I am a lazy and weak willed man, an arrogant and prideful man, a gluttonous and lustful man. I tend too far towards comfort, feed and indulge in my desires and seek too much the affirmations of others. I tire quickly of good works and all too often fail to do what is just. I am judgmental, assume the worst of others and am inclined to gossip. I seek to be right, more than to be kind. I strive to be in control and to have things my way and am inflexible to the needs and desires of others; I think of myself first. I am skilled in apathy and quickly turn my eyes away from those in need. When stressed or bored I turn limply to the comforts of sexuality misused. I can say with great confidence that I have a mind and a tongue over which I have kept no good watch. In summary, I am a sinner and a woeful one at that*. Why am I writing all this? Well, we’ll get there.
When I was in primary school, I struggled. I had a learning disability that wasn’t identified until much later and while others were getting their heads around multiplication and grammar, I struggled with addition and spelling my own name (admittedly, circumstances were against me on that one). My first school wasn’t very good at dealing with me, my teachers eventually gave up and I quickly accepted that I was dumb and decided that I didn’t like school. When I arrived at the Marist primary school in year four, things began to change. Even before they started investigating and understanding my learning difficulties, they treated me differently. They didn’t give up on me, they didn’t expect less of me and ultimately they didn’t accept me as I was. With a lot of effort from the school and my parents I started to turn around, my grades went up and I could read and write acceptably by the end of year six.
Today many in the world say that the Church should accept people as they are, and to me that sounds a lot like what my teachers did at my first school. I am a sinner, but even of one such as myself, I do not think that so terrible a judgement should be made. To say that I should be accepted as I am is to say that I should be abandoned to my own devices. In saying such a thing, you condemn me and judge me incapable or unworthy of striving for holiness.
This more tolerant church some hold up as the ideal, looks at me and shrugs its shoulders, offering nothing and expecting less. Like my teachers, this church would accept me as I am, forgetting what I might be capable of and failing to see what is preventing my growth. Blinded by false mercy this church would leave me wallowing in my sins and when I beg for life giving bread would give only soft words, dead as stones (Matthew 7:9). This church does nothing to aid me and raises no hand to free me from my afflictions. It says “Go in peace, be warmed and filled” (James 2:16) but withholds the truth which brings freedom, the love which warms, and the eternal food I yearn for.
This is not mercy, this is not love, this is not our Holy Mother Church, and this is not Christ who is her eternal groom. No, hers is not to despair of nor give up on her children. Like my teachers at Marist in refusing to accept me as I arrived and expecting more, the Church looks at me amid my sins and fragilities and wants more for me. She is true to her motherhood and as such cannot accept me as I am, she does not define me by my disordered inclinations nor sins. Instead she knows I am worth more and knows that in Christ I am capable of more. This is the Church’s great task, not merely to offer kind words but to guide and to carry my poor soul to heaven’s shore.
When I stumble and fall, let your Church lift me up.
When I cannot continue on the way, let her carry me under her wing.
When I fear I am unworthy, unable, let her show me what you see.
When am dirtied and far from you, let her bend down to clean me.
When your name is far from my lips, let her remind me of your love.
Oh by her break the chains of my iniquity, reorder my affections,
cast off all that binds me to death and lead me home to you.
And may I, by your grace and with all your Holy Church,
do so for my sisters and brothers.
* It is important to note that I have no hatred for myself. My weaknesses are many but it is in them that I have my joy, for it is by them that I am able to boast of the Cross of Christ as my one and saving grace, it is my sins that bring me to trust alone in Jesus and not any meager merit of my own. O happy fault that earns for us so great, so glorious a Savior!
Llywellyn is a Canberra boy, he was baptised as an Anglican, blessed by a Buddhist and raised nothing in particular; brought into the Church only for a better chance at getting into Marist College Canberra. It was here through the Brothers, teachers and His Mother that Jesus made His move. Llywellyn was swept off his feet and even through struggles with his sin, pride and weakness he fell more deeply in love with Christ and His Church day by day. He is currently a youth and hospital minister, co-ordinator of Young Marists Canberra and a student.