Saturday, December 15, 2007

Work's Righteousness?

A few years ago I had a defining moment in my faith life. My daughter had been in the hospital with an appendicitis attack. I was told she needed surgery. I went to phone my parents to pray for her. In that moment I realized that I could not pray. It was not that I couldn’t say the words and mean them. It was that I honestly did not believe that God would answer me because I was so unworthy. I was not the person that God desired me to be. But I could phone Mom and Dad and have them pray because they were good people with strong faith and God would listen to them. I knew there was something wrong with this thinking but set it aside because I still had my daughter’s surgery with which to deal.

One day, shortly after, I was in the church on a Saturday, setting up something for the Sunday School’s participation in the Sunday worship. I don’t remember what I was thinking or doing exactly but I do remember getting this revelation. Yes, I was not the person I could be. And yes, I was not worthy. But it didn’t make a difference. God loves me. Nothing I did or didn’t do affected that love. God’s love was unconditional. God loved me!!!!!

It is amazing how much that revelation freed me. My faith life changed. It began to grow. About three months later I got the call to the priesthood. A call I would never have answered before that revelation.

Where am I going with this? I entered into a discussion and in that someone remarked that there was a danger, if the church focused so much social justice, of coming to believe or rely upon work’s righteousness. This was after I had said something about believing that the Incarnation was about redeeming the world, but that I believed social justice was very much a part of that redeeming. I mentioned that my call to social justice came out of my knowing God’s grace deep within my soul.

Does focusing on social justice bring one close to work’s righteousness? I don’t believe so. I don’t believe that my small efforts for social justice will earn my salvation. I already have my salvation. That is shown in the whole of the Incarnation. I don’t have to earn it.

“We do not presume to come to this thy table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: …”

It is so strange that this prayer that paralyzed me because of my focus on my unworthiness is the same prayer that has given me so much freedom. It is the prayer that reminds me of my freedom. All I did was remove my focus from my unworthiness - which places me in the centre of the prayer - to God's great mercies - which places God in the centre of the prayer. Now in response to that - I work, in God's name, with God's guidance, to try and bring that freedom to others. I don't work for my salvation. I work because of my salvation - huge difference.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie


Rowan The Dog said...

Does focusing on social justice bring one close to work’s righteousness?

Well, if it does then Jesus probably went straight to Hell.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Anne Marie, I love that prayer, and I often turn to it before communion. What's vital is that we make the leap from our unworthiness to God's infinite mercy.

God wants us to take part in building his kingdom, right here and right now. I firmly believe that. Lovely reflection.

Sometimes when I've been very troubled or worried, I've found that I can't pray. That's when I turn to my brothers and sisters to pray for me.

janinsanfran said...

I love that prayer and miss it in contemporary liturgy very much.

Blessed be..