Recently I read an article that explained the difference between transactional and interactional encounters. I’d never considered it before, but the article made me realize most of my interactions are transactional: “I need this, please give it to me.” This is efficient, but not particularly friendly. In fact, most people prefer interactional encounters, which builds relationships: a sincere “How are you doing?” before “This is what I need, can you help me?”
I myself prefer interactional encounters, though I’m not very good at initiating them because I tend to be so focused on meeting my objective. It’s bad enough that I don’t work at building relationships with the people I meet, but last night I realized I’m also trying to be transactional with God.
My prayer last night was that, although I had an idea for this column that you’re reading, it wasn’t coming together. I wanted to talk about something that happened on Sunday, when a couple of us were talking after Mass and I mentioned a quote by one of the popes. I knew it wasn’t Francis or Benedict or John Paul II who had said it, but I wasn’t sure which of their predecessors to attribute it to. I also didn’t have the exact words, so it took me about 15 minutes of googling to find the quote, said by John XXIII. Various sources have slightly different wordings, but the prayer goes something like this: “Well, I did my best in your service today, Lord. I’m going to bed. It’s your Church. Take care of it.”
I wanted to share this quote in this column because I like first of all the humor, but also the humility. Here’s the pope – one of the most powerful men in the world at the time as well as the duly elected Vicar of Christ – tacitly acknowledging that despite his best efforts he hadn’t done perfectly that day.
John XXIII (1958-1963) was known as The Good Pope because of his pastoral approach. His humility shines through his writings, such as this journal entry from Aug. 15, 1961: “‘Vicar of Christ?’ Ah, I am not worthy of this name, I, the humble child of Battista and Marianna Roncalli, two good Christians to be sure, but so modest and humble! Yet that is what I must be; the Vicar of Christ. ‘Priest and victim’; the priesthood fills me with joy, but the sacrifice implied in the priesthood makes me tremble. Blessed Jesus, God and man! I renew the consecration of myself to you, for life, for death, for eternity.”
The problem I was having with writing this column was that although I had the idea of sharing the quote, I didn’t have the necessary structure for the final product: no introduction, only a single idea for the body, and no conclusion. So as I headed for bed last night, I prayed, “Lord, I did my best today to write the column that’s due tomorrow. I have to get some sleep so I can get the paper out by deadline, so I need you to give me the rest of the column before I get to the office. Thanks. Amen.”
I’d like to say I was ashamed by the arrogance of treating God like a business owner with whom I as a customer was having a transaction, but that perspective never occurred to me until this morning when I sat down to finish this column and realized he’d given me exactly what I’d asked for.
So now I sit in humility, with The Good Pope as my model, and first of all give thanks that God answered my prayer. I also beg forgiveness for my presumption in demanding rather than asking with a humble and contrite heart for what I need, acknowledging that I am not worthy of his grace but also in the firm knowledge that he is a father with boundless generosity, a father who delights in giving gifts, a father who welcomes with open arms the penitent wayward child seeking to return to the fold.
Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic. Reach her at email@example.com.
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