Jesus: February 2004 Archives

Speaking to a very dear friend yesterday, I was inspired to take one of two paths that seemed to lay before me in Lent. This path wanders down the road of certain classics of a mystical bent. And a good start to this wandering is a small reflection of the first chapter of the first book of Thomas á Kempis's classic The Imitation of Christ. In the first few chapters he is attacking overblown and puffed-up and pretentious knowledge--that is knowledge absent a love of Christ.

In that first chapter we find this reminder for Lent:

"It is better to experience contrition than to be able to define it."

Contrition--" And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil." (Joel 2:13)

Contrition is perhaps the first turning of repentence. Regret what you have done, the time you have wasted putting a space between yourself and the Lord. And more than mere regret, act upon the knowledge of what you have done. Now is the appropriate time, now is the acceptable season--not merely because it is Lent, but because the present is the only moment we have to make any changes. We cannot walk the path alone, but we can be steadfast in our determination to walk it no matter the cost.

The season of Lent is a gift given to remind us of the necessity and value of walking close to God and speaking with Him frequently. Too often we put everything off for this season and we spend forty days in a workout. (Better forty days than none at all.) But what is the point of Lent if you start a good work and at the end of the time let it go? Lent is about changing your life, not merely for forty days but for all of eternity. It is a time to take a step closer to God and to hold your gains against the ebb and flo of the world. Don't take on the discipline of Lent with a grim determination that you'll make it through these forty days and then it will be over. Take on Lent as a joyous garment, as a coat of many colors, a gift from your Father in Heaven. Dance before the Lord in joy and hope, knowing that He wants nothing more (and nothing less) than all that you are and all that your will ever be. He wants your unstinting love, your total gift of self and in return you will get . . .

Everything. Everything. Everything that the creator of all can bestow upon you--all the love in the outstretched arms of His son, all the love of a true Father's heart, all the Love that gave rise to the Holy Spirit. You will become the true temple of the Lord's delight. You will be the palace of celebration and a sign of joy to all the world. You will be a vessel of the light of Salvation and the apple of your Father's eye.

Reach out in Joy to the Father who reaches out in joy to you. Rend your hearts, not your garments, regret the time together you could have had and let that fuel your desire to come ever nearer. Rejoice that the season of invitation is upon us once again and make good use of that season. Rejoice in the God who loves you and let that love lead to a permanent and obvious change in the way you conduct life. Nothing less is an acceptable return for the wonderful gift God gives us every day.

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Q. So who is called to this union with God anyhow?

A. You are.

Q. What do you mean me? That stuff is for the Saints.

A. And by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ you are among them.

Q. Yes, I'm one of the saints but I'm not one of the Saints. I can't do what they did.

A. True, you cannot because you are you and they are who they were. But you can't get around the call to the kingdom. "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads unto salvation." The strait gate and narrow way are Jesus Christ Himself. Contemplation of God is the road to union. Contemplative prayer opens the gate--the way is open to all, but few choose to follow it.

Q. But I can't be a contemplative, I'm too busy.

A. Yes, you can. You need to decide to do so and then lean completely on grace. We are nothing of ourselves, what we do we do through Jesus Christ.

Q. Okay, back to union with God. Why is this so important?

A. Precisely because it is what God has ordained as your destiny. Either in this life or in the next you will be in union or not. And not being in union is like being perpetually unmade and at sixes and sevens with all around you. We call it Hell. Heaven is divine union where the body of Christ functions as a body.

Q. Yes. But isn't union with God something only special people can do?

A. No. It will happen to the faithful who die in God's grace. Some of these lived the life while on Earth. Some will come to live it only after a time of conforming to God's will--a place called purgatory. But all who die in His good grace will get there, one way or another.

Q. Well, I can just wait and let my firends and family pray me out of purgatory.

A. Yes, you could do that. But think of what you are missing now. You could be living in heaven itself while on Earth. You could know how deeply and completely God loves you. You could be the instrument of salvation of thousands of lost souls. You could be the teacher of many who lack any substance whatsoever in thier lives. Union is not a thing to fear and avoid, but a destiny to be pursued relentlessly. "As a deer panteth after running streams, my heart panteth after thee O my God."

Q. Okay. But isn't it a lot of hard work and difficult thinking?

A. Not at all. Is it hard work and difficult thinking to talk to your son or daughter. Is it hard work to meet a friend for coffee and listen to her pour out her heart about her current trials and afflictions? God longs for this from you. He loves you as though you alone were the whole Earth and his desire for you is more fierce than Satan's and more fervent. The difference is that He loves you enough to ask you to come home by your own will. Satan will gladly drag you wherever he'd like you to go.

Q. How do I start?

A. In two words--shut up. Longer, "Be still and know that I am God." And yet more, go to prayer with the expectation that the Lord will communicate as He sees fit, and say it to him, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening." Fifteen minutes a day--ten minutes to start--go and wait upon the word of God. Don't expect miracles--it didn't take a week for you to become so mired in the world as you are, it won't take a week to escape from its trappings.

Q. But how do I know it is working?

A. You don't. But it is. Remain faithful to your meeting time and if nothing else happens, simply offer up the time in love and quiet. At the end of it say a short prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

Q. What if I get distracted?

A. Ah, a question for another time. Right now, don't worry about it. Go and wait. Send out love and love will return.

(By the way--I'm in the same place as a great many in St. Blogs--no further along, and perhaps even trailing a lot of you. What I report here I do not report from the fullness of my own experience--I report it from the depth of the experiences of the saints. So do not be disheartened and above all else do not dare to compare yourself with another--the heart cannot be the lungs, the hand cannot be the feet. Rejoice in what the Lord has granted you and live it to the fullest. Aspire like St. Thérèse to return to God empty handed, having given out and passed back all the graces you have been granted. God will see the lowliness of your estate and rejoice in the love you have shared with all.)

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Jesus category from February 2004.

Jesus: January 2004 is the previous archive.

Jesus: March 2004 is the next archive.

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