punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Friday, September 9, 2011

What We Might Learn From a Dirty Window

It's the 'wash me' etched into its dusty surface, that makes you realize a window is dirty (otherwise it may never strike you that a car needs cleaning save for the most obviously muddy vehicles!).  A dirty window, I therefore submit, can teach us a bit about the importance of repentance.

No, really. Bear with me here, for a moment.

It's the disposition of Christian penitents proclaiming "Wash all of me, Lord!" (after the example of St. Peter at the Last Supper) that reminds the world that it too needs to be clean. Without this very important witness, how else would we ever sense our own 'dirt?'  We probably wouldn't and that's what makes Christianity such a stumbling block for many who don't appreciate the reminder that they sin. And yet, if they would just consider the humble example of a dirty window entreating someone to wash it, they may just change their view of repentance and even the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

What can a dirty 'wash me' window teach us, exactly?  Here's what I got (let me know if you have any further insights!):

All of us need to be clean.  Anyone who goes around assuming their soul is inherently clean without grace is soon to hit an obstacle or just a big dose of reality.  We can live in denial for awhile, until the damage we've done by driving 'blindly' becomes obvious.  Standing in line for confession can be instructive in this: it goes to show that nobody -  not the elderly, not a daily communicant, not even a consecrated nun - is immune to needing to have their consciences cleared.  It is not 'weird' to admit that we've messed up; it's far more strange to presume oneself blemish-free. Man or woman, married or single, rich or poor (but mostly poor in this economy), we all need to wipe the slate clean as often as we can.  I'm thinking confession once a month should be everyone's minimum.  Realistic? What do you think?

Asking to be 'washed,' and acknowledging one's sins humbly is the only true way ask for help.  Many people bemoan their imperfections with pride.  We all do this to some extent.  "I am so bad at doing the laundry," I say as I snigger and switch on the Netflix while the unattended laundry pile stares at me (this isn't a sin, but slothfulness to the detriment of one's family is - and no it's never gotten that bad in my house, in case you were wondering). And that's just a minor example - I've done worse, believe me.

You often hear people pridefully proclaim their flaws like mischievous school children, "Oh I'm such a meanie, that I..." "I'm so lazy that I...."  "I know I shouldn't but I..."  Admitting weaknesses this way doesn't really indicate any repentance; it's just a lot of blasé over the fact that we know we could behave a lot better than we currently are.  Although we may not intend to be prideful about our imperfections, and it may just be part of our humor to do this,  too much of it and we risk eventually dismissing more egregious sins, or occasions for it as not-as-bad after all.  Try paying more attention to this in your life; I'm convinced it's a gateway to more serious lapses of sin under the guise of being harmless chatter or 'socially permissible'  (gossip, cussing, imbibing too much alcohol, etc).  Truly, having a humble and contrite heart that seeks to remedy the negative effects of sin, is the only way to find the help we need.

Christians who go around proclaiming God's cleansing grace are a reminder that the world needs to repent. And, as I've said, it doesn't like to be reminded.  So if you do go around like a jolly dirty window fervently entreating the Lord to, "Wash me in your mercy!" be prepared to find resentful countenances disturbed at your presence.  But keep it up, I say, because, as I've said, everyone needs to be clean, and you may just be the person whose example they remember when it's their turn to seek of forgiveness.

Being washed and seeing yourself as you should be, makes it tougher to ignore newly acquired dirt.  It's a huge grace and blessing not to want to go back to being covered in sin.   It means that we've actually experienced ourselves as clean, as we were meant to be.  Now, over-scrupulosity should be avoided, but, let's face it - it feels good to be clean.  In fact, it's the best feeling in the world when you've discovered that lightheartedness of spirit that comes with following God's law! Ironically this may be one of the reasons people avoid Christianity: because they sense that once they do buy into this whole "saved" thing it will be impossible for them to go back.  But I say that if they only knew the peace (yes, there's difficulty also, but the meaningful kind) that came from purity of heart, they'd run to the nearest confessional in a heartbeat!  (Note: if your confession is going to take longer than fifteen minutes, please make an appointment at the rectory - many a poor mother towing children who grow more antsy the longer she stands in line would appreciate it!)

Here's something that I didn't know about dirty windows: that some guy transforms them into masterpieces.  Who knew?  There's an analogy here regarding how God deals with the sediment of our lives to make a case for His Mercy. In fact, it seems, the dirtier one's window, the more clearly discernible or more intricately beautiful the message!

I know this post is random, but still, if we took half as much care of our souls as our cars (how often do you wash yours?), purity would permeate the world. And then we would really see God in each other.  The next time you need reminding to go get your soul all squeaky clean, I hope you pass a dirty window bearing the humble entreaty "Wash Me!"

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