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Reading the life of St. Edmund Campion, pictured for a time on the right of this blog under “patrons,” I have come to find many things about the man with which I relate. For one, we both very much love the passage in Scripture wherein Christ states that He has “come to set the world on fire. Oh how I wish it were already ablaze.” This line has always meant a great deal to me if for no other reason than simply that it shows something of the vulnerability of Our Lord. There is regret in these words. Campion also had a penchant for arguing, which I must admit I have as well, to a fault at times. Campion had desired a quiet life of scholarly pursuit, something for which I can only dream.

The similarities between Campion and I do end, though, and they end quickly when I begin to read the mission which he undertook and the brutality of the work of Queen Elizabeth and her men. He was a Jesuit priest determined to return to England and minister to the faithful Catholics who remained under the persecution of the crown. Would I have ever been able to do what he did? It is an impossible question to answer, but it is related to the question of what I am willing to do for Our Lord here and now. Reading Campion and the tortures, the killings, the hangings, the beheadings, etc. it all makes lack of sleep seem a rather puny sacrifice to make.

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There was many years ago a young lady I knew who was rather mad at God. She had fallen in love with a married man. He didn’t leave his wife for her, and so, she reasoned, any God that could let her hope for a love with this man and then take it away was not the kind of God she wanted to hang out with.

On top of it all, she told me, she was the “best little girl He had.” She went to daily Mass, she said her rosaries, she did all that needed to be done, but crap still happened to her, and God can now just stay in His own corner of the universe.

I was reminded of this conversation upon reading this interesting post about confession and the line “So when we mess up, it’s not as if we suddenly *stopped* being worthy of God’s love. We were never worthy in the first place, and he loves us the same anyway.” Many of us look at the spiritual life as we look at our relationships. They are negotiations over desire and obligation, careful balances of freedom and surrender. “I’ve worked all day for the family, I should be able to come home and be left alone,” says a husband. “I’ve made the dinner and cleaned up, do I really have to listen about your day?” says his spouse. We treat people as forensic partners in keeping a constant ledger of love, and we do the same with God.

“I’ve said my prayers; I’ve gone to confession; I’ve done the good deed, now leave me alone Lord. Let me have my way. Couldn’t you just turn your back for a moment, look the other way, and let me have this one little thing all to myself? How much longer do I have to do these little things of Yours before I’m finally free to do what I want?” Freedom is the commodity of the ledger, and we are passionately possessive of it against God and our neighbor.

But the fact is that what we get from God, those wonders of comfort and grace, were never earned. We will never satisfy Him. It was never a matter of us behaving well enough in order to be loved. He just does so, regardless of our failings. We don’t get a pass from interior transformation and surrender, for being His best little thing. The sooner we come to realize that, the sooner our bitterness about life’s pains can be a thing of the past.

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