In the middle of the Catholic Mass, the priest begins a prayer with four words attributed to our love to God: “right, just, duty and salvation.”
This beginning sentence is often (if not every time) hurried through to get to the next paragraphs. But what about those four powerful words? Four flippantly said words as though what’s being said is, “Nice day today, isn’t it?”
There is nothing “nice” about “right, just, duty, and salvation.” These four words propels us toward something greater and beyond ourselves in the Kingdom of God to come and at the same time connects us to that greater and that beyond in the Kingdom of God right here and now. Can there be a better definition of religion?
It’s opposite is wrong which leaves only one choice. (Who’d choose wrong, unless you’re Walter White?) Right or wrong. There is no middle, no in between or never even a slight mark connecting those two words. In lofty, solid principles, “right” has been clearly defined throughout the ages as well as its been practically adapted to fit the age in which we live. We can think of how many social issues when “right and wrong” collided until the “right” surfaced. Slavery. Women (voting, work, and, pay), Worker’s rights. Gays. What is “right” to our glorious Creator is the question we ask ourselves, in prayer and in action, with each emerging issue.
The blind lady of justice shows us what is just. She’s blind. She’s blinded until all the information is accumulated, assimilated and properly presented to her. Then, only does the blind lady of justice see. She can only see what is before her and presented to her. That’s the blindness of justice until you’re able to see and witness for yourself where “just” lies and where “just” just fails and is lacking. That’s the justice sought out by any religion. (Interesting that it’s a “Lady” of justice, isn’t it?)
Tricky one, duty is. Just do what you’re told to do without reservation? Just obey? The trick of “duty” is to trick yourself into figuring out what your “duty” is tricking you toward. Is it only this or that or is it that some thing that you haven’t considered? Duty in military service is a mandate but in real life, duty is a discernment. We hate the word discernment because that means homework for us. But homework is the personal “duty” for each of us. If you don’t do your own “duty” homework, then someone else will truly and inevitably do it for and to you. And then you’re stuck with their duty for you until you “duty-up” yourself.
Here’s a duty exclusively for the oldsters among us. We got the duties of youth and adulthood pretty well understood and expected but what is your duty during this third stage of your life? (Grandparents can add at least twenty years to their lives these days.) What duty do you need to complete about your past? What duty can you serve this very day and tomorrow until your tomorrows run out?
If you’re just waiting to die then I can assure you that death will happen. If you wish to live to your fullest during this tender, sometimes called “borrowed time,” then what do you do during this sacred time? How many times I’ve heard, “I never thought I’d live this long!” Stop making that silly remark (as if anyone knows how long life will last) and start living the answer. That’s making “borrowed time,” your time.
Salvation is the shortest of my reflection. “Let the chips fall where they may,” said someone about an unknown future. It also applies to our unknown eternal future. I say if the first three are carefully cared for and cared about then the unknown fourth of salvation will easily follow.
The priest may say those four words quickly but within our hearts, please hold them dear, because they are our words offered and given to God as a response to His gift to us: a life that is worthy of life and authentically lived. And only we, with the grace of God, can make at least three of them happen.
Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available at Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,” reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Living Faith’s Mysteries,” reflections on the Christian seasons
of Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Newest books include:
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages,”
Bowling as a metaphor for growing up