Thursday, 9 November 2017

Habit Overcomes Habit

"Habit overcomes habit."
(Thomas 'a Kempis)

This week marked another first for me. No, it wasn't something off the proverbial bucket list like going to the infamous Sturgis biker rally was for me a few years ago. But it was a first nonetheless, in that it I had never experienced anything quite like it before, and most likely something that I may never experience in my lifetime again.

What am I talking about? I am talking about sharing a lunch table with a coworker and friend, as well as four elderly nuns clad in their traditional habits. My only regret is that I didn't think to get a picture until it was too late.

Working for a Catholic-based healthcare organization as I do, though I am not Catholic myself, I have met several nuns (sisters), all of whom, like nurses, have shed their traditional habits/uniforms and begun dressing like everyone else. That's really unfortunate, in my humble opinion. I fear they may have thrown out the proverbial baby with the bath water. I'd long to see nurses once again uniformed in their traditional whites and caps, and I'd love to see nuns in their traditional habits, but I've digressed from what I've intended to say here.

So when four nuns who used to manage one of the healthcare facilities that I now work at were invited to visit their old facility, and came dressed in their traditional habits, I simply had to sit down with them over a meal. As I reflected on this afterwards, a couple things struck me as interesting:
  1. It's perfectly all right to not agree with everyone on matters of the faith. These sisters and I are clearly not on the same page when it comes to understanding our faith walks.
  2. There is nothing like sharing a meal together to at least semi-erase those lines of division and soften the tensions between brothers and sisters of different faith backgrounds.
  3. Jesus ate even with sinners and prostitutes; can we not at least eat with those who call on the same Lord and God, albeit with a little different understanding than ours?
  4. Maybe we are to be pitied more than all men if we think that we, in our little traditions and denominations, have a clearer understanding of the things of God than those in other traditions and denominations. At the very least, do not such attitudes border on arrogance on our part? Hmm, I wonder. 
  5. It seemed clearer than ever throughout the meal that they too were children of our Heavenly Father, and if He has accepted them just as they are, dare I do otherwise?
  6. Maybe that is why Jesus is so often depicted in the Bible at a table, even with a Judas. There were no Judas' at this table, though I personally have walked a less than exemplary Christian walk myself a time or ten. I suppose therein is the lesson: "There is no one righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10). Thankfully that's where grace comes in.
  7. Judgment, if it is to happen, is not our responsibility; loving others, including those who think differently than us, is our responsibility. If we are to be judged, perhaps it will first and foremost be on how well we did (or didn't) love one another, and perhaps especially those who think differently than us. Let's leave it to God to sort out the rest of the puzzle.
I was reminded of the time when we pastored an institutional church years ago. Before going to church, my wife almost always put a pot roast or some other dish in the oven on a timer. Then, if we saw a new comer in the church, we always invited them home with us for a meal. Regardless of where they came from, or whether or not they shared our faith views, they went home at the end of the day feeling like someone cared and that they made new friends. And all of this was before we even had a chance to discern exactly where they stood in the faith.

Yes, there is something about sharing a meal that breaks down walls of mistrust and misunderstanding, and helps us to see others through the eyes of Jesus. The habit-clad nuns I met that day, and had the privilege of sharing lunch with, turned out to be beautiful and wonderful people. My prayer is that God may bless and keep them.

What an awesome day! What an honour to share the table with those beautiful saints! If anyone walked away blessed that day, I'm pretty sure that it was me. Something to think about.

Peace & Blessings, my friends.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons

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