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Spiritual grammar

Fr. Francis Ongkingco
Whatever

 

Fr. Francis OngkingcoA mother came to me saying that she was amused how her son asked her if he could ‘do sorry’ for something wrong he had done.
“I immediately corrected his wrong grammar, Father,” she explained.
“Oh, did you? And what did he say?” I asked.
“But Father told me it!” She mimicked her son’s high-pitched voice.
“And did you come to correct my grammar too?” The mother eyeball-rolled at me.
“No, Father. I came to thank you for sharing with us the correct spiritual grammar!”
“Spiritual grammar?”
“Grammatically it’s wrong, but spiritually it’s the best advice.”
“It’s simply my way of explaining to the kids, so that it will be better engraved in their constantly distracted minds and hearts, that it’s not enough to say sorry. It is more important that they are ready to do something about their faults and sins.”
“That is exactly what I learned from my son, Father.”
“And may I ask how he carried out his do sorry?”
“My son literally made a list of Things-To-Do, and added to this the word ‘sorry’. She giggled.
“And what sort of do’s did he write?”
“Very trivial ones, Father. But the at the very end of the list, being an avid fan of Nike products, he wrote: Just do it! and added For God!”

* * *

I never cease to be surprised at the new lessons children can teach us. They are only ready to do whatever it takes to love Jesus more. What about us adults?

Like this boy, we have to also learn to do sorry. How often have we not fully taken the road of conversion because we were satisfied with simply saying or worse, thinking sorry. Undoubtedly, our guilt and remorse for any wrong-doing is already something: a beginning. But every beginning must have a concrete ending.
Unfortunately, we often do not take our beginnings to their ultimate ending. We often negotiate our defects and faults by telling ourselves that we will say sorry or make it up to the person we have hurt. Perhaps, we have had the courage to say so. But were we satisfied to remain there or have we made the effort – as today’s youth would eagerly say—taken it to the next level? This is where doing sorry happens!

Pope Francis, while giving a retreat, shared one of the occasions where he lacked of generosity towards God and others. As he was rushing out of church to catch his train someone approached asking to go to confession. Understandably, he told the fellow to go inside and wait for the next confessor. But Pope Francis rectified, returned and heard the person’s confession.

The story could have ended here. But afterwards the then auxiliary bishop Bergolio, sought to do his own confession. He felt that he would not be ready to celebrate Mass the next day if he didn’t remove from his conscience that lack of refinement for not having attended to that soul as Jesus wanted him to. This is doing sorry!

May this example prompt us to find many occasions during the day to not only say sorry but to close the spiritual circle of our conversion by doing sorry. Sometimes, this doesn’t require anything extraordinary. It may be as simple as immediately reacting against our laziness, our pride, and our negativities towards others, etc.

Moreover, may we learn from our little boy not only to simply do it but above all to do it for the love of God! Charity is the activating ingredient of everything that we may think, say or do. Without it, our doings will only be hallow acts. They must be informed or charged with charity. Only in this way will each doing sorry be truly a daily crossroad for conversion.

Now love is a unique gift from God which cannot be confused to something plainly emotional or sentimental. Thus, we must ask God for charity to inform everything we do. Let us learn to beg God for the grace to love and repair where we have not loved. Here is another story from Pope Francis that would help us to do sorry by asking God for the love and strength to carry it out.

After serving the Bergolios for many years, their Sicilian helper appeared one day in the seminary where Cardinal Bergolio was working. “Bergolio was extremely busy and gave the message for her to come back the next day. She never did. A few weeks later, he began to feel intense remorse, and pray for her. For over twenty-five years the guilt never went away, until a chance meeting of one of his priests with the woman’s son, a taxi driver, allowed him to track her down. (A. Ivereigh, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope)”

Pope Francis, after their reunion gratefully admitted, “It’s amazing how you do things without realizing, and then the Lord gets you to realize. I had the chance, eventually, after so many years of prayer, to put that right. (Ibid.)”

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