to soak it all up. Maybe I need to “scrub” that experience a little bit; maybe removing the sting of their actions or words, and grow from it, being sure the pain is only absorbed, and not spewed back out at others. That, for me, is the hardest part. Taking it in is pretty easy, making it become inert and not hurtful, that’s the hard part.
“Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18: 21-22
I have posted before about the “God Closet” and having all these boxes labeled with our issues we’ve asked God to take from us, because they are just too hard for us to handle alone. There is a very salvific thing that happens when we learn to believe 100%, to truly give something over to God’s care, and to allow His soaking of it all up to no longer cause us pain. I honestly gave my issues to God and I felt, physically, the pressure be taken off my shoulders. And I know there is a lesson here for me, about being a sponge, and taking in all this head knowledge about my faith, but then I also need to absorb it and make it part of who I am.
That is a honeycomb sponge. You can tell this topic really hit me because I delved into sponges online today! I have decided that being a sponge is faceted. There is the kind of sponge that is personal and takes in things in a religious way. Then there is the kind of sponge that absorbs the grime in life and locks it away. Look at the millions of possibilities with that honeycomb sponge! There is an infinite variety of places to hide the grime. I don’t want to squeeze it and let it all flow back out. The trick is to sanitize it somehow; remove the grime and re-use it, over and over again. When someone hurts me, I absorb the shock of that; I turn the other cheek even if it is seventy times seven times. And I allow God to take the brunt of it – honestly and truly giving these issues over to Him. And then I can be free to be an infinite sponge to those who need to lash out. Perhaps they know no other way to be; they have never been shown God or His type of love. This is not an eros love, or even an agape love. The love I bear others is my filial love – the love of friendship. And I can befriend anyone, even those who are perhaps ugly to us; those people we try to avoid. We all have them in our lives. With God teaching us how to accept them (being a sponge) but not become like them, and to love them as He loves them, using Him to help us love them, we can become a person who can believe 100% of the time, 100% of Christ, and really live it.
Thanks be to God for a great homily today, for God giving me wonderful priests in my life who have helped me grow. And for the gift of faith. It is not a stagnate, one time only gift, but it is something we are working on together, me and God. This is my process of theosis, and it is my goal to learn to be more sponge-like in the many facets of my life. As we continue through Lent, I pray to come closer to God, to living my faith 100% of the time, because I believe 100% of the time. The weight is already lighter.