From time to time, I fall into the sin of the contented Pharisee – ‘Lord, I thank thee that I am not as others are… extortioners, unjust, adulterers.’
It is so easy to compare myself favourably with those in public disgrace, or even those whose lifestyle sees them lurch from one moral crisis to another.
What a gift, then, to be reminded of how far I fall short of the perfection to which we are all called.
Practicing Catholic has posted on how she struggles to be a ‘bare-minimum Catholic’. And I read her post and see myself making the same struggle – and falling short time and again. Here is the bare-minimum list Practicing Catholic posted, taken from the Catholic Dictionary by Fr John Hardon SJ:
1. To keep holy the day of the Lord’s Resurrection: to worship God by participating in Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation: to avoid those activities that would hinder renewal of soul and body, e.g., needless work and business activities, unnecessary shopping, etc.
2. To lead a sacramental life: to receive Holy Communion frequently and the Sacrament of Penance regularly.
– minimally, to receive the Sacrament of Penance at least once a year (annual confession is obligatory only if serious sin is involved).
– minimally, to receive Holy Communion at least once a year, between the First Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday.
3. To study Catholic teaching in preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation, to be confirmed, then to continue to study and advance the cause of Christ.
4. To observe the marriage laws of the Church: to give religious training (by example and word) to one’s children; to use parish schools and religious education programs.
5. To strengthen and support the Church: one’s own parish community and parish priests; the worldwide Church and the Holy Father.
6. To do penance, including abstaining from meat and fasting from food on the appointed days.
7. To join in the missionary spirit and apostolate of the Church.
Do I, like the Pharisee in Jesus’s story, observe the letter of these requirements – making just enough effort to qualify? Far too often!
‘And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.’