Yesterday, Tuesday April 18th was the tax filing deadline, so here’s a story about paying taxes. When my nephew was young, I would take him to an ice cream parlor and buy him his favorite ice cream, and then I would quickly eat several spoonsful of it.
You see, the best way to teach children about taxes is by eating 30% of their ice cream. The look on his face manifested a plethora of emotions: from confusion to shock to anger and to sadness. It’s a natural response to a perceived injustice. Why just “perceived”? Because he didn’t pay for the ice cream.
I can’t help but think that’s how we may view the religious life when we’re asked to do something that we’d rather not, like an assignment that’s not to our liking. But didn’t we all enter here freely, and vowed ourselves to this life? So where’s the injustice?
When I entered the Abbey twenty years ago, I was undisciplined, unmotivated, unfocused…some of you may ask: So what’s changed?
I have a sign in my room, it says: Work in Progress
So here are three things that get me to put on my hard hat every morning:
The piece of paper in the back of the church with the schedule on it, you can view that as the IRS, being unreasonable and demanding, or you can see it as God’s way of saving you from your undisciplined self.
Being punctual builds and reveals your discipline.
I love discipline precisely because I lack it.
The maxim: “Always late, but worth the wait” shows that tardiness and an overestimation of one’s worth sometimes go hand in hand.
Being punctual shows your humility.
#2 Keep Busy
Loitering is the act of remaining in a particular public place for a protracted time without any apparent purpose. So keep busy.
Ask yourself the question: If I weren’t at the Abbey at this moment following the horarium, what would I being doing that would be better? The best remedy for melancholy or self-pity, the Octave blues, is Don’t Be Idle. Do good for others, anything to take the focus off yourself. In times of leisure: go for a long jog. Sweat today, smile tomorrow.
Lastly, one characteristic of the wise man stated over and over throughout Proverbs is this:
The wise man is humble enough to learn from everything and everyone.
So Rule #3 Never take anything personally, unless it’s a compliment (but even then, do it with great caution).
If you’ve lived community life or just life, you will find that conflict is inevitable but combat is optional. You don’t have to fight every battle. Especially since I’m at fault 75% of the time anyway.
So the next time someone takes your ice cream, figuratively speaking, just ask yourself the question:
“Is this the Hill I want to die on?” No.
Confreres, we’ve all vowed ourselves to a conversion of our ways, so the battle is always with the Old Adam that was first put to death at the font of our baptism; may we be disciplined, motivated and focused in waging this war until our Savior calls us from this life.