Offering souls and bodies in union with Christ

Published 12:09 pm Saturday, July 2, 2022

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

As Christians, for most offenses we commit, the simply required effort is an apology. If we have caused some actual damage, then the apology should be accompanied by, at least, an offer of restitution. Monetary or property losses should be restored. A malicious action should be redressed by some act of charity. In other words, we are called to return the person to their original condition; to be made whole, once again. In our act of contrition, we too are made whole.

Sometimes we get our nose bent out of joint because we were neglected, or treated, in an inconsiderate, or ignoble, manner. Some conflicts are caused by simple differences in personality or temperament. This is where we must make a choice. Either we will decide that what is bothering us is serious enough to mandate a personal talk with the other person, or we will decide to be quiet about it and work through it in prayer.

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There was a farmer, up in the Delta, who owned a tuckered out, worn out, old mule. The mule fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule “braying”, or whatever mules do when they fall into wells. Moreover, after carefully assessing the situation, the miserly farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule, (he now had a tractor,) nor the well (he now had indoor plumbing,) were worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened. He enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery. Initially, the old mule was hysterical! However, as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back…a thought struck the animal. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back…HE SHOULD SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP! This he did blow after blow. Shovel full, after shovel full. “Shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up…shake it off and step up!” he quietly repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or how distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought “panic” and self-piety. He just kept right on SHAKING IT OFF AND STEPPING UP! It was not long before the mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the edge of that well.

Most slights and offenses must be addressed under the rubric of forbearance. As Saint Paul tells the Church in Ephesus, ‘with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.’ At the most practical level, we must simply put up with each other. Feelings of resentment or animosity over slight offenses needn’t keep us from interactions with others; as long as we seek and pray for the right attitude and do the right thing, no matter what how our nature seems to direct us.       

However, we must admit that reconciliation may not be possible. At least, not at that moment. We may have to tolerate more ongoing conflict. We may have to shake the dust off our feet and move on. The goal in our conflicts is, as Jesus said,” is to be as harmless as doves, but as wise as serpents.” The central thought we musthold on too is how we interact with others. This is a vitally important part of our spiritual lives. If our righteousness is to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, we must not merely listen to the words, but we must also take them into our hearts.

As practicing Christians. we offer ourselves, our souls and bodies, in union with Christ, as a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice. The Gospel of Saint Luke reminds us: “First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”