Monday, August 19, 2013

At Age Sixty I Began to Know Myself

"At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning. At thirty, I stood firmly on what I had learned. At forty, I had no doubts. At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven. At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of truth. At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired without transgressing what was right." These thoughts taken from the Analects of Confucius by a priest writing for priests served to prompt him to reflect on his own "reception of truth" on reaching his 60th year.

In one of his parishes, he recalls a time when he criticized the members of a parish group--and they all quit, and even their family members were adversely affected by his actions, with one parent forbidding their child to continue being an altar boy. Soon after, the child, though usually very sociable, would avoid the priest, who wondered what could the parent have said to bring about this kind of behavior on the part of the child. What  kind of pastor had he become to deserve this kind of response?

He realized that as a pastor he should be like a father, and at his age he felt it was time to act like a father, with this desire manifesting in more caring thoughts, words and actions. but he soon realized that it was easier said than done. Recently, he used words with the parish president that hurt him deeply. The priest tried to apologize a number of times without success.

He says he doesn't want to make any apologies for his actions. And though he has been praised for his pastoral work, now looking back on his life, he sees how he has become selfish and egotistical. It was never about the rightness of a particular situation, he says, but the way he handled the situation, which was usually in a dictatorial manner, that was the problem. When he was young, this behavior was accepted by the family, but at his age and position, he knew his behavior needed to change. If he didn't change, he knew matters would not return to normal as they did years ago.

When he recalls the words of St. Paul (Cor.13) about love being patient, they hurt to the core of his being. He knows he has a quick temper that often causes a great deal of trouble. He knows that more important than achieving results are the people in his life. But what he now has come to understand more deeply, he says, is that these were only words, having no real impact on how he behaved. The difficult situations he often found himself in were not, he now saw clearly, the result of another person's fault but the result of his own lack of love.

Though it was an embarrassing revelation to have to admit this to himself, he has learned, he says, a great deal by what has happened. He will ask for forgiveness again from those he has hurt, and hopes his resolve to put into practice what he now knows will be equivalent to the hurt he feels.

Confucius said that at the age of sixty one can begin to hear the truth clearly, The priest hopes that he will also, having arrived at the age of sixty himself, hear the truth of any situation, no matter how difficult it may seem, and accept it lovingly. And begin, hopefully, the next phase of Confucius' journey: being able to follow what the heart desires--without transgressing but always doing what is right.

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