I had a good start in school. My home prepared me for the rigors of kindergarten and first grade. I never had to go through “remedial” anything. I never had to play “catch up” in school. I knew a class mate who was not so lucky. He entered our class in college and he could not read! I saw him as hopeless. We were struggling to learn Latin and Greek, and he could not read English. Both our seminary professors were wise. They saw something in him. They encouraged him to stick it out. Remedial reading was all he did his first year. In one year, he caught up enough to finish college. I stood in awe of him.
But we would like to think we do not need remedial anything, especially in our spirituality. We are baptized, we start fresh. No catching up to do. But it is not so. We all start from behind in spirituality. Call it original sin, call it inherent selfishness. We all have it. We are sinners. No one starts clean with God. We have some making up to do. And therefore we need to learn certain words. The words “I am sorry” leap into mind. The words “I will try again” follow quickly.
We cannot approach God on equal terms or think we can bargain with God on equal terms. As far as I know, every spirituality known to man includes some expression like “I am sorry.” Because of who we are, we are into remedial spirituality. Before we can get too far into the journey into God, we have to acknowledge honestly who we are. And that acknowledgement has to be a continuing process. Otherwise, we go nowhere.
We do not go far into God without honesty. We simply stand still. Honesty makes us look at ourselves and see what is there. So welcome to Remedial Spirituality 101. There is no graduation day.
Fr. James O'Leary