Scripture supposes that every human being is created with a unrepeatable, deep, interior shape. Rather than having to fight to do my own will, I need to allow the Spirit of God to find a home within the space that is me. . . .God’s love becomes us. It will help us find ourselves as what we really are deep down: givers of food, helpers to the homeless, forgiving and loving members of society. — John Foley, SJ
One Sunday morning at a small southern church, the new pastor called on one of his older deacons to lead in the opening prayer. The deacon stood up, bowed his head and said,"Lord, I hate buttermilk."
The pastor opened one eye and wondered where this was going. The deacon continued, "Lord, I hate lard." Now the pastor was totally perplexed. The deacon continued, "Lord, I ain't too crazy about plain flour. But after you mix 'em all together and bake 'em in a hot oven, I just love biscuits."
"Lord help us to realize when life gets hard, when things come up that we don't like, whenever we don't understand what You are doing, that we need to wait and see what You are making. After you get through mixing and baking, it'll probably be something even better than biscuits. — Internet Lore
Each of us is in a constant process of revealing our selves, even if we are not aware of it or really sure of the self we are revealing. — Larry Gillick, SJ
Larry Gillick once proposed a rewrite of the Holy Mass: At the end of it, he mused, the priest would go to the back door and rather large people would take position at all doors lest anyone escape. Then the priest would proclaim: “The Mass has not ended!” As the people turned to see if the priest has lost his worship book or his mind, said priest would then calmly say that nobody would be leaving without their publicly declaring how they are going to spice up and light up their parts of the world. Then the priest will also profess how God’s light is going to shine through the priest’s deeds. Only then would the final Blessing and the Dismissal: “Go in peace and Live the Eucharist,” be given.
It’s a thought I suppose, but I do not think I have the bouncers to make it work.
Spiritual wisdom is a complicated thing. It probably is alike to living the Beatitudes and not even doing so consciously but from within. If the lives of the Saints are an example, then those most spiritually mature are also those who continuously wonder if the Lord is actually being served by them in their living, wonder whether what they do actually matters, wonder if heaven actually listens when they pray. All of them write of their doubts and fears now and again, much more than about their ecstatic visions or experiences, yet they seem somehow obnoxiously certain that they need to carry on in the mission that they embarked on — sometimes years prior — even if they do not see the “why” and even if the best of their friends and superiors try to dissuade them from their persistence.
We admire them not for their grandeur but for their humility, their poverty even. We admire them because they were peculiar people who did simple things all of us could do as well but do not and they did them with an air that we fail to be able to put into words.
St. Paul is one of those. What does he bring to his job of evangelist? Weakness and brokenness and a message that God’s Messiah was crucified — and perhaps one of the best trained pharisaical minds in his generation that he refuses to be proud of because it caused him to persecute the Lord and his church. You either somehow grasp on to his message of Christ and him crucified or you do not. If you grasp it, it will have effects on your living.
But it is too easy to turn to the saints or to Paul, or, God forbid it, to Jesus, and measure ourselves by what we do and how we do it. We are not the sum of our accomplishments. The simple evangelism strategy of Paul seems to have been not to talk about Christ’s accomplishments. He — so is his own witness — wanted to talk about Christ and Him crucified. (1 For 2:2)
Neither does Paul think that any of us are judged by the totality or even short term peculiarity of our accomplishments. (1 Cor 2:15) “Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny,” goes 1 Corinthians 2:15.
We might need to remember that Paul is defending his time with the Corinthians here. The danger here, and in the Sermon on the Mount, is that it will be turned into a checklist type thing: “Yes, I truly understand, therefore I have the Spirit.” Paul also once “truly understood” and ended up killing Phillip in all his understanding.
Br. Lawrence of the Resurrection was a simple monk. His greatest physical accomplishments on earth after joining the brothers of the Discalced Carmelite order was to wash the dishes in the monastery. His conversion was not a glorious vision but rather a careful reading of a very earthly parable: A tree in late winter. It seemed dead to Lawrence. Dead as he felt himself to be. But God, he realized, had Life waiting for that tree and due seasons of God would bring life all its own. The tree waited patiently and did what it was meant to do. Why not Lawrence? God’s love burned for that tree. Why not for Lawrence? God would not abandon it to winter forever. Why would Lawrence have less? God gave the tree a simple and humble job. And Lawrence?
People eventually seek him out after someone notices that the dishwasher at the monastery seemed to be the most holy man there. One went there to wash dishes and peel potatoes with him as his advice was too simple to comprehend. He seemed embarrassed to share it and writes reluctantly, abruptly ending correspondence when he senses that his the other is seeking wisdom and not obedience, but consented to a few interviews (“The Practice of the Presence of God" is the Result of these) and he does write a few letters.
"Men invent means and methods of coming at God's love, they learn rules and set up devices to remind them of that love, and it seems like a world of trouble to bring oneself into the consciousness of God's presence. Yet it might be so simple. Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?”
For Lawrence, every place became the Heart of God. In every place you are either the love, the salt, of God or you are not. In every place you are, you are the mercy, the light, of God or you are not. The good news is that you are salt and light at God’s direction, in God’s season, at God’s will, not at your own.
What would be his advice to us all? Surrender to the ever-present, loving presence of God. It will be difficult and it will take a lifetime.
He is not a “Saint.” Washing dishes and “defriending” correspondence partners are not miracles that count toward canonization. Yet, he might be the saintly sage for the age of us. Many things need doing.
Great and important things are afoot. People are being done wrong, desecration everywhere, “What will you do? What will you do?”
“Here where I stand, I will conduct my life as if God was in the room, because that is actually true”
It is hard to build a theocracy out of that conviction, equally hard to organize a rally on the state house steps. But it is a life lived to God. Let God then, with the lives surrendered to heaven’s purpose, do as grace seems fit.