Thursday, October 4, 2007

Sanctify yourself

"....a solemn, unsmiling, sanctimonious old iceberg that looked like he was waiting for a vacancy in the Trinity” (Mark Twain).

Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.
– St. Francis of Assisi

According to St. Francis, sanctifying yourself is the best way to go about sanctifying the world.

However, we've all met folks who think it's their job to sanctify us. As Twain's quote states, it usually not only fails but results in leaving a negative impression on the recipient.

There's this little bit about being a Christian that interferes with the sanctimonious role: which is that the inside job, the spiritual work that we need to do on ourselves, is crucial to the whole thing. Sometimes overzealous people turn their efforts onto those around them and fail to attend to their own spiritual work. The results are harmful to them and to those around them.

Some of the people I've met over the years who have enhanced my faith life the most are those who work hard at sanctifying themselves. I see it in their prayer life, their service work and the way they spend their time and energies. At times I've felt both a sense of joy from being around them, a contagious and positive love for God as well as a realistic acknowledgement of the problems we face down here on earth. These people have been down to earth, able to converse with folks from all walks of life and remain open to listening to others without trying to preach to them. I leave their company feeling enriched with my spiritual thirst feeling quenched.

Are these holy people? I think so. But I guess that's not my place to say. All I know is that they are busy sanctifying themselves and it shows.

On the other hand, being around sanctimonious people drains me. For example, one woman told me that it is clear that Satan is alive and well since I am still disabled. I found myself practically giving her the hex sign (not easy for a quad to do). I couldn't wait to get away from her. Worse yet, she held a Bible in my face and said that if I didn't 'get' what she was saying it's because I hadn't read the Bible. This all took place before I could get a word in edgewise!

Unfortunately, I'm not the only disabled person who is confronted by sanctimonious people who thrust their answers upon us, often without invitation. It always leaves me wondering what they are doing to sanctify themselves - and rolling the other way as fast as I can.

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