A quick word on St. Joseph’s Day! What struck me about Pope Francis’ installation homily was his reference to tenderness. He said we should not be afraid of tenderness, of goodness. This, along with his challenge that we should protect all life and all creation even as St. Joseph protected Jesus and Mary, were the most salient points that I took from his homily.
I will be talking more about that tenderness of which Francis’ has preached. But today I want to recount two experiences.
A while ago I had come to struggle with a certain sin. It wasn’t very serious and I found that I had trouble, even though I knew it was wrong, feeling sorrowful for the fact that it offended God. I prayed that God might give me true sorrow for that sin. And shortly thereafter, when I least expected it, I was filled with a profound sadness for that sin. I know that this sadness could not have come from me because I didn’t feel particularly sorry for that sin. I knew that God had infused this sorrow, this deep but pure sadness into my soul. I want to be clear that this sadness was nothing like self loathing or self hatred. It was deeply holy and simply made me feel profound sorrow that I had offended God in this way.
My other story is about my family. We were heading back from Grandma’s house and they all fell asleep. For some reason my wife, son, and daughter all being asleep gave me a special moment of thanksgiving and reflection. As I observed their slumber a thought came into my mind about how blessed I am to have them, such a beautiful family. Then an unspeakable joy entered my soul of which I don’t think I had ever experienced. Of course I feel joy all the time as anyone does, but this joy was not of a natural origin. It was so clearly some Divine gift that had been given to me in that moment, infused into my soul.
These two stories are related. I had asked God for true sorrow for this venial sin that I knew was wrong but that I did not have much sorrow for, and God gave me a deep and true sorrow for that sin. With regard to the second story I realized that not a few hours before I had this great joy given to me, I had written a post of thanksgiving on my blog. I thanked God for my family and some other gifts he had given me. I realized that this gift of very great joy came to me because I had done this. In a way, I had asked for joy in giving thanks. God wants us to give thanks and when we do he gives us great joy that surpasses any natural joy we already had on account of his gifts.
Basically, I wanted to recount these stories because I think they show that if we ask God for things he gives them to us, so long as they are asked in a spirit of humility and out of a desire to be more like Christ. The gifts he is most likely to give us when we ask for them are not the more human things we ask for, although he certainly gives these things as well, but the Divine graces that we ask for as we open our hearts to his Love, his tenderness, his goodness. His is a goodness that defeats sin within us, and with regard to these sorts of gifts, I do not think it is so much us asking him as much as he is begging us to receive them. He is begging us to receive these holy gifts that our hearts might be open to receive the blood and water that flowed forth from his wounded and resurrected heart.