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home : bishop : columns

5/7/2015 9:00:00 AM
BISHOP'S COLUMN
Getting holy
BY BISHOP EDWARD B. SCHARFENBERGER


"Are you feeling better?"

When we visit or call a friend who is recuperating from a bout with the flu or surgery, we naturally care if they are getting better. It matters to us and them. We want them to be well and we are willing to take the time, even at great personal sacrifice, to let them know that and to help them in any way we can.

We pray for them, first of all. We also may, in accordance with our particular skills and talents, cook or go shopping for them, offer to help them get around or just spend time with them.

Recuperation is a process that takes patience on the part of one getting better and those who are genuine friends. Is spiritual recovery any different?

Anyone who has struggled with sinful patterns knows how it takes time and great perseverance to break away from them. Whether it be a bad attitude like judgmentalism over certain persons or groups of persons, an insidious habit (alcohol and other drugs, pornography, consumerism, compulsive web-surfing and so on) or an inappropriate relationship, several steps -- not always in the same order -- must be taken.

At some point, there needs to be an acknowledgement that the sinful pattern is wrong: It is not doing me or anyone else any good. It is harmful and dangerous, even if it does not feel that way all the time.

Going "cold turkey" may not always work. Unlike a physical illness, however, the sin-sick soul may not always have the companionship of a helping friend for support and encouragement in the process of spiritual healing. Why not?

How often have we remembered to pray for -- even at Mass -- our sisters and brothers struggling with the addiction of sinful behaviors or the alienation of morally-impure relationships, let alone spend time with them? Are we even willing to raise or discuss the issue?

I am not talking about telling someone they are wrong and quoting from the Bible or the catechism. While there may be a place for that, denunciation may do little more for the suffering soul than telling a cancer sufferer, "Hey, you're sick!"

Getting holy takes time, patience and sacrifice on the part of everyone on the way. The truth, no doubt, is that each of us struggles with some temptation or vice that needs prayer and the support of friends to overcome. Why abandon one another to "go it alone" on the road to getting holy, when we would not think of letting a sick friend alone until they got better?

It takes courage to take the first step. A good start, however, is to pray to the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that brings tenderness to difficult or strained relationships.

I have heard the Holy Spirit referred to as the "kiss" between the Father and the Son who reveals the God to us not just as a judge, but as "Abba" or "Daddy" -- our Father. The Holy Spirit brings Jesus to us not just as the Savior of the world, but as Our Lord, the friend of sinners.

The Holy Spirit will purify our minds and hearts in those interactions with others that are filled with impure motives or abusive tendencies. He is the master of relationships!

Most of all, the Holy Spirit will pour on us the graces of wisdom and understanding, courage and perseverance -- and a deep desire to seek the total good of the person we love, regardless of the sacrifice demanded of us as a friend or how much we ourselves might have to be willing to change our own behavior. Friends do not lead friends into sin! The true test of friendship is an unwavering commitment to seek the total well-being of the loved one.

God calls all of us to be saints. But saints are usually not born that way or made overnight. Getting holy, like getting healthy, is a process that goes on every day, one decision at a time.

Is there a better way of loving a friend than by accompanying them along the road of getting holy? (Follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishopEd and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)



Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, May 14, 2015
Article comment by: Deacon John Tomandl

"The implication that addictions are sinful practices is problematic - addiction certainly carries with it sinful acts but the addiction process is a disease. If it was a matter of prayer and self-control alone being able to conquer an addiction, humanity would not have needed Christ's redemption. Sorry, bishop, your thoughts about addition are off the mark. I've worked with addiction in hospitals and prisons I've fought (and continue to fight) addiction myself I've prayed with, sat with and watch addicts die -- no bishop, addiction is not a sin, sinful acts are acts of willful disregard for the needs of another -- addicts need medical, spiritual, pyschological and emotional help not recrimination and the advice to pray. Addicts pray everyday, every minute of everyday - addicts need love and caring help not sermons!"



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