On this feast of St. Joseph the worker, I wanted to feature something written by another Joseph, a friend and father whom I admire greatly. He shepherds his growing little flock on the domestic front, and he also helps keep our streets safe in his heroic line of duty. St. Joseph, patron of fathers, workers, and the universal Church, pray for us!
Recently I spoke with my spiritual director about a movement in my heart to discern how I could suffer with and for the Lord, out of love for Him and to increase my love for all mankind. Many great saints have made victims of themselves in order to not only love the Lord, but to Love with Him. To not just love Him but to also love those whom He loves for His and their sake. So I told Fr. John how I desired to suffer greatly and silently for sinners, in order to know the Lord more intimately and to be perfected by it.
Sounds good right?
Well, less than 48 hours later, I found myself running late, on my knees at the bottom of our shoe closet with far too many pairs of shoes inside, It is also filled with other things that don’t belong in it.
I reached in with a single blind hand to inefficiently search for one shoe, and then the other. It is actually a sick game of patience testing because the odds of actually finding two shoes of your choosing in the timeframe allotted for someone running late are worse than those faced by people who play the lottery. For those who like fishing, it can sometimes turn into a sport of shoe catch and release.
As the anger boiled up in me, my son was nearby and he asked a simple question, a legitimate question and he got a rude, distracted, and uninterested answer.
In prayer sometime after that. It struck me how hypocritical I was. I first had spoken in spiritual direction about wanting to love the Lord at any cost, and then the Lord invited me to Love my son and be patient at the bottom of a shoe closet, and I failed.
I had professed a jump in front of a bullet type of love, and the Lord was calling me to a patient, gentle, like the dewfall, type of sacrifice and love.
Like Peter, I professed that I loved the Lord heroically and that I would die for Him, but I denied even knowing Him at the bottom of that shoe closet, I denied letting His love convert me by the way I communicated with my son.
So what did I do? I stepped into the domestic confessional and asked forgiveness of my son like we all find need to do.
I have learned learned that especially in domestic family life, God gives us countless little and gentle opportunities of grace and conversion. Barely even recognizable, like the dew fall, but if we let it, it can saturate us, and keep us alive. We all face great, and significant challenges where God certainly knocks us off a horse or two, but a bulk of God’s invitations to love Him and with Him come like the dew fall.
Now that we have talked my imperfect anger, let’s talk about God’s anger. We speak of God as Father and us as His sons and daughters, for indeed we are. But in describing our relationship with Him in human ways, we can at times attribute fallen human behavior to God. I believe this can become unhealthy with regard to a traditional understanding of anger. We do not face an angry Father, at least not as the world understands anger. Bishop Robert Barron speaks of God’s love as a force for correction, a force that brings us back into right relationship with God.
It is not an un-tempered emotional response of indignation. We, His children in need of conversion, do face an angry Father, but because God is immutable, His love and anger must not just co-exist, but co-exist in harmony.
So God’s anger is at work for our conversion.
My fellow fathers, I wonder if our children will say the same for us? Will they say, “My father’s anger and his love worked for my good, to bring me into and keep me in right relationship.” I hope so.
Since we are not perfect, we will certainly experience both God’s sanctifying love and anger in our lifetimes. One of my favorite passages in the Gospels is when Christ saw, and did something about, the unjust use of the temple that got in the way of the daily conversion he intended for His people by getting in the way of their right worship – their right relationship with Him and His Father.
Since our bodies and souls are temples where right worship should take place, we need to feel the Lord’s anger when we have gone astray.
He seeks to overturn the tables of our worldly affections, correct our empty sacrifice and transform it into right worship.
Let us contemplate the ways the Lord sanctifies us through His unique love language to us.
Let this contemplation lead to conversion, which is right relationship manifested in right worship. Let us begin living right worship today. This action will draw us in line with the perfection of our beginning as well as the life we will live in eternity.
This is an evil time in our country and world. But where sin increases, grace hyper-abounds. Let us beg God to convert us into great saints, our world and our children need it.