"It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering ourselves," are the great challenging words of St. Theresa of Avila. This is not easy. It is downright scary "to delve into the depths of who we are," for this journey we "need reckless courage"( Yeats). Today there is more and more written about the challenge of that inner journey. This journey into our innate poverty, and absolute powerlessness, which is the opposite of today's popular gospel of prosperity. The journey into what it means to be human is a hard and difficult one. On this journey, we will become afraid, disheartened, discouraged, and depressed. All these things must be encountered, embraced, and brought to prayer. No pious words will get us through this our dark night, or desert experience. It will be prayer from our agonizing gut that will see us through to transformation. We will slowly, and reluctantly grow in the acceptance that this is the only journey worth taking. Without this journey, we will never discover who we really are as authentic human beings. We will be led to embrace the harsh reality that we are, and ever will be perfectly imperfect. We will be led to our absolute dependence on grace. Through this our own personal hell, we will discover the source of our serenity, real happiness and true freedom. Without plunging the depths of our nothingness and powerlessness, we will never discover The Treasures hidden deep within, each and every one of us. There are no exceptions. We are all called to "trudge the road."
This is not a short one moment, one day or one year trip. It is our life long journey, and so, to use the words of Neil Diamond, this journey into the true and real self," is the longest journey of all." We must not give into fear, or worry about what is ahead of us. We do not make this journey on our own, or by ourselves. From all we have been exposed to over these many months, we know we are following in the footsteps of Our Good Shepherd. This Good Shepherd will never leave His flock unattended. He cannot desert or abandon us. It is a physical impossibility. His guaranteed faith-full-ness is ours because of the covenant relationship we have been gifted with by our Gracious God. Covenant love is not earned, deserved, or qualified for. It is our everlasting gift that is not dependent on our goodness but on the infinite goodness and mercy of God." It is not that we love God but He loves us. It is not that we give love but that we accept it." (John) It is hard for some of us to accept a gift so great that we cannot match its value in a return gift. All we can say is "Thank you." I must always remind myself of this fact, when I am in gratitude then I cannot be in resentment.
Resentment is the killer of joy, and all that is offered in this present moment. It makes it so difficult to enjoy the blessings that come with each sacramental now. When I am caught up in resentment, what is being offered to me in this moment is ignored. We will begin to live lives of unease and disquiet. Peace of mind, and the possible serenity we have chosen to reject. Eventually, I will come up with this question, often asked in anger, Where is God? Why do I feel so alone and abandoned. Is there anybody out there that cares for me, or is concerned about me? Yes, there is a God, a Great Spirit of Love, Who forever and always wants to communicate infinite, endless love to each soul, His masterpiece of creation. Each person is reached out to uniquely, and so each relationship with The Great Spirit is unique. We can learn from the spiritual journey of others, but we have to live it uniquely. WE must never allow ourselves to compare our journey with the journey of any one else. All we can do is reverence the mystery that is their journey, as we grow in reverence of the mystery into which we are being led into. God, Great Spirit, The Ineffable, Who is The Mystery, is ever and always present in the mystery of the right now. The Great Mystery is always being revealed in "the right now." The fullness of His love is being offered to you and me, right now. We are being brought into an ever deepening relationship through the love Spirit that has been poured into our hearts, right. Our Beloved is ever and always in a creative mode, and that creative Spirit is being creative, right now.
"This Beloved of ours is merciful and good. Besides, He so deeply longs for our love that He keeps calling us to come closer. This voice that is so sweet that the poor soul falls apart in the face of her own inability to instantly do what He asks of her. And as you can see, hearing Him hurts much more than not being able to hear Him...For no, His voice reaches us through words spoken by good people, through listening to spiritual talks, and reading sacred scripture. God calls us in countless ways all the time. Through illness and suffering and through sorrow, He calls us. Through a truth glimpsed in a state of prayer, He calls us. No matter how half hearted such insight may be, God rejoices whenever we learn what He is trying to teach us." St. Theresa of Avila. She later warns us of the following: "the devil frequently fills our thoughts with great schemes, so instead of putting our hands to do what we can do to serve our Lord, we may rest satisfied with wishing to perform impossibilities." So we need to be grounded in the reality of who we are, and where we are at. It is in and through the concreteness of life, our God connects with us and we with God. This extraordinary relationship is grounded in the ordinary. In this encounter the miracle of Grace happens, and we are led ever forward to live our destiny. Our destiny, our vocation, our calling is to be a sacrament, a life giving presence, of a gracious God, Who is awakening in us all that He has called us to be. We(I) need that constant reminder of the challenge. We (I) can and do become complacent. We can get lost in the routine of our daily living, and so the mystery of who we are, and Who we have been called to be is lost to consciousness. We are on automatic pilot, on cruise control. It is necessary to stop and claim, again and again who we are. We have to "name our deaths, and claim our births." So we can be the source of hope for those who will be placed in our lives. This is an endless process, and how often have I wished that this process was not necessary. Of all the books I have read, tapes I have listened to, I have never read or heard of a short cut to transformation. Jesus, to become The Christ, did not have any short cuts. He knew what was before Him. While in His humanity He recoiled from the oncoming agony, He was able to mutter "Not my will, but Your will, will be done." Where He has gone we are to follow right behind. The more we enter the fullness of the totality of the Paschal Mystery, we are being fashioned into the likeness of Him, Whom we have been baptized to be. Deeper and deeper we go not by choice. It is grace Who called us and it is grace Who will free the life of The Risen Christ that lies deep within the depths of our nothingness.
As I started with a quote from St. Theresa so I might as well end with this, one of her most familiar words. "Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks (with) compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, YOU ARE HIS BODY. Christ has no body on earth but yours." So when pain and suffering comes to us with the living of life, God does not intend the agony. In time we will see this is our participation in the sufferings of Jesus The Christ. In this participation, in His suffering, we will come to see and slowly accept, as the necessary purgation is necessary for unity to happen.