One of the things learned at the conference, or perhaps more correctly reinforced at the conference, is that the Carmelite is a prophetic witness to the modern world. We spent a long time talking about what this actually meant, but in sum, we are to bear the message of the Gospel into the world not merely in action, but also in prayer. The Carmelite way is that prayer is always first and prayer informs any action taken. However, prayer is only half formed if it doesn't express its reality in some form of action. So, I offer this reflection. Inspired by the congress and by other factors, it is highly personal, but I also hope that it is provocative enough to help others.
First desire to live a truly sinless life. Only then is it possible to ask the grace of living without offense to God. The reason few of us approach the divine majesty is that very few of us really want to. The price is too high. We would have to abandon common pursuits. We would have to relinquish simple pleasures. There are few great saints who drank or smoked to excess. There are a few portly saints, which may be more a reflection on poor eating habits and bad metabolism than on overeating. But this is all beside the point. We really want to indulge in what we know is forbidden. We simply want to. We want to watch the movies we watch and read the books we read. When we are corrected for it, we look for explanations as to why it isn't wrong. And indeed, so long as we do not seek perfection there is nothing wrong with these lesser goods.
Yet, if we do desire perfection, we need to look to the two earthly human examples of perfection--Jesus and Blessed Mary--and their distant mirrors, the saints. We do not see Jesus sitting about watching television--when He is not preaching or teaching He is praying. Even moments of leisure are purposeful. We are adjured to "consider the lilies" not for the lilies themselves, but for what the lilies have to tell us about the glories of God's reign and the riches of His love.
We are a people who seek to protect our own idleness. We excuse our emptiness with innumerable excuses. The reality is that every moment away from God is a moment away from God. Every second spent in an idle pursuit is a wasted second. Yes, leisure is a valuable time if such leisure is spent in the presence of God. It is a waste (and sometimes a sin) when God is not invited in.
We are not perfect because we choose not to be. We would rather follow our own lead, exercise our own wills, spend time in our own pursuits, and then later try to argue them around to God. Every moment spent with less-than-the-best is a moment stolen from God. . All we have is the present, this moment, this opportunity. All that we have not done is buried in the past. The future is unknown and may not come. So the acceptable time is now, and if more of us chose it, we would have a world far more reflective of the Kingdom of God.
For myself, I know that I have failed time and again to take advantage of Grace. And so I write to remind myself that the first step is a choice--carefully and freely made--to experience God in His fullness right now, to request--no, beg--the grace of delighting myself solely in service to Him through prayer and service to my fellow sojourners. I am tired of darkness, I want to be light for those around me. I want all to rejoice and recognize God in the here and now. I want the grace of perseverance in God's service. I want it enough to make the difficult choice to ask for it and to ask God to help me leave this broken self behind.
From The Imitation of Christ, Book I.1
Thomas á Kempis
HE WHO follows Me, walks not in darkness," says the Lord. By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ.
(Now, will someone kindly bookmark, or otherwise note this and refer me to it on a nearly constant basis? I resemble the grandmother in "A Good Man is Hard to Find"--“She would have been a good woman,
if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” )