Feeling Holy Vs. Being Holy


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I remember as a child going to Confession and telling the priest that I never felt anything about my faith. I thought I was doing the right things, generally, but I wasn’t feeling anything, and I thought there was something inherently bad in that.

He told me if I see a guy shivering with cold and I feel bad for him, that doesn’t help at all. What the guy needs is a coat, and it doesn’t make any difference if I feel anything when I give him a coat, the point is to give him a coat!

I think we all like to go around feeling holy, and sometimes we mistake that for actually being holy. I reread my mercy posts the other day and the one that highlighted itself in my head was about mercy heroes, and how easy it is for that warm glow you get when you do something good to turn into halo-polishing. Better to do so darned many good deeds that it’s a yawn-worthy occurrence, something you don’t even think about afterward.

Because when you get right down to it, nothing I do will ever be enough. I cannot lift a homeless person into a secure, productive life on my own steam. I can’t singlehandedly save a family, or even a single person, from the temporal forces that act against them. All I can do is an act of kindness, an act of generosity. It never feels like enough, but maybe that’s okay. Because if I ever felt like I did “enough,” the temptation to give myself the credit might well make me insufferably sanctimonious. The tension keeps me humble.

Today’s daily reading, from 2 Corinthians, was really uplifting that way: a reminder that I can’t see the big picture, anyway, and that someone else is putting the phantom power behind my microphone:

The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

(2 Cor. 9:10, NAB)

Amen and Amen.

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