Letters to Jesus (Ego, False-self, and Groundhog Day -13
There have been and will be many varieties of penance we impose upon ourselves as well as penances imposed upon us by others. We do well to remember that the way we handle these is a reflection of the way we love You.Yet there seems to be an all-pervading, unavoidable, primal penance that blankets every one of us – work! This, before any other self or other-imposed penances, reflects the way we love each other and You.
We speak of “work” in many ways: it is the means by which we earn a living; it is physical or mental activity which is taxing; and it can also refer to the doing of something to which we dedicate great amounts of time – even a life. Sometimes we are identified by our work: he is a carpenter, autoworker, teacher, or doctor. We speak of putting a new roof on the garage, or studying for a test, or trimming the hedges as hard work. We also make reference to the fact that scholarship, painting, music, or marriage can be a life’s work. It is in this latter sense that we might also refer to the work of ever drawing closer to You and of bridging the gap of sin that has so separated us from You. It is this gap, this loss chosen by our own free will for which, in the end, work is the primal penance.
To reverse things by willingly accepting and embracing that which is taxing or difficult for the sake of another, or by earning a living by going through years of that daily “grind,” or by dedicating oneself to a particular task – all these and more, are to perform the penance of our destiny.
Yet, there is another aspect to this – one that determines the efficacy of any penance – motivation! If love does not motivate the daily grind, the taxing chore, or the life’s work, we waste again the chance that has been granted us. In the mythology of Eden Your grace is what man lived by. The preternatural Adam and Eve, fresh from the breath of Your love had only to “be” with You in a paradise of innocence. They had only to will to love You to maintain such ecstasy; but, of course, the freedom of will You gave us – so necessary for us to choose You – was, and is, our downfall. As a commentator on Genesis so aptly put it, the story of Adam and Eve is not a story about then, it is a story about now. It is a story about man’s proclivity for falling from grace and of his work to re-obtain it – the ongoing penance of a work necessary to maintain the physical and spiritualposture needed for increasing closeness to You.