… and today our brother, Michael, is having surgery. So, first things first…
Strengthen your servant Michael, O God, to do what he has to do and bear what he has to bear; that, accepting your healing gifts through the skill of surgeons and nurses, he may be restored to usefulness in your world with a thankful heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We live in a world in which we can all grow tired and, at times, discouraged. Our lives are turbulent. The politics of the day are frightening. The state of the Church is concerning. We can easily grow tired of the demands made upon our time and, indeed, our attention. I will readily admit that there are times that when I read that I’m to love God with my heart, soul and mind and my neighbor as myself, it just seems like one more demand that I cannot fulfill or an unattainable goal. It is at these times, I have to remind myself what the love of God really means.
You see, I found, some time ago, that love cannot be demanded or commanded. This is the final and ultimate impossibility in the summary of the Law. Love can only be invited by loving. From the beginning, God has loved his creation and has loved us. As God is out of time and above time, his love for us is likewise eternal. While that love is spread over the pages of the Old Testament from the account of the creation through to the prophets, in Christ God has written that love large, most especially on the Cross. Yet, even in this, his love extends beyond time as Christ is the lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world.
In all the demands of life – family, work, study, celebration, sadness and all the rest – we are called to receive and return God’s love; to love him as he loves us; to put his will and the interests of our neighbor ahead of self-will and self-interest, and not to count the cost. Such love is only possible because he is with us.
God is with us. These are comforting words, and they are meant to comfort, but not only to comfort. The Incarnation means more than God coming down and becoming man, as wonderful and as awe-inspiring as this truth might be. We were created for something more and the Incarnation is the ultimate promise and seal of that “something more”. “God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in heavenly places…” Or, more simply, Jesus said, I “will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
The serpent in the garden was even more subtle than we know. He told a lie so close to the truth that it’s not surprising we fell for it. You see, man was indeed created to be “like God”. God created us in his image and likeness. When we turned from him, however, we lost the image, the reflection, the semblance of God, and we could not recover it for ourselves. God himself restored it in Christ. Those who bear the name Christian are called to be like him, to be and to become what God created us to be.
Now comes the big question – “What is our part in all of this?”
Firstly, it is to listen. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote, “We merit the beatific vision by our constancy in listening… As the sense of sight is not yet ready, let us rouse up our hearing; let us exercise it and take in the truth… for the hearing, if it be loving, alert and faithful, will restore the sight”.
Secondly, is to receive. Augustine wrote, “Give what you command, and command what you will.”
Lastly, is simply to say “yes” and “amen” to his Word – to the Word which we hear and receive; and to the Word made flesh.
As believers, the current moment is filled with hope and meaning, no matter what we are encountering, because this current moment is parenthetic. It is parenthetic because we are looking back to the works of God – the birth in Bethlehem, the Gospels, the Church and our own redemption – but we are also looking forward, praying, “Even so, Come Lord Jesus!”, knowing as we pray that we have already been found by the one we seek. Moreover, in the current moment, Christ is with us.
As Thomas Merton wrote, “A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live.”
So, in this turbulent life, may God help us in the seeking; and in the finding; and in the living.