Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Our Lack of Perfection helps us to be a Catalyst

A professor emeritus mentions in the diocesan bulletin that at times she feels  she is being shunned. At which time she becomes depressed and lost in her world. She considers herself to be like Lazarus, referred to in last Sunday's Gospel, being asked to come our of the tomb she finds herself in. The loneliness she feels may come from only a few words of criticism, but they  fill  her with shame that make her want to hide. Though not wanting to come out of her tomb, at the same time she does want to, and she's troubled by the contradiction.

She has been a teacher of chemistry for over half a century. During this time she has taught many and has come to the realization that the subject of chemistry has a lot to teach us. She has  often used the  insights she has gained from  teaching about chemistry to teach her students about life. Chemistry has taught  her to appreciate the teachings of Jesus at a  deeper level and has also helped her to learn  from her own personal  experiences in life.

She has written a book on the lessons she has learned, particularly the lesson she learned from a chemical reaction known as the "homogeneous catalyst," her meditation for the bulletin.

A catalyst, she explains, is like a matchmaker for it is able to fill up the electrons that are missing with the addition of a new substance. It serves to join  substances and then moves on to repeat the procedure. It is precisely this lack of a catalyst, she says, that enables the catalyst to call substances to itself.

The catalyst can't react with  a substance that lacks nothing, it is only when something is missing that the catalyst can function. This is the reason we should not be ashamed of what we lack, she says, for we can positively  accept what we lack with a different understanding of what is missing.  When we seek to hide we are not looking upon what we lack correctly. It is when we are able to accept ourselves as not perfect and others as also lacking in perfection  that we become closer in our relationships and can help one another.

With this kind of understanding, when we find persons who are not able to overcome a feeling of inferiority  and inadequacy, we can extend our hand in the way Jesus did. To help us focus on this reality it is helpful to bring to mind the well-known Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."


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