Here Is a Good Part of Me
For decades, I stood up in Church, often, and said “I have greatly sinned,” and then went out and sinned again, thinking that I cannot be perfect; I am going to sin; if I just get into purgatory at some point I will be happy with God for all eternity. When I sang “Here I Am Lord,” I meant, “Here is a good part of me, or sometimes even most of me, but not all of me.” And Confession made it all work. So it seemed.
I rewrote Holy Scripture:
“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest suggestion in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Be nice to the Lord your God with some of your heart and with some of your soul and with some of your mind.’ This is the first and greatest suggestion. And the second is like it: ‘Be nice occasionally to your neighbor somewhat as yourself.’ Parts of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two suggestions.” (my new translation of Matthew 22: 34-40).
I also re-translated Luke 6:33:
“And if you do good to those who do good to you, you will get some credit for that, just like the sinners do.”
What changed? How did I go from “here’s about 68% of me for you, God” to trying to give an ideal, for me an un-giveable, 100%? I know you are not supposed to tempt the Lord your God, but I thought of doing a deal with God. For some family and friends I said I would stay in purgatory ‘til the final judgment, i.e. I would become fully purgatized by doing my stint there, and then hang around some more, if this could mean that they would then be with me in heaven, happy with Him. I know all the problems with this “deal,” and I remember Satan tempting the Lord, but I was really fearful for these folks and wanted to do something for their eternal salvation. My less-than-perfect approach to me? I ignored that.
Writing this now it seems ludicrous to describe the whole thing, but this is how it went down. Then it struck me like more than a ton of bricks. Look at the crummy part of the deal God would get – it just might be the case that I was going to be in purgatory all that time anyway, assuming I got there at all. One reason, of many, that it was a raw deal for God was that I was not some saintly person or even a person trying to get it all right here, a person striving to be perfect. I wasn’t even going to try.
I realized that when I said “68%,” or “22%,” or anything less than 100%, I was really saying for this time, Lord, and for these things, I am 100% for me, not You. Zilch for You, all for me. That’s when the crucifix, especially at Mass, intruded on my personal theology of purgatorial perfection.
Jesus did not say I will walk through eight of the fourteen Stations of the Cross. He did not choose to let them whip Him with only two strokes of the lash or allow them to nail in only one nail. He did not say He would hang on the Cross for twenty minutes and then take a break. His was the ultimate “all.” He did not give me a few days or weeks, an arm or a leg. He laid down His whole body, His whole life, of His own free will, for me. All of it.
All Of It
Finally, what I had read and heard from Scripture so many times began to have an impact. I saw that “Be you perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Mt 5:48) did make sense if I only tried this, knowing I cannot do it, and I certainly cannot do it alone. Jesus has told us in His parables to live to give Him “all;” spend all on the field with the treasure; spend all to get the perfect pearl; sell all you have to follow him. This is the idea of giving-of self in the song “All ‘Er Nothing” from the musical Oklahoma:
“With me it’s all er nuthin’.
Is it all er nuthin’ with you?
It cain’t be “in between”
It cain’t be “now and then”
No half and half romance will do!”
If I give God 68%, He cannot supply the remaining 32% – no matter what some current-day “mercy heretics” may say. Because this Divine Romantic loves us so much, in love, making us in His image, He gave us free will, a gift. It is with this gift that we have to love Him and want Him, 100%.