A reflection for the New Year by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB
In 1 Corinthians 2:10, St. Paul says, “Brothers and sisters: The Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.” You know what he doesn’t say? He doesn’t say that the Spirit criticizes; he doesn’t say that the Spirit murmurs. He just says that the Spirit scrutinizes.
What’s the difference? To scrutinize means to examine or inspect closely. You really, really look hard at it. To criticize actually means to indicate the faults of someone or something in a disapproving way. That’s criticizing, and a murmur is a soft, indistinct sound by a person or a group speaking quietly at a distance.
When there’s something in you that starts criticizing everything about yourself, I think you need to turn it off and not listen to it. There’s a time when we can critique ourselves, which means to look and be able to see a balance of good and bad. But criticizing yourself – to speak so negatively – I don’t think that’s what God wants for us.
We need to pay attention to these things because usually what you do to yourself, you will do to others. When you’re really hard on yourself, guess what? You won’t notice when you’re hard on someone else. And you don’t even mean it, but it’s just your way of thinking that’s come out.
Then, in 1 Corinthians 4:5 St. Paul says, “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness, and will manifest the motives of our hearts.” But the more wonderful thing is that he goes on to add, “And then everyone will receive praise from God.” He’s actually anticipating praise! What a way to live! Do you live like that? When we have that way of living, anticipating good, it changes how we hear and see things. Instead of seeing black, we see that the dawn is coming; instead of seeing just the negative, we give the positive the first place.
In your desire to achieve great holiness, it’s in making those little changes. It’s the little things that make a lifetime. Think of that today: the little voice with which you speak to yourself. How is it? Know, however you’re speaking to yourself, everyone else will become aware of it. So don’t judge yourself or others too harshly. You too must know that you have a good intent. You too must know that, deep within you, you really mean well, and so does your neighbor.
Be kind to yourself, and you’ll be kind to others.
Photos from our chapel this Christmas season