Monday, February 27, 2012

Acts of Charity

(Note- I'm using Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton as my Lenten devotional this year. I'll be blogging the journaling prompts most days.)

The call to "do penance" is based not on the fact that penance will keep us in trim, but on the fact that "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand". ~Seasons of Celebration, p. 130

What was your last act of "charity"? Why did you do it?

Why, that's easy, my last act of charity was, uh... hang on a second...

To quote Rick Perry, "oops"

After a minute or two of thinking I remembered that last week I was helping fill bags at Arlington's food pantry because there were several people there all at once, and our one volunteer was looking a bit overwhelmed. I sat there talking with one guy for a few minutes, hearing about his struggles, and we said a quick prayer together.

OK, not a bad act of charity, but why was I blanking for a couple minutes? It's not because I'm such a charitable guy that I just can't keep track of all the works of mercy I do, and it's certainly not because I'm so humble that I don't keep count.

I talk a good game and challenge people to make acts of mercy part of their discipleship, but when that question gets turned on me, I stumble for a few moments.

My blanking in answering that question reminds me that I'm often so busy being a pastor, I forget to be a disciple of Jesus. I'm very fortunate that my call is also my vocation, and I spend my time helping others grow in their discipleship, which I guess you could interpret as acts of charity.

Remember how I said a "quick prayer" with that guy? It was quick because I had a massive "to do" list sitting on my desk.

The unfortunate truth is that I've fallen into the trap of busyness. I'm working very hard on getting The Road up and running, preparing for my ordination interviews, plus all the normal pastoral duties I do, and I've unfortunately been neglecting my own discipleship, even though the reason I'm a pastor in the first place is because I felt a profound call at a fairly young age to devote my whole life to being a disciple of Jesus.

Lest I beat myself up too much (which, as Father Merton points out, is not the purpose of Lent), I have been fairly faithful to works of piety, but as Mr. Wesley emphasized, acts of mercy as just as essential. When the two get out of balance, our priorities and perspectives get out of whack. Say, for example, spending too much time on the nuts and bolts work of ministry while having a hard time remembering what my own last act of charity was.

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