Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him, we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
The word endurance is used throughout the New Testament, particularly by St. Paul. It is a differentiating feature of Christians. Jesus forewarned us that “it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set son against father, daughter against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law; a person’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (MT 10:34-36) In our topsy-turvy world, has it ever seemed more evident than now?
There were sayings in the 1970’s like “keep on trucking” and “keep on keeping on”. These spoke to perseverance, which in its true sense is only achieved by our cooperation with God’s grace moment to moment. That takes discernment! I can know God’s presence intellectually but will fool myself if I don’t know Him in my heart. That takes relationship. Mass, adoration and the examen are the pathway to this deeper relationship. Although our access to mass and praying in the presence of Jesus are limited at this time, carving out time for our personal holy hour and examen does remain within our control.
If I were to examen my day at this very moment, how much of it has been consumed by fear? In what ways is fear driving my decisions, emotions, perspective and relationships? How is fear beginning to alter my understanding of my faith?
A relationship based in fear isn’t really a relationship at all. Jesus assures us that God is watching over us: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will/knowledge” (MT 10:29). When all seems lost, “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” I have heard it said colloquially that Faith is the ‘father’ of Hope and Love. The point was that it takes our assent to Faith to start the dominos in motion which then leads us immediately to have Hope for the God in whom we now believe as well as receptivity to the Love that is already awaiting us. When we fall into fear in our present circumstances, reject it and give it to God, God can “father” Hope and Love in us again. We simply must continue to profess our Faith.
Then I need to take the next step: dispose myself for His salvation. This means I must…
* have belief in the revelation and promises of God—of course!
* fear God’s justice, hope in his mercy, trust that God will be merciful to him for Christ’s sake—yup, I’ve got that Divine Mercy chaplet memorized
* begin to love God as the source of all justice—I count on Him for that, but do I love Him for it?
* hate and detest my sins—ouch! Must I? I’m pretty comfy with them.
“The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works. Destroy what you have made, so that God may save what He has made…” (St. Augustine)
Yikes, I only passed half of the test! Fortunately, confessions are becoming available again around the country. Receipt of absolution at confession brings with it justification, “which consists not in the mere remission of sins, but in the sanctification and renewal of the inner man by the voluntary reception of God’s grace and gifts...” I cannot truly discern God’s will without it. In these turbulent times, as the chaff begins to be separated from the wheat, my obedience to God’s will is critical. My disobedience, even in what seems small ways, is life-threatening.
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.” (2Cor 7:1)
To do this, I must have those honest conversations with God that go below the surface of ‘stuff’ I am comfy discussing with Him. It is time to get to the nitty-gritty in my heart. St. Ignatius taught that “There is nothing of which apostolic men have more need than interior recollection.” The examen is a relational prayer, one in which I see the actions of my day from the view of relationship: cooperating with the Holy Spirit, seeing Jesus in others, and being Jesus to others, understanding how God sees others in my life. Most importantly, growing to understand how God sees me.
“…the Lord in his pity for man…left for his care two coins bearing the royal image, entrusted him to the Holy Spirit. Now, through the Spirit, the image and inscription of the Father and the Son have been given to us, and it is our duty to use the coin committed to our charge and make it yield a rich profit for the Lord.”
(St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3, 17. 1-3)
As God reveals to me my true identity in His image, my small role in the harmony of all creation, my impact for good and evil upon the whole body of Christ, the profundity of my Confirmation is revealed. This Divine office of priest, prophet and king given to me by my King Himself, commissioned as a solemn obligation to live out, is mandatory, not optional.
The highest obligation in this office is one of ‘priest’, which for laypeople is intercessory prayer. Let us continue to pray for Pope Francis, our clergy and religious, and the worldwide Church particularly here in the United States of America.
All for the greater Glory of God.
Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in any one’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, hunger; by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2Cor 6:1-10)
Image courtesy of Pixabay.
This post originally appeared on The Face of Grace Project and is used here with permission.