Our Associate Pastor gave another great homily at Saturday morning Mass. He spoke about growth in the spiritual life.
Father explained that one way to gauge how well we are progressing in the spiritual life is through our relationships with other people. With growth, we should be drawing closer to other people, not becoming withdrawn from them. Spiritual growth doesn’t result in a “it’s just God and me and no one else” situation. He went on to explain that most spiritual growth happens with people who challenge us, the ones we would rather not deal with, the jerks. We have to learn to live with them.
When Father was in seminary, his spiritual director told him a great story, one of many, I presume. In this priest’s community, there was someone with whom everyone had a hard time. The community went to their Superior with their complaints, essentially with the purpose of getting this person kicked out of the house. The Superior acknowledged that yes, the guy is a jerk, but “he’s our jerk.”
Oh boy, I can relate! Can you? There’s the colleague we have to deal with at work, the obnoxious neighbour, the show-off in class, the rude bank teller, that family member(s). Difficult people are everywhere.
In one of the clinics I run every month, I diligently scan the names of patient appointments hoping a particular name will stop showing up. Every month, I sigh inwardly because the name continues to appear on the list. It’s not that my patient is abusive, which should never be tolerated, just hard to take. I have to force myself to give this person the same care and attention I give to my other patients. It’s tiring but also very humbling and a painful exercise in practicing the virtues of charity and patience. Until Saturday morning’s homily, I dreaded my monthly routine of forcing a smile and biting my tongue with this difficult patient. Now I see the situation in a much more positive light. This person that God has deliberately placed in my clinic is there to help me get to Heaven. And I’m supposed to help my patient get to Heaven too.
Yeah, that’s my difficult patient.
I’m not promising that my smile will be genuine and my compassion unforced next time my patient comes. In fact, I can guarantee that I’ll continue to bite my tongue and remind myself that I’m a professional. I don’t expect my patient’s attitude to change but hopefully, over time, my attitude will change. I’ll certainly be praying for my change of heart and praying for my patient too.
And, I’ll look in the mirror and tell myself that I’m not perfect. I know there are countless times when someone somewhere thinks I’m a jerk. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Thanks for the homily, Father.