January 2006 - Volume 10, Issue 6

How Am I Doing?

By Rev. Ray Petrucci

Illustration of spiritual standing report card

Edward Koch, a former mayor of New York City, adopted a practice while in office of passing among the inhabitants of the city and inquiring, "How am I doing?" Albeit a risky query, one might consider this straightforward approach to his constituency rather admirable. Raising this inquiry to the highest level, would it not be fascinating to be able to put this question to God. Imagine that every year on the Feast of the Epiphany - a perfect day for revelations - each person would receive a report from an angelic agent regarding his or her spiritual standing. Scripture proclaims that one's eternal reward will be determined by one's conduct in life. The benefit of being provided with an annual assessment of one's journey would be beyond measure. Only a fool would not modify his or her lifestyle in response to the content of that evaluation.

Less whimsical and yet to the same purpose, one can ask that question of oneself. Traditionally, the beginning of a new year invites such self-examination. Since the ecclesiastical 9/11 of the sex abuse scandals, regular and courageous scrutiny of the conscience may be considered mandatory. Clergy and laity alike are called to a greater and more authentic witness to Christ. The purity of the Church as the Body of Christ imbued with the presence of the Holy Spirit continues to sustain the community in the face of these catastrophic events. Confident in the strength and protection of God, all the faithful need to double their efforts daily in making visible the Christ in them. Commitment to this cause is a most fitting remedy to the destructive nature of sin in any of it manifestations.

To be effectual, Mayor Koch sincerely had to be concerned about the responses of the people he surveyed. Church leaders and the faithful require a similar attitude. Overt and decisive action has been taken to check the cancer of sexual abuse within the body of the Church. Sweeping policy changes, educational initiatives, and various corrective measures have had positive effects. There are, however, many who are outraged by some of the actions of the hierarchy regarding the treatment of their fellow clergy who were directly involved with the mishandling of individuals who committed these nefarious acts. To some people, it seemed that certain clerics were rewarded by receiving a prestigious assignment or by being named bishops for other dioceses. Admittedly, I am at a lost to explain these decisions, but I also admit that I am not privy to all of the facts involved in making these determinations. Those who have strong objections or misgivings to these actions ought to protest loudly to the proper authorities and, it is hoped, may be able to look higher and deeper into the mystery of the Church. Obviously and regrettably, if one refused to be a part of anything in which corruption existed, one would never vote, nor work for any company, nor belong to any organization, and, probably, not remain a member of his or her family. What is needed is for good people to strive to become better people and to recognize the power of their goodness and the harm of their sinfulness.

The reality is that no one would want to stand before their critics, or those they have failed, or those that they have hurt in any way. In all probability, one would be terrified to appear naked before the searing flame of God's Truth. It is a tantalizing thought, however, to be able to review a diagnostic scan of one's spiritual life. While proficient in avoiding unpleasant, rawboned facts, human nature possesses a remarkable capacity ultimately to see clearly and to act wisely. Bowing before God's mercy, eventually one comes to an awareness that spiritual growth is attainable. Perfection in meeting every challenge and realizing every goal may elude one, but much can be accomplished.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

- Archbishop Oscar Romero

The devotion of an individual toward the task of living a life in coalition with Jesus Christ is reflected in the awareness of a partnership between the two. This mutual work of living becomes a morning prayer that asks for the abiding presence of Christ's grace upon the thoughts, words, and deeds of the individual. The question: "How am I doing?" becomes stated more accurately: "How are we doing?"