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Leave the W(h)ine at the Altar

Howdy, folks! I missed writing to you last week, and I pray that you all had a restful Labor Day (bit of contradiction there, but here we are). As schools have begun to open, the weather has cooled a bit, and the NFL has returned, many of us have appreciated some semblance of fall normalcy. But I have to say, there's been some really disheartening things I've seen as well.

In everyday conversation, in the the media, and especially on social media, I don't know that I've ever seen as much griping as I have of late. This is a tricky subject to talk about, because some might take offense, but I think it's crucial right now. Here's the thing, though: I get it! There's more complaining right now at least in part because there's plenty to complain about!

Even with a healthy dose of fall, there's plenty that we might want to gripe about. The pandemic is still ongoing, many parents are dealing with the ramifications of sending kids back to school, and we're in the throes of another contentious presidential election (...yay...). I get it. I feel it too. The temptation is there to commiserate with friends, vent on social media, and share our discontent with the world.

That's exactly what it is though: a temptation. Make no mistake about it, the devil loves it when you complain. LOVES it. "Complaining about your circumstances is a sin because you don't give God a chance," said an 8-year old when asked about this. I don't have the authority or expertise to declare complaining a sin with any certainty, but that doesn't make it good!

That child hit the nail on the head. We are called to faith and trust in God. This is an admittedly difficult duty, but a duty nonetheless! A short while ago, the Sunday Gospel included the famous "Get behind me, Satan" line. How can we put that into action and get behind the Lord?

I was blessed to hear an excellent homily on this Gospel. In it, the priest posited that we can live this passage by getting out of God's way. By praying that we will not be obstacles to the Lord and then actively avoiding becoming so. When we complain, we are doing just that: getting in God's way.

Not with me yet? Well, I've got someone pretty smart on my side: St. Teresa of Avila. One of her most well known quotations is, "Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which He looks with compassion on this world." Beautiful, moving, and more relevant now than ever.

We are Christ's body now, and we are how he ministers to the world. But how can He do that when we're too busy complaining about the very world He's trying to better through us? You know what this makes me think of? Ratatouille.

Easily one of Pixar's best films, Ratatouille follows a talented rat named Remy who loves to cook. He rises to stardom by hiding under a young chef named Alfredo Linguini's hat and controlling his movements by pulling his hair (it's an animated movie, suspend your disbelief). See how this fits in yet?

In this analogy, we are Alfredo Linguini. Just like the young chef with his rat mastermind, the Lord can't move us where we need to go without our cooperation. While Jesus pulls on our heart rather than our hair, the point remains. Linguini was a kitchen boy with no cooking talent before Remy came along and made him a world-famous chef. If a rat can do that, imagine what the King of the Universe can do.

We handicap God when we spend too much time complaining, and that's what's happening in our world right now. There is no social media post that will end Covid, no watercooler vent session that will heal our nation's divisions, and no amount of complaining that will make virtual learning easy. There just isn't!

As if St. Teresa of Avila, Pixar, and Jesus Himself aren't enough, St. Paul agrees with this, too. Just look at his letter to the Philippians: "Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God." There's not much wiggle room there!

This isn't just me railing against the world; I fall victim to this as well. As I mentioned earlier, the devil loves getting us to complain, and he's darn good at his job. He weaves temptation into every aspect of our lives, and boy is there ever temptation to complain right now. But you know something? God's way better at His job. Don't be the one who gets in the way of Him doing it.

Give Ratatouille a watch and think about what I've said! Maybe you'll find some inspiration (also, it's just a great movie). If you're struggling with complaining, bring that to prayer. Heck, bring your complaints themselves to prayer! You'll get much better results than bringing them to Facebook, that I can promise you.

Get out of God's way, and let Him work good through you. I pray that He will use us all for His glory. May He bless you all.


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