|Mary has requested that the daily message be given each day to the
world. It is read nightly at the prayer service from her Image Building in Clearwater,
Florida, U.S.A. This is according to her request. All attempts will be made to publish
this daily message to the world at 11 p.m. Eastern time, U.S.A.
We acknowledge that the final authority regarding these messages
May 29th Holy Spirit Novena
Scripture selection is Day 7 Period I.
The Novena Rosary Mystery
for May 29th is Sorrowful.
A Prayer for Intimacy with the Lamb
the Bridegroom of the soul
Oh Lamb of God, Who take away the sins of the world, come and act on my soul most intimately. I surrender myself, as I ask for the grace to let go, to just be as I exist in You and You act most intimately on my soul. You are the Initiator. I am the soul waiting Your favors as You act in me. I love You. I adore You. I worship You. Come and possess my soul with Your Divine Grace, as I experience You most intimately.
Rita Ring will be in
Clearwater, Florida for the
special prayer service
at 6:20 on June 5, 2003.
It will be broadcast
on the internet.
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May 28, 2003
Messenger: Dear God
Give me your grace and let me lavishly bathe
in your love.
I love you so much my God.
I give my life to you.
All that happened yesterday and
All that will happen today and
All that will happen tomorrow
You are my all
I am in tears because I love you so much.
Oh the fields are green, some golden with a little
yellow flower of spring, the skies are blue and
sunny and we say: Oh God gives us the
fresh air and this glorious day.
Every day is a day to Praise the Lord, to thank Him
for His benefits, to love Him so deeply,
to spread His love
Oh lights of heaven, Oh precious God adorned in such glory.
Shine your light on this world
That they will know
A flower created by God is so beautiful
See the precision of the fish that swim in the sea
So different and so precisely swimming in such beauty.
Oh our God is so good to us
He made our fingers and our toes.
I can pinch and move my thumb to do so much.
So good He is indeed to me and to you.
A bird flies over and we look above
Such precision in how he flies
So smooth, so beautiful
How great our God has made
our body to move as it does
but it is in the heart that we love.
Our bodies get old,
Our limbs injured
What we think and love with
we do not touch
Oh how great is the spiritual life
within the soul.
I am one with the Divine God.
He loves me
God is good.
Little flowers, little babies fingers and toes,
birds that fly and fish that swim.
God gives us Himself in the Eucharist
God gives us the sun and the moon and the stars
God gives us the green grass.
God gives us each other to live.
Some say I want to do it myself
God says walk hand-in-hand.
I give you each other to love,
according to God's will.
May 28, 2003
Messenger: My dear Jesus,
do not know how our actions
We are not here alone.
I love a part in Fr. Carter's book
Response to God's Love where Fr. Carter
tells us that God intended us to walk
Fr. Carter really led the Movement and the
world through his writings into this
loving interaction in relating to others.
Fr. Carter always hugged the servants
and handmaids and apostles as
I believe Jesus would have
treated them with such genuine
He was our spiritual father.
One cannot help reading his books from
early on and seeing how God
wrote through him for the world.
Now he is no longer here but Jesus
uses his writings so he can act
like a spiritual father to us
all here today.
May 28, 2003 message continues
Fr. Carter used this book
Response to God's Love for his
text book for about 17 years at XU.
Before that he used his other books,
I believe Response in Christ and
Everyday and its Possibilities.
He wrote 18 books on the spiritual
His bookcase has mostly books on
learning how to love God and others
besides regular Priestly Catholic
publications and Jesuit publications.
He liked his Jesuit brothers writings
and he used them.
But he was so widely knowledgeable of
the theological publications,
documents of the Church (encyclicals
etc) and other writings of
saints — that is what he used
in the Priestly Newsletter having
a firm footing in the scriptures,
the Word of God.
He very clearly stated Jesus told him
exactly how to write the Priestly Newsletter.
Fr. Carter was well read.
He told me "God loved the world He created"
In Response to God's Love —
Fr. Carter dedicates a chapter to becoming,
the world, the Church, the individual
Christian is in the state of becoming.
Here are the first 4 Chapters of his book
Response to God's Love.
Oh Heavenly saints how dearly we love you —
Fr. Carter told me how much he loved
the saints and prayed to them many
times a day asking them to
intercede for him, but he told me
of his deep love for them.
He said God loves them so much and
he wants us to love them and many
times God will only grant a favor
when we pray through the intercession
of a particular saint because God
may want us to pray through that saint
and have a loving relationship with
St. Margaret Mary
May 28, 2003 message continues
Here is a very important writing from
a part of Fr. Carter's writing on grace.
Excerpt from Response in Christ
Relationship with Members of the Churchend of excerpt from Response In Christ
e) Relationship with Members of the Church
There is but one true Church of Christ. Yet this one Church has three different states of existence. There is the pilgrim Church, the Church of this world, composed of members who have received the grace of Christ and strive for its development. They have not yet obtained the goal of their efforts, as have the members of the heavenly Church, who enjoy God in eternal happiness. The Church suffering is an intermediate state of existence necessary for those who had not achieved the required purification as members of the pilgrim Church. Although there are these three phases of the Church’s existence, there is a profound union existing between all the members. All these members possess the same basic life of grace in Christ, and this common life establishes the most intimate bonds of love. In our preceding chapter, we discussed the pilgrim Church. Let us now consider the Church suffering and the heavenly Church.
The members of the Church suffering are those who have departed from this life in an incomplete state of Christian development. Their development is incomplete in the sense that grace has not fully taken possession of them, and, as a result, they are yet closed in upon themselves to a greater or lesser degree. They as yet cannot open themselves out in complete love to the Triune God in the beatific vision. They must undergo a further purification, a purification which could have been achieved upon earth with merit. Now the purification must be achieved with no merit attached. The pain of this purification is mixed with the certain expectation of achieving the vision of God. We can hasten the advent of this vision for this people by the offering of prayers and other good works. Scripture itself refers to our action on behalf of those in purgatory in Chapter 12 of the Second Book of Maccabees beginning with verse 38.
The members of the heavenly Church are those in whom the life of grace has taken full possession and has reached its completion in the life of glory. Faith now is unnecessary, as the light of glory gives the human intellect a new strength and capacity for seeing God face-to-face. While the Christian was a wayfarer, he received the imprint of the indwelling Trinity as he shared in God’s own life. Now in heaven that grace-life and possession of God reaches its completion—the absolute completion is not achieved, however, until the resurrection of the body. The divine persons give Themselves to the beatified in a profound union far surpassing that of the indwelling of the Trinity experienced here below.
This life of heaven is still the Christ-life, for just as we possess a share in Trinitarian life here below as mediated by Christ, and exercise this grace-life as structured by Him, so also in heaven is the mediation of Christ present. In the words of Rahner, "One always sees the Father through Jesus. Just as immediately as this, for the directness of the vision of God is not a denial of the mediatorship of Christ as man."14 And not only does the humanity of Christ unite the blessed to God, but also, in some way, to the whole of creation. This is merely a completion of what is begun here below, namely, the union with Christ in His humanity establishing the Christian in a special relationship with God, with other men, and with the whole of creation. We have a glimpse, therefore, of the fullness of life which members of the heavenly Church possess.
The heavenly Church, as St. Thomas says, is the true Church.15 The Church of this earth and the Church of purgatory are, each in its own way, reaching out in loving hope for the heavenly Jerusalem. Vatican II puts it very simply: "The Church, to which we are called in Christ Jesus, and in which we acquire sanctity through the grace of God, will attain her full perfection only in the glory of heaven."16
The members of the heavenly Church can help us in living our life of grace until we too share its fullness with them. Their power of intercession on our behalf is but another ramification of the communal aspect of Christianity. We are meant to help others grow in Christ. We, in turn, are intended by God to receive aid from others—yes, from members of the heavenly Church, as well as from those with whom we dwell here below.
Not only can we be aided by the saints’ intercession, but the example of the canonized saints can also be of great value to us. They have concretely proved that full holiness is possible. Such an inspiration is of real worth when we are tempted to think that Christian sanctity in its higher degrees is impossible of attainment. Moreover, the canonized saints, in their diversity, teach us that there are many authentic versions of Christian holiness. They can be innovators in showing us that there are numerous possibilities in assimilating the mystery of Christ, although the basic assimilation remains the same for all Christians of all times. In the opinion of Rahner this is one of the chief roles the canonized saints exert in the life of the Church.17
NOTES:16. Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Church, No. 48.
17. Cf. Karl Rahner, Op. cit., pp. 100-101.
May 28, 2003 message continues
I see heaven and the saints and angels and
all the souls of the earth and I
am so deeply united to God the
Father, Son and Holy Spirit and Mary and
all souls in heaven and on earth —
I am so deeply united to the Mass
going on around the world all day and
all souls in heaven and on earth and in
I am so one with God and I feel I know
all the saints and angels in heaven
in this deep union in my heart and
all the souls of the earth and
the souls in purgatory.
To me we are so deeply united in God.
How can we not love our brothers —
the creation of God the Father —
we may not like their actions —
but we love them.
Matthew 22: 36-40
‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets too.’
by Edward J. Carter, S.J.
Etymologically, the word mystery basically means that which is secret or hidden. It was used in a religiously technical sense even before Christianity. Mystery was used, for example, to designate certain religious rites of pagan Hellenism, secret rites that were closed to outsiders unless they had been properly initiated into them. In relation to Egyptian hermeticism, the word mystery was applied to initiation into secret religious ideas or doctrines. In reference to Christianity, God himself is the ultimate mystery. Radically, God is completely other and transcendent, hidden from man in his inner life, unless he chooses to reveal himself. Let us briefly look at this inner life of God.
The Father, in a perfect act of self-expression, in a perfect act of knowing, generates his son. The Son, the Word, is, then, the immanent expression of God's fullness, the reflection of the Father. Likewise, from all eternity, the Father and the Son bring forth the Holy Spirit in a perfect act of loving.
At the destined moment in human history, God's self-expression, the Word, immersed himself into man's world. God's inner self-expression now had also become God's outer self-expression. Consequently, the mystery of God becomes the mystery of Christ. In Christ, God tells us about himself, about his inner life, about his plan of creation and redemption. He tells us how Father, Son, and Holy Spirit desire to dwell within us in the most intimate fashion, how they wish to share with us their own life through grace. All this he has accomplished and does accomplish through Christ. St. Paul tells us: "I became a minister of this Church through the commission God gave me to preach among you his word in its fullness, that mystery hidden from ages and generations past but now revealed to his holy ones. God has willed to make known to them the glory beyond price which this mystery brings to the Gentiles—the mystery of Christ in you, your hope of glory. This is the Christ we proclaim while we admonish all men and teach them in the full measure of wisdom, hoping to make every man complete in Christ" (Col 1:25-28).
The Christian life, then, is rooted in the great event of the Incarnation. We must, consequently, always focus our gaze upon Christ, realizing that everything the Father wishes to tell us has been summed up in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It only remains for us, then, to fathom ever more deeply the inexhaustible truth of the Word Incarnate: "In times past, God spoke in fragmentary and varied ways to our fathers through the prophets; in this, the final age, he has spoken to us through his Son, whom he has made heir of all things and through whom he first created the universe" (Heb 1:1-2).
What was the condition of man and his world at the time of Christ's coming? In some ways, people were much the same as we are today. There were those who were just being born into this world of human drama; there were those who, in death, were leaving it, some of whom had grasped but little of life's meaning. There were those who were healthy and vigorous; there were those who were sick and lame. Some especially felt the burdens, the grief, the suffering of the human condition; others were ebullient and desired all the pleasures that life could provide. There was some good being accomplished: there was Rome, for example, with her genius for government and architecture; there was Athens with her philosophers, writers, sculptors, and artists. The moral condition of those times, however, was at a very low ebb. What St. Paul tells us concerning the time that immediately followed Christ's earthly existence certainly could also be applied to the time of his entrance into the world. It is, in short, an ugly picture that Paul depicts for us (Rm 1:22-32).
Into such a depraved condition of mankind Jesus entered, with a full and generous heart, to lead man from the depths of sinfulness to the vibrant richness of a new life in himself. Through his enfleshment, this Christ had become the focal point of all history. The authentic hopes and dreams of the human family, now so deeply overshadowed by the ugliness of sin, came converging upon this Christ. He would gather them up in himself, give them a new luster and brilliance and dynamism, and would lead the human race back to the Father in the Spirit.
Christ came, then, for a double purpose, or rather for a single purpose that has two facets. He was radically to release us from the dominion of sin and elevate us to a new level of existence. This life that Christ has given us is not a type of superstructure that is erected atop man's human existence. Although nature and grace are distinct, they do not lie side by side as separate entities; rather, grace permeates nature. The Christian is one graced person. In his entirety he has been raised up, caught up, into a deeper form of life in Christ Jesus. Nothing that is authentically human has been excluded from this new existence. Whatever is really human in the life of the Christian is meant to be an expression of the Christ-life. The simple but deep joys of family life, the wonderment at nature's beauty, the kiss that unites lovers, the warm embrace of a mother for her child, the agony of crucial decision making, the success or frustration that is experienced in one's work, the joy of being well received by others, and the heartache of being misunderstood—all these human experiences are intended to be caught up in Christ and made more deeply human because of him. As Karl Rahner has put it: "The basic and ultimate thrust of Christian life consists not so much in the fact that a Christian is a special instance of mankind in general, but rather in the fact that a Christian is simply man as he is. But he is a person who accepts without reservations the whole of concrete human life with all of its adventures, its absurdities, and its incomprehensibilities" (Foundations of Christian Faith, p. 402).
Christ has come, then, not to destroy anything that is authentically human, but to perfect it by leading it to a graced fulfillment. This is the meaning of the Incarnation. The more God-like we become through Christ, the more human we become.
As Christians, then, we live in Christ. We have been incorporated into his life, into the mystery of Christ. The mystery of Christ is the Christ event, that is, all the happenings or events of Christ's life, death, and resurrection. We may speak, consequently, not only of the total, unified mystery of Christ, but also of the individual events or mysteries. Christ's mysteries of death and resurrection are central and, in some way, they contain all the other mysteries; but these other mysteries or events also have their own importance.
The mysteries or events of Christ are not mere past events; they are still dynamically present in the glorified Christ. How is this so? The mysteries of Christ have a twofold aspect: one dimension is historical and, therefore, limited by time; the other dimension is eternal, perennially and actually present in Christ. Let us first consider the historical, temporal aspect of Christ's mysteries. In assuming a human nature, the Son subjected himself to the historical dimension of man's existence. In other words, the actions that Christ performed on earth, through his human nature, were limited by temporal historicity. The temporal historicity of these acts cannot be re-enacted—not even sacramentally in the liturgy. To do so would require that God reproduce a past act now precisely as past, which is a contradiction in terms.
There is, then, the temporal, not-to-be repeated dimension of Christ's mysteries. These mysteries, however, possess another aspect, namely, an eternal and perennially dynamic aspect. Jesus, although he has a divine nature and a human nature, is only one person—and that is a divine person. The consequence of this fact is demonstrated in reference to the acts that Christ performed as man. Although they were enacted through Jesus' human nature, these acts are attributed to the divine person and share, as much as a human act can, in the eternity of the divine person who is above the historical, temporal limitations of earthly existence. These events of Jesus' historical existence endure, then, eternally in the glorified Christ, and they endure for a purpose, that is, the mysteries of Christ perennially endure in him so that we might assimilate them. We are thus saved and sanctified by entering into the mystery of Christ, assimilating it, and reproducing it in our own lives according to our particular vocations, graces, and historical exigencies. There is only one manner of life that the Father holds before us, and it is patterned after the existence of his incarnate Son.
By reliving and reincarnating the mysteries of Christ, we are not only accomplishing our own redemption, but assisting in the continued application of Christ's redemption to all mankind. The Incarnation continues for all time. Christ, of course, is the one who fundamentally continues the Incarnation; but he enlists our help. The world no longer sees Jesus, no longer is able to reach out and touch him. We are the ones who now, in some way, make Christ visible and tangible. In union with the invisible, glorified Christ, and depending upon him as our source of strength, we continue the Incarnation in its visible and temporal dimensions. The fact that, at times, we do this poorly because of our human weakness and sinfulness does not change the great privilege and responsibility that is ours: we do, in fact, help continue the Incarnation. We are the Body of Christ. We must strive ever more perfectly to reincarnate the mystery and mysteries of Christ.
The Christian is initiated into the mystery of Christ, into his or her role of prolonging the Incarnation, through baptism. In the words of St. Paul: "Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Through baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life" (Rm 6:3-5).
It is not sufficient, however, that we be incorporated into Christ and his mysteries through baptism. All forms of life require nourishment; so too, our life in Christ must be continually nourished; we must continually keep in contact with Christ and his mysteries. How can we continually encounter Christ? There are various ways. We contact Christ in a special manner through the liturgy—above all, in the Eucharistic liturgy. Here the entire course of salvation history, as centered in Jesus, is sacramentally renewed and continued. Through this Eucharistic encounter we become more deeply incorporated into Christ and his mysteries.
The reading of Scripture provides another special opportunity for encounter with Jesus. This is true for both the Old and New Testaments; the Old Testament prefigures the New Testament and leads to it. It is obvious, however, that we meet Christ especially through the pages of the New Testament. How true it is to say that not to be familiar with Scripture is not to know Christ properly.
There is yet another way in which we encounter the mysteries of Christ; we make renewed contact with Jesus and his mysteries as these are present within ourselves and others. The mysteries of Christ that are to be relived by us are structured into our life of grace. One of the best ways, then, to encounter the mysteries of Christ is to experience them personally in our own Christian living. To personally relive the mysteries of Christ is to more perfectly understand them; what is more, this deeper penetration of their truth allows for their still greater assimilation in our lives. To see the truth of Christ, the Christ-event, reincarnated to a marked degree in another person—is a wonderful gift from God. To see the selflessness of Jesus, his love, his kindness, his willingness to suffer and endure the difficult, his joy and peace despite the pain and anguish of life—to see all this reflected in the lives of at least some of the people we meet is indeed a significant encounter with Christ.
Common to the various ways of properly encountering Jesus and his mysteries is a certain degree of prayerful reflection. Our encounter with the mystery of Christ in the liturgy, in Scripture, in ourselves, and in others will not be all that it should be without this kind of reflection. The light of prayer enables us to see more perfectly how the mysteries of Jesus are to be assimilated. The strength of prayer provides us with a greater determination to live a more Christ-like existence.
We live out our assimilation to Christ in an atmosphere of love. Indeed, the life that Jesus has given us is centered in love; it has its origins in the mysterious love of God, his agape, through which he achieves his self-communication to us. In the words of St. John's gospel:
Yes, God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him may not
but may have eternal life.
Our new life in Christ has arisen out of God's fathomless love, and, what is more, its entire dynamism breathes love. The Incarnate Word himself has taught us this. On our behalf, Christ, as man, has perfectly opened himself to the Father's love; he has then responded to the Father in love. In relation to men, Jesus has loved completely from the depths of his being, pouring himself out in a life of selfless service, a self-giving that drew from him life's breath itself so that he could say he loved—without reserve and to the end. Thus forever was etched upon the pages of man's history—indelibly and so deeply—the love of Jesus for mankind. In this very greatness and depth of Christ's love for us, he was also opening himself to our love, for he can enter the human heart only if there is a response of love that encounters his own. Consequently, Jesus is the sacrament—the visible sign—of the great dimensions of Christian love. Christians are the persons who receive God's love and respond with their own love; Christians also love their fellow human beings as themselves and, in turn, open themselves to receive others' love.
Christ, in his descent into human flesh, has established a milieu of love. The life he came to give can flourish only in the framework of love. Indeed, we can summarize the meaning of the Christian life by stating that it is a response to God's love—a love that God freely gives to us without conditions or qualifications. Love is the beginning and the end. The main truth that we must comprehend is that the redemptive incarnation was wrought by God's love to raise us, in turn, to a deeper level of loving. Our further penetration into the mystery of the Incarnation can take place only in love. Incarnate love can only be understood and participated in more fully through our own life of love.
Another characteristic of our assimilation to the mystery of Christ is its personalism. There were numerous possibilities open to God, given his decision to redeem the human race. He actually chose, however, to accomplish our redemption in the most personalistic way; he communicated himself to us through the personal enfleshment of his Son. This means that God was giving himself to us through the warmth, the kindness, the strength, the gentleness, and the selflessness that emanated from the incarnate person of Christ. It was truly the incarnate, personal acts of Christ that redeemed us—his work and relaxation, his joy, his friendships, his love for Mary and Joseph, the training of the apostles, his concern for the most abject of those he encountered, his fatigue, his agony and death, and his resurrection. Our redemption was truly personalistic.
Moreover the personalism of the Incarnation continues. In union with Christ, we are called upon to help him continue his Incarnation in its visible, earthly dimension. Only one framework is available to us according to which we can help further the Incarnation—our personal lives, that is to say, our lives as individuals united as a people, the People of God. The human condition as we experience it—joyfully and painfully, too—also provides the soil for our participation in the continued Incarnation. Redemption continues to take place not when we try to remove ourselves from the human condition, but when we strive to live an authentically human life that is more and more in Christ. It is by living truly personalistic lives—that is, lives springing forth from the greatness of the person as created and redeemed by God, lives that do not flinch from the human condition—that redemption continues to be made visible to this world.
Christian personalism centers in our personal relationships with God and others, and again, Christ shows the way. Through the Word made flesh, the life of the Trinity has incarnationally manifested itself to mankind. The life of the Trinity centers in the personal relationships between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; but God's life is also his love gone out to the human race. The Incarnation projects this Trinitarian life into the temporal sphere. Jesus has come to tell us about Trinitarian life, to give us a share in it, to teach us that through grace we share in God's life—a life of relationships—by entering into deepened personal relationships with God and other persons. Redemption that is received and contributed to is the experience of these relationships. In other words, as Jesus has told us, the Christian life is summed up in love of God and neighbor. Out of these personalized love relationships flow many things; for example, redemption continued is the loving abandonment to the love of God that despite possible fear, allows a person to accomplish things that are totally beyond his or her natural courage. Or again, redemption continued is loving those who are afar off whom I will never see or know, but whom I know are my brothers and my sisters and whom my work and prayer can reach out and touch. Or again, redemption continued is the Christian hope and trust that allows man and woman to take the risk of the mutual self-giving that is marriage. Or again, redemption continued is the black person who continues to relate to his or her white neighbors in faith, hope, and love despite temptations to hatred and bitterness. Or again, redemption continued is the ecstasy and the agony of loving and being loved. Truly, the Incarnation visibly continued is our Christian faith, hope, and love made alive in our personal relationships with God and man.
In our assimilation to the mystery of Christ, then, we learn about love and the personalistic. We also learn a further truth—the value of the material, the tangible, in God's plan of redemption. The Incarnation established a set pattern for the redemption of the world, that is, redemption taken both objectively (the historical, salvific life of Christ) and subjectively (the redemption as applied to mankind). Christ redeemed the world through his humanity, which was a created and, in part, a tangible reality. As Jesus' humanity was indispensable for accomplishing the objective redemption, so also created things are necessary for continuing the subjective redemption. An outstanding example of this occurs in the Eucharistic liturgy, for bread and wine—material, tangible realities—are the central focus of the liturgical rite as they are changed into Christ's body and blood.
In assuming a human nature, then, Jesus has united to himself not only mankind, but also the material world. Not only the human spirit, but also the human body and the material world have been given a new dignity because of the Incarnation and enter so vitally into the Incarnation continued. Once for all let us lay aside the influence of Manichaeism, Gnosticism, and similar false teachings that denigrate that which is material. It is obvious that we do not always properly use material creation; at such times, we have failed to relate to material creation according to God's will. Let us remember, then, that Christ, in elevating the material to a new dignity, has accomplished this partially through that aspect of the Incarnation that is the cross—a dimension of the Incarnation that, along with its other aspects, must also be present in our encounter with the material. We must realize that such elements as Christian self-discipline and renunciation must find a place in our lives if we are to use material creation according to God's designs.
There are numberless applications of the value of the material, the visible, the tangible, in our Christ-lives: there is, for example, the warm, receptive smile of a friend and the reading of Scripture and the physical love of husband and wife and the exhilarating refreshment of a day at the seashore and God's loveliness that is reflected in a little child—and, of course, the list could continue on. The fundamental principle, however, is the same in all cases:—the human nature of Jesus, something that has been created and is in part material, has reached out and touched all these other things and experiences that are part of life in a material world. When we properly relate to them, they become for us extensions of the Incarnation. They are the redemptive Incarnation applied to us; in addition, they are opportunities for us to assist Christ in continuing his Incarnation for others.
The Incarnation, as we have briefly pointed out, was and is a rich and varied event. The truths that accompany Christ's descent into our world are numerous and capable of not only originally elevating us to a new life, but also constantly leading us to a deeper, richer, and more vibrant participation in that life. This is why Christ came to live in our midst—to give us life in abundance:
The Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Of his fullness
we have all had a share—
love following upon love.
The Christian's Personal
Obviously, we all assimilate the mystery of Christ in basically the same way. There are, however, significant differences in how each person puts on Christ that result from the uniqueness of each individual. Each person is a unique expression of God's creative love. Each person can truthfully say that there has never before been anyone like himself or herself, there is now no one like him or her, and there never will be.
The personal uniqueness of each human being increases in proportion to one's assimilation to Jesus. That is to say, the more I put on Christ, the more I lose myself in Christ, the more I become myself. This is true because grace perfects nature, and, consequently, the more I grow in grace, the more perfect all dimensions of my person become—and this includes uniqueness. We see, then, how fallacious is the reasoning of those who think that the more they give themselves to the practice of religion, the more their personalities will be subdued. Actually, the opposite is true—the more one grows in Christ, the more his or her unique personality emerges in all its attractiveness.
As I grow in the realization of my own uniqueness, I should also grow in developing a sense of self-identity and self-acceptance. If God in his tremendous love for me has created the uniqueness that I am, should I not rejoice in who I am and avoid morbidly comparing myself to others? Should I not have a healthy self-image? Of course, self-acceptance does not mean self-complacency. Honest self-reflection will always reveal to me that there are weaknesses that must be further curbed and strengths that must be further developed.
As God gives each person his or her uniqueness, he attaches to it a unique mission or role that is to be accomplished. Cardinal Newman tells us: "Everyone who breathes, high and low, educated and ignorant, young and old, man and woman, has a mission, has a work. We are not sent into this world for nothing; we are not born at random. . . . God sees every one of us; He creates every soul, He lodges it in a body, one by one, for a purpose. He needs, He deigns to need, every one of us" (Discourses Addressed to Mixed Congregations, pp. 111-112).
Because of the uniqueness of each Christian's existence, he or she presents Christ with a unique opportunity. Each Christian has the vocation to offer Christ his or her humanity so that Jesus can re-incarnate himself in a new way. Jesus wants to continue his redemptive work through the not-to-be-repeated newness that is each Christian's uniqueness. To the extent that an individual Christian offers his or her humanity to Jesus, he or she has a unique opportunity to continue the redemption—an opportunity that no one else can offer him or her. Likewise, to the extent that an individual Christian fails to offer his or her humanity to Christ, Jesus loses the opportunity that is this Christian's uniqueness.
Each of us, consequently, no matter what his or her occupation or status in life might be, has both the great privilege and the great responsibility to properly utilize his or her life according to God's Christic design. No one else can fulfill your unique mission, and, in turn, you cannot accomplish the unique mission of another. At times we can become somewhat fearful or anxious about the task that God has entrusted to us as we more deeply realize what it demands. We can feel the same reluctance that Jeremiah the prophet voiced when Yahweh called him:
The word of the LORD came to me thus:
"Before I formed you in the womb I
before you were born I dedicated
a prophet to the nations I appointed
"Ah, LORD GOD!" I said,
"I know not how to speak; I am too
But the LORD answered me,
"Say not, 'I am too young.'
To whomever I send you, you shall
Whatever I command you, you shall
Have no fear before them,
because I am with you to deliver
you, says the LORD."
Jeremiah initially shrank back from the mission that God was giving him. He complained that he was not capable of accomplishing it. God answered him, however, and told Jeremiah that he was perfectly capable of fulfilling his appointed role, for he, Yahweh, would be with Jeremiah. God would work through Jeremiah, and Jeremiah, for his part, was to be open to God, allowing Yahweh to work through him according to the divine will.
We, too, can be guilty of reacting to God's call in the same way that Jeremiah had originally reacted. This can happen as God calls one to a basic state of life. Once a person is within a fundamental vocation, one can be tempted to resist God's call to higher things, to a more complete accomplishment of his or her mission, and to a greater Christian maturity. When so tempted, a person must control his or her fears and trustingly give himself or herself to God's will. Only then will the person become convinced that God never requests anything without granting abundant grace to accomplish his design, and that, moreover, to answer God's call as consistently as possible is the only true path to peace, happiness, and fulfillment, despite the pain that is necessarily involved.
We are aided in remaining faithful to the unique role in life that God has given us if we strive to remain aware of the great value that one life has to Christ, to the Church, and to the world. History tells us of the great difference that just one life can have regarding Christ's work; there are outstanding examples from all walks of life. Surely the Church has been enriched, and countless lay people have been inspired because of the life of a man named Thomas More. He was a layman who realized the deepest meaning of life—and he did not fail to confront the true purpose of human existence, even when that confrontation meant sacrificing his life for what he believed. Surely this life—the one life of St. Thomas More—has made a difference. In our own times, we have been enriched and inspired by an outstanding lay witness—the beloved Dorothy Day. What an inspiration she has been! Surely her life, though it was only one life, made a difference—and such a great difference. There are, too, the examples of men and women who have established religious orders and congregations. Surely the life of each of them has made an overwhelming contribution toward a better Church and a better world. Consider also the life of Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, a person from a peasant background who eventually came to be called Pope John XXIII. Surely the world is so much better for Pope John's having given it his love, kindness, joy, and constant concern. Of course one life does make a difference.
At this point, however, many will object that the above examples highlight the lives of persons who have achieved outstanding recognition in the external order of things and have commanded great public attention. People who voice this objection often say that their own lives are so mundane, so hidden, so incapable of making headlines. Surely, they continue, this rather too ordinary kind of life makes little difference to Christ, to the Church, and to the world. Surely it does not much matter whether a person living this kind of existence fulfills his or her God-given mission. At first glance, many of us would tend to agree with this reasoning, a reasoning that is really the exact opposite temptation of what we considered when we likened ourselves to Jeremiah. In that context there was a question of being tempted to do nothing because we feared the greatness to which we were called; in the present context, however, it is a question of being tempted to do nothing because we think we really have nothing to contribute. Yet, as we begin to reflect in mature faith, we soon see the fallacy of this objection. We realize that great external accomplishments or a life that attracts public attention do not, in and of themselves, make that life great and truly worthwhile. If a Christian life that is characterized by notable external achievement is truly great and meaningful for mankind, we know that it is so because the external achievement has sprung forth from an attitude of deep faith, hope, and love. This, then, is the ultimate answer to the above objection—every Christian's life, no matter how ordinary it might be in its external framework, can be tremendously important and can make an outstanding contribution toward the work of ongoing redemption as long as it is increasingly consistent with God's will.
God's ways are not always our ways, and his thoughts are not always our thoughts. God can take a life that seems so ordinary, so prosaic, so uneventful, and achieve wonders with it as long as the person is striving to fulfill his or her role in life according to God's designs. We cannot, then, use the ordinariness of our lives as an excuse for not making our existence truly great, truly significant for both Christ and humanity—a life that truly makes a difference. Karl Rahner has advice for us when the ordinariness of our lives tempts us to think that our existence is unimportant and almost useless: "Let us take a good look at Jesus who had the courage to lead an apparently useless life for thirty years. We should ask him for the grace to give us to understand what his hidden life means for our religious existence" (Spiritual Exercises, p. 160). Notice that Rahner describes the first thirty years of Jesus' life as "apparently useless." In reality, of course, Christ's very ordinary existence at Nazareth was not actually useless but was, on the contrary, tremendously important—it was part of his redemptive effort. No, it is not the ordinary setting of our lives that is an obstacle to our making a unique and important contribution to the cause of Christ. The real obstacle, if we allow it, is our failure to relate to life's ordinariness as God intends.
The realization of the greatness of our own lives, however, must be balanced with a realization of the limitations that are attached to that greatness. We are finite creatures who have various limitations that emanate from our finitude. A sense of limitations, then, should accompany the fulfillment of our mission in life.
What are some of these limitations? First, it is important to realize there are false limitations—limitations that need not be—as opposed to inevitable limitations—limitations that spring forth from the fact that we are finite creatures who are immersed in the human condition. An example of a false limitation is demonstrated by the person who succumbs to the temptation of wanting to be someone else. This person looks at the physical and intellectual gifts of one person, the pleasing personality of another, and so forth and so on, and convinces himself or herself, that, if only he or she were endowed with such qualities, well, yes, then it would be possible to really accomplish something with his or her life. In other words, the person fails to accept himself or herself as God has made him or her. This person fails to accept his or her God-given uniqueness and wastes precious time looking at what he or she does not have, rather than appreciating that with which God has actually endowed him or her. Such a person must accept himself or herself, once and for all, in his or her fundamental uniqueness. Moreover, this person must develop the gifts, strengths, and capacities of his or her uniqueness and strive to control its weaknesses as much as possible. He or she should also realize that only by accepting his or her uniqueness as coming from God's creative love and constantly striving to allow that same love to bring his or her uniqueness to fulfillment will he or she achieve ultimate peace and happiness. Then, and only then, can a person properly make his or her contribution to continued redemption.
Surrounding our uniqueness, then, are limitations that need not be; similarly, there are also limitations that are inevitable. We possess certain talents, for example, but present circumstances do not allow us to exercise these talents here and now. Even at those times when we can exercise our talents, we often feel limited because we realize that we have only a certain amount of energy; that there are only a certain number of concrete opportunities and a certain amount of time for us to use our talents. At other times we feel limited because the persons we are trying to serve are hostile to our efforts and shut themselves off from what we desire to so generously offer.
These, then, are some examples of limitations we can experience in our efforts to fulfill our mission. To balance the realization of the greatness of our call with the realization that we will be variously limited—sometimes painfully so—in our striving to implement our mission is as necessary as it is challenging.
Each Christian, therefore, because of his or her personal uniqueness, has a unique mission to fulfill in helping continue the work of Jesus. Each Christian is given the opportunity to contribute as he or she receives the call from God, and, obviously, there are varying degrees according to which a Christian may respond or not respond to God's call. There are, first, those who hardly respond at all, who seem to be barely Christian. They may have faith, but it is a dead faith, for they refuse to be guided by God even in serious matters. They want to be complete masters of their own existence; the less they have to think about God, the better. Originally, some of these people may have been given a call to magnificent Christian greatness in this or that state of life. They may have turned a deaf ear to true greatness, however, and determined to be makers of their own self-conceived greatness; their concept of greatness may never have transcended the limits of space and time—they may have thought and acted as if their temporal existence would extend forever.
Second, there are other Christians who essentially respond to God, but not as completely as possible. Their lives seem to be an average mixture of both continuing faithfulness to God and occasional disloyalty to him; periodically they accomplish much good, but they also mix in a considerable degree of mediocrity. They do, however, seem to be basically sincere Christians who do, in fact, promote the work of Christ and essentially fulfill their roles in life.
And finally, there are those Christians who initially answer God's call and continue to answer it in an eminently generous manner. They develop their uniqueness marvelously and become forceful shapers of the world's Christic destiny. Their good actions are deeply etched into the human process, although they may well be hidden from public acclaim. Because of them and their actions, the world's goodness is enhanced, and mankind has come considerably closer to fulfilling its temporal and eternal destinies.
Today's Church needs more of this type of Christian. The Church and the world in which she is situated are experiencing a time of crisis—perhaps the most critical time of all history, for at what other time in human history could life as we know it on this earth end so suddenly in a nuclear holocaust? Yet, although we live in an age of special crisis that has tremendous and numerous problems, we also live in an age of great opportunity. God, for his part, always provides for the needs of both the Church and the world in which the Church is meant to serve. Surely, in this age of great need and opportunity, God will not fail to call Christians of all vocations to completely and eminently dedicate themselves to the task at hand. We should pray that everyone will respond according to their own uniqueness and make their own special contribution to the work of Christ.
The swirling pace of today's rapidly changing world is unavoidably evident. If we were tempted to think all this change might be an illusion, however, there are statistics to assure us that today's world is indeed undergoing change—or process—at a phenomenal rate. Some of these statistics include the following: Before the year 1500, Europe published 1000 books per year; by 1950, the rate had swelled to 120,000 per year; by the mid-1960s the overall world figure was 1000 titles per day. This affords us some idea of the vast knowledge explosion that has characterized our times and, indeed, is one of the most important influences in our fast-changing society. The following is another statistic: A period of 5000 years elapsed between the first shoeing of a horse by a blacksmith and the first guiding by an engineer of a different kind of horse—the iron horse, or locomotive; only 170 years elapsed, however, between that first locomotive engineer and the first jet pilot who shattered the sound barrier. These are a few of the numerous statistics that could be cited to demonstrate that our world is in rapid process.
The Church herself attests to a world in a state of profound becoming. Vatican II has stated: "Today, the human race is passing through a new stage of its history. Profound and rapid changes are spreading by degrees around the whole world" (The Church in the Modern World, No. 4); and, "Thus, the human race has passed from a rather static concept of reality to a more dynamic, evolutionary one" (No. 5).
God has called mankind to collaborate with him in the unfolding of creation. The fact that God has placed a creative urge deep within mankind is evidenced by the myriad achievements of the human race in the areas of science and technology, the humanities, art and culture, government, and so forth. Men and women constantly surpass themselves in what they are capable of achieving. Not too many years ago, landing a man on the moon was not even considered a serious possibility; now, however, it is just as possible as a jet flight to Paris. Contemporary mankind's capacity to develop the material world and other aspects of the temporal order is such that it staggers the imagination and makes one almost dizzy in an attempt to keep abreast of the latest advances.
This evolutionary process of the world, and the human capacity to increase its almost torrid pace, cannot be questioned. The fact that this capacity is a God-given talent likewise cannot be questioned. What can be questioned, however, is whether contemporary men and women will properly use this gift and thereby assist the temporal order to evolve to the authentic good of all mankind.
Today's Christian must take inspiration from the following words of Scripture:
Jesus replied, "Scripture has it:
'Not on bread alone is man to live
but on every utterance that comes
from the mouth of God.' "
Jesus reminds us that we must keep material progress in proper perspective. The material universe is a gift from God that is intended to serve men and women in the quest for their temporal and eternal destiny, a destiny that is centered in mankind's spiritual nature. To say this is not to falsely dichotomize humanity or to deny the bodily dimension; it is merely to insist that the total person is meant to be controlled by his or her spirit and, from this spiritual nature, is actuated to be—and to become—what the Creator has designed.
Human history is replete with examples of how men and women have, at times, abused material progress. An ungodly desire for the material has been the cause of unjust wars, murders, thefts, cheating in business, and the destruction of families by greed. The list could be extended, of course, but one final observation is sufficient, namely, that men and women have often allowed the inordinate desire for material gain to quench their innate desire for spiritual values. As often as men and women have done so, they have sold their souls for swine husks.
Christians can be a force in properly shaping the temporal order in its state of becoming. By carrying Christian principles into the marketplace, Christians can help correctly direct the material world in its evolution. Christians cannot afford to be thwarted by temptations such as, "What's the use? What difference does it make what I do or don't do?" The contemporary examples of certain groups or individuals who have had a profound influence on society by bringing to light injustices and deficiencies in the present structure of things have become legion. What is more, the efforts of these groups and/or individuals in actually achieving a change for the better is also a matter of record. Likewise, each Christian, in some way or another, can also be effective if he or she is willing to pay the price. The fact that his or her influence may often remain a very hidden one does not make it less effective.
The Christian, in fact, has a duty to help properly shape the temporal order in its process of becoming. The Christian also has a duty to witness to the ultimate point of destiny toward which this process is evolving—the omega point who is Jesus himself, the center and culmination of all human history. Through the Christian's proper encounter with the world in process, he or she is supposed to be a reminder, as Christ himself was, of the world's ultimate outcome in its evolutionary thrust. This final point of the world's development will be the entrance of the temporal order into the eternal age of things; the world will be swept up by Christ in his second coming and will remain, for all eternity, in the transformation that it will receive at this parousia.
In giving this particular kind of witness to the world in process, the committed Christian is a reminder, however silent, that, despite mankind's greatest genius, the secular order cannot develop into a Utopia on earth. People have so often had the false expectation that a secular city can be established that will amount to a heaven on earth. So long as people persist in such unrealistic expectations, they will be disappointed. It is interesting to speculate whether those who are living today, surrounded by the material comforts and advantages of an incredibly advanced technological age, are really any happier than those who had lived in ages when these material advantages were absent. If present material progress has not brought men and women closer to God and to one another, then it surely has not made them authentically happier. Yes, the temporal order is surely meant to evolve for the sake of our greater happiness; however, the temporal order can only evolve properly and thus achieve its true purpose, if it refuses to be closed in upon itself in an attitude of absolute autonomy. Rather, the temporal order can only achieve its true purpose if it opens up in evolutionary process to its God and to the God-intended completion of its evolution that is in the eternal order of things.
As we turn our attention to the Church, we again encounter the reality of becoming. In the post-Vatican II Church, we are all well aware of a Church that is in process, a Church that is reaching out toward that which is yet to be achieved, toward that more perfect realization of the ideal that Jesus has delineated for it. The Church is a mustard seed that is meant to gradually evolve into that full stature which Christ intends: "He proposed still another parable: 'The reign of God is like a mustard seed which someone took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest seed of all, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants' " (Mt. 13:31-32).
The concept of the Church as a pilgrim Church is closely allied with the idea of the Church in the process of becoming. The pilgrim Church is the fulfillment of God's people from Old Testament times. Under the leadership of Moses, the Jewish people traveled through the desert toward the Promised Land. The journey was, however, not always a smooth one; there were sufferings, both physical and spiritual, as well as numerous infidelities against God—which, occasionally, were extremely flagrant violations of his covenant law. Good prevailed, however, sufficiently for the promised goal to be achieved.
God's people of New Testament times are also on the way; their Promised Land is the heavenly Jerusalem. The distance thus far traveled, however, presents a mixed picture. There has been a dark and ugly aspect of the Church's history; there have been jealousies, for example, as well as power politics in high places, and material greed; disloyal popes, bishops, and priests; laity who have, in numerous ways, betrayed the name of Jesus in the marketplace; apathy and a lack of concern for the world's problems.
This evil dimension of the Church's history would be tragically disheartening if there were not a brighter side, but, through the grace of God, the good in the Church has been more powerful than the evil. There have been numerous martyrs who are definite proof that Jesus' love for an individual, and that individual's love for Him, can take such deep possession of the person that death, even a death that might be exacted through the most horrendous torments, can be deemed a privilege and even eagerly embraced as the passageway to complete and eternal union with Christ. There have also been many men and women of all vocations who wholeheartedly dedicated themselves to Christ and lovingly gave themselves in service to mankind. It is true that the good they accomplished was supported by both Christ's love and others' love for them, yet it was not always easy. Disappointments, misunderstandings, periods of agonizing suffering—these were also indelibly woven into the accounts of their lives.
The Church cannot content herself with the good that her members have accomplished. The Church is still in the process of becoming; she is still a participant in an ongoing pilgrimage. Her members must have a spirit of openness, a venturesome attitude; they can never afford to settle down in a posture of self-satisfaction. There is still so much good yet to be accomplished. But how is it to be accomplished?
We cannot be sure of all the future possibilities for achieving the work that Jesus has entrusted to the Church. Not too long ago, for example, how many would have thought that the principle of collegiality would today be such a dynamic element in the Church? That it is so is evidenced in many ways—through synods of bishops; priests' senates; diocesan councils composed of laity, religious, and priests; parish councils; and a more democratic process at work in religious orders and congregations. This is not to say that the principle of collegiality is being implemented in a perfect way; however, it is apparent that, relatively speaking, the Church has made giant strides toward the ideal. As for projecting into the future, however, we must be aware that there may be completely new experiences for which the Spirit is preparing us. We cannot, therefore, harbor a too static view of the Church. We should not think that the more unchangeable the Church is, the better she serves her purpose. There are both unchangeable and changeable dimensions of the Church. While we loyally hold true to the unchangeable aspects, we must at the same time give proper attention to the changeable dimensions. To do otherwise would actually be to refuse to be open to the Spirit in a proper fullness. A Church in the process of becoming—a pilgrim Church—must, then, balance her concern for both the changeless and the changing aspects of her existence. Only in this way can she be both stable and flexible enough to properly serve her own members and the entire human race.
In discussing both the world and the Church in a process of becoming, much has already been said about the individual Christian's state of becoming, because the Christian's life is inevitably caught up in the world's and the Church's existence. It is well, at this point, to more directly consider the individual Christian as a person who is in the process of growth, of becoming more what God destines him or her to be.
We are meant to be in a continuing process of becoming through a deeper radicalization of faith, hope, and love. True, one dimension of the grace-life is the fact that it is a stable given. It is not, however, a static given. We have to thrust toward that which is yet to be achieved. We are meant to be in a process of becoming the "more."
Full maturity in Christ is not suddenly achieved. Even after a relative maturity is attained, this maturity can always take deeper root. This gradual achievement in spiritual maturity can be viewed as a process of self-encounter, a process whereby we gain the proper, graced self-control amid many struggles. It is a becoming through an encounter with the true self, through a gradual achievement of that self-identity and uniqueness that God intends. This becoming is achieved through a path of progress that is not always perfectly upward: there is the reaching out for good, but also the succumbing to evil; there is the discovery of strengths and talents, but also the painful awareness of weaknesses and limitations. There are, in short, successes and failures. There is joy—sometimes intense joy—over what is achieved in personal growth; however, there are also periods of discouragement—sometimes moments of near despair—because further growth seems impossible. All this happens because the process of becoming has inherent within it a constant newness that is linked to a certain sameness. We are always the same persons, but always different persons, too.
Moreover, the process of becoming through a proper encounter with the true self takes place not in a vacuum, but rather, within the framework of an encounter with the material world, with human persons, and with God. The encounter with the material world—and, indeed, with the entire temporal order—is meant to be characterized by a correct use of creation, by periodic renunciation, and by a spirit of creativity. The correct use of material things enables the person to grow by respecting the fact that the bodily aspect of his or her being has situated him or her in a material world that is meant to serve the person's needs. The fact that persons are in part material beings means that one aspect of God's plan for men and women intends that they grow, that is to say, that they become, through the proper encounter with, or use of, the material.
As long as men and women are on this earth, there will always be in them both a sinful tendency and a thrust toward good, and, consequently, they do not always properly relate to the material. For an individual to achieve a correct use of material things and other temporal values, he or she must periodically renounce them. At times, becoming means not becoming in a certain way, not encountering this thing or this value.
Also, the material and temporal order offers wide possibilities for individual creative instincts. By shaping the raw stuff of creation through the various uses of one's creative forces, a person can become that which he or she was not. The imprint of one's creative image where it did not previously exist is a reflection of a certain development, or becoming, within the individual person.
As significant as the encounter with the material world may be, however, it is obviously not as important as the encounter with human persons. God intends that so much of our spiritual growth occur as a result of our proper encounter with others. So much of our growth toward mature personhood occurs in the give-and-take of personal encounter. Until rather recent years, spiritual teaching placed a great emphasis upon the correct performance of certain practices. That appeal, however, did not always properly emphasize the fact that those practices were important only to the extent that they deepened the Christian's personal relationship with God and his or her fellow men and women.
The selflessness that is required for authentic relationship to the other readily points out why encounter with persons is such an important contributing factor to true becoming. The Christian life is primarily a going out of ourselves to God and to human persons. This transcendence of self is not always easily achieved, however, precisely because it involves a process of overcoming the strong thrust of selfishness. Although going out of self to God is obviously the primordial relationship for the Christian, it is interesting to note that, through the words of Scripture, God tells us that our relationship to our neighbor is the criterion by which we are to judge our love for him:
If anyone says, "My love is fixed on God,"
yet hates his brother,
he is a liar.
One who has no love for the brother
he has seen
cannot love the God he has not seen.
—1 Jn 4:20
Going out to others, serving them, being for them, and loving them is a dynamic process. There is no set pattern that can perfectly serve all this. Surely there are certain established Christian principles and truths that govern our encountering and serving others; however, these truths have a certain flexibility built into them so that they can be assimilated to meet the particular situations of unique individuals. Our encounters with others—whether it be a case of relating to a partner in marriage or to a friend or to those who are recipients of our service or whatever—give proof to each of us, according to his or her own experience, that there can be no question of a static pattern of behavior to govern personal relationships. There is always the new, the unexpected, the surprising, or the significant change in behavior that must be considered along with the more stable elements that comprise personal encounter. Becoming by going out to the other truly is a dynamic process.
If an individual person grows toward Christian maturity through a proper encounter with material creation and other facets of the temporal order, as well as through encounters with others, individuals must especially grow, or become, through an encounter with God. Growth through encounters with both material creation and other persons is rooted in our maturing through the relationship with the great source of all becoming—namely, God himself. He himself is infinite being, and he constantly wants to communicate himself to us so that, drawing from his infinite source of life, we might become more what we are meant to be—more of what he desires that we become.
God draws us on to greater fulfillment according to the pattern of Christ's example and teaching. There is no other way according to which we progress to spiritual maturity. There is no Christian perfection that we can acquire, no possible development of our Christian personalities unless it occurs through Christ Jesus. The Spirit, however, does not superimpose this pattern of Christ upon us in an artificial way. The Spirit does not shape us according to the image of Christ without deep concern for our uniqueness; we are all different, and the Spirit supremely respects this fact. Furthermore, if the Spirit is of such an attitude, so must we be; we must not box ourselves in, all trying to fit into the exact same mold and maintaining that this is necessary because we must all follow the same Christ. The pattern of Christ is the creation of an infinitely wise God. He has arranged that the one pattern of Christ is also a pattern that has as many possibilities for unique assimilation as there are individual persons.
We all follow the one and same Christ and we must all have an attitude of complete openness, of expectancy concerning the unpredictable, an attitude that will allow the Spirit to lead us according to his way of forming us in the image of Christ. At times we might have a too minutely preconceived idea of how we will become in Christ and we are, therefore, somewhat rigid about the whole process. Although the following of Christ is basically the same for all, how can we be sure what particular path of imitation—mapped out in rather complete detail—the Spirit has prepared for each of us? We can certainly be tempted to think that we know with considerable certainty the way in which our becoming in Christ should logically evolve. We must learn, however, to balance an attitude of stability that is rooted in a certain way of life, a certain way of following Christ, with a spiritual freedom that makes us really open to what the Spirit wants of us, however surprising, novel, or unusual this may seem.
Death and Resurrection
Our incorporation into the mystery of Christ at baptism, and the gradual maturing of that life in the process of becoming, is centered in the pattern of death-resurrection. Indeed, the theme of death-resurrection is at the heart of salvation history. Let us briefly consider its place in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and in God's ongoing self-communication, always remembering that any form of death—that is, any form of suffering—is meant to lead to greater life, greater peace, and greater happiness.
The theme of death-resurrection is at the heart of Old Testament history. The Jewish people, under the leadership of Moses, experienced death-resurrection as they were formed into the people of the covenant—Yahweh's people. In the great Exodus event, they escaped Egyptian slavery, went on to Mt. Sinai where the covenant was ratified, and then progressed to the Promised Land. As members of the Mosaic covenant—as Yahweh's people—the Jews experienced a religious transition; they passed over to a higher level of religious existence, to a more intimate union with God.
This religious transition contained death-resurrection. For the Jews to become people of the covenant, to remain so, and to grow in the life of the covenant, it was necessary that they undergo a mystical or spiritual death. In short, the Jews had to be willing to pay a price; they had to be willing to bear with that which was difficult in covenant life; they had to be willing to die to that which was not according to Yahweh's will. This mystical death, however, had a very positive purpose; it was directed at life in the covenant and at growth in that life. This spiritual death, in other words, was aimed at resurrection.
Christ perfectly fulfilled the Old Testament theme of death-resurrection. In doing so, he, too, was experiencing a religious transition. He was passing over—gradually, at first, and then definitively in his death—to a new kind of existence, to the life of his resurrection, which he achieved not only for himself, but for all mankind. To achieve this new life of resurrection, Jesus was willing to pay the price; Jesus was willing to suffer, even unto death. That it had to be this way—that the only way Christ could have achieved resurrection was through suffering and death—was pointed out by Jesus himself to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: "Then he said to them, 'What little sense you have! How slow you are to believe all that the prophets have announced! Did not the Messiah have to undergo all this so as to enter into his glory?' Beginning, then, with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted for them every passage of Scripture which referred to him" (Lk 24:25-27).
Christ has structured the Christian life by the way he lived, died, and rose from the dead. It is obvious, then, that the pattern of death-resurrection must be at the heart of the Church's life. Individually and collectively, we continually die with Christ so that we may continually rise with him. Thus, we pass over in a process of continued religious transition to a greater participation in Jesus' resurrection. It is true that our participation in Christ's resurrection will reach its completion only in eternity. Nevertheless, we begin the life of resurrection here upon this earth, in the here and now of human life, in the midst of joy and pain, in the experience of success and failure, in the sweat of our brow, in the enjoyment of God's gifts. As Christians, we should have a sense of growth concerning our here-and-now life of resurrection. Some Christians seem to have a rather static view of the Christian life. They do not seem to have a vital and efficacious realization that the Christian life, centered in death-resurrection, should become more conscious, more experiential, more dynamically relative to daily existence.
We cannot maintain the life of resurrection or grow in it without a willingness to suffer. This does not mean that we need to feel overwhelmed and heavily burdened by the suffering in our lives. The greater portion of suffering for most Christians seems to be an accumulation of ordinary hardships, difficulties, and pains. At times, however, deep suffering—even suffering of agonizing proportions—can enter one's life. During these oppressive periods of suffering, a person's sense of anguish can become so great that the prospect of continuing life becomes an agony in itself. Whether the sufferings of Christians are of either the ordinary variety or the rare and extreme type, Christians must nevertheless convince themselves that to properly relate to the cross is to grow in resurrection—and for an individual Christian to grow in resurrection means that he or she will also have an increased capacity to help give resurrection to others.
One of the most traditional forms of the experience of the cross—that is, of dying with Jesus—that spiritual masters have always treated is self-discipline or asceticism. All forms of life demand self-discipline: The athlete must subject himself or herself to rigorous training; the musician must endure long hours of practice; the doctor must be willing to order his or her life to the rigorous demands of the medical profession.
The Christian life, too, has its own form of discipline or control that has as its comprehensive purpose the greater assimilation of the Christian's total being to Christ. Christian self-discipline, or asceticism, allows for the proper development of the Christ-life in all its dimensions. Like all forms of authentic discipline, it is at the service of life; when it is properly exercised, asceticism helps us to grow in our capacity to love God and others.
This proper, grace-inspired control over the complete person is necessary because the various sense and spiritual faculties do not automatically follow the lead of grace. Because of original sin and personal sin, there are various tendencies within us that, if they are not properly controlled, will lead us away from Christ and our spiritual development. The Christian, therefore, must be willing to exercise a reasonable self-discipline despite the difficulty that is involved. Moreover, this control must extend to all of the person's faculties.
Regarding our intellectual lives, there are various tendencies inimical to the spiritual life that must be disciplined. There can be a laziness, for instance, that might prevent the proper pursuit of study that is necessary for our own particular role in the Church. There can be an unwholesome curiosity that might lead us to want to know that which is pleasing, rather than, first of all, that which is necessary. There can be an intellectual pride that might manifest itself in various ways; some people, for example, find it extremely difficult to be open to the ideas of others or to admit their own mistakes.
The will, the decisive faculty of the human person, must receive special attention. It must become both supple and strong: supple in order to be open to the varied movements of the Holy Spirit; and strong in order to guide the entire person, including those forces that can so powerfully lead away from God. Concerning concrete decision making, there are two extremes that must be avoided: On the one hand, we must avoid precipitous action that is devoid of reflection that is rooted in an appropriate openness to the movements of the Spirit; on the other hand, we must not fall prey to the habit of indecision. Some people are prone to spending an excessive amount of time in making decisions about even the simplest matters. Life is short, and we must condition ourselves to make decisions after appropriate reflection, which, in many of our ordinary actions and decisions, is practically instantaneous. Unhealthy fear and other factors that are responsible for indecision must be curbed despite the great pain that this can, at times, cause for certain temperaments.
The faculties of memory and imagination must also be controlled. These can be of great value if properly guided; if they are not properly guided, however, they can, in their unruliness, become great obstacles to spiritual progress. An undisciplined memory and imagination can, for example, seriously interfere with our prayer life. Similarly, memory and imagination that are not properly controlled can also give rise to numerous temptations against the various virtues.
We must also properly control the emotions. A considerable portion of past spiritual literature has not given due allowance to the role that God intends the emotions to exercise. When we speak of controlling the emotions, therefore, we are not suggesting either an aggressive repression or an inhuman rigidity; rather, we speak of a control that permits the emotions to contribute to the richness and overall value of our actions. We must remember that the emotions, when they are properly integrated with the movements of the intellect and will, enhance the goodness of our acts.
It is obvious, however, that we must strive to discipline the emotions' evil tendencies if these emotions are to contribute to spiritual growth. The emotions can cause havoc if such a discipline is lacking. At times, they can reduce a person to an almost brute existence; at other times, they can seriously constrict a person and, consequently, seriously impede the proper exercise and development of the Christian life.
It is equally obvious that a person's bodily nature should also be the subject of proper discipline. The body is essentially holy, partaking in the holiness of Christ's body; however, the body is also subject to numerous evil tendencies that are at war with the spiritual life and must be controlled with a sound asceticism. St. Paul reminds us of this: "I do not run like a man who loses sight of the finish line. I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. What I do is discipline my own body and master it, for fear that after having preached to others I myself should be rejected" (1 Cor 9:26).
Renunciation is another form of dying with Jesus that, over the ages, has been given much attention in the teaching of the spiritual masters. Indeed, the New Testament itself attests to the undeniable role that renunciation plays in the Christian life. The gentle St. Luke, for example, teaches with a peculiar intransigence Jesus' message of renunciation—a message that Jesus himself lived. Renunciation was by no means the only aspect of Christ's life, but it was an undeniable one. Christians, because they are followers of Christ, must also include renunciation in their lives regardless of their individual vocations. Again, it is well to remind ourselves that the cross is always intended to be connected with life and love. Paradoxically, then, we embrace renunciation for the sake of life. This was the purpose of renunciation in Jesus' life, and it must have the same purpose in the Christian's existence. Let us now consider some of the various ways in which the principle of renunciation applies.
Self-discipline or asceticism, which we have already discussed, does not necessarily include the aspect of renunciation. A person can exercise self-discipline in the positive use of created goods, and renunciation would not be involved; rather, the person would be relating to a created good according to God's will. Renunciation is, however, sometimes related to the practice of self-discipline; a person cannot always properly relate his or her total being to God's creation unless, from time to time, he or she is willing to renounce particular goods and values. Consider this example: A person will not always properly employ his or her external senses in using God's creation unless, at times, he or she denies the senses what they naturally desire. If we are not willing to admit this, we are being falsely optimistic about human nature. There is a sinful element within us that inclines us to a misuse of creation. To control this tendency toward misuse, we must exercise renunciation of those goods toward which our various spiritual and sense faculties are oriented.
In addition to being an aid to self-discipline, there are other uses of renunciation. The choice of a particular vocation or life's work, for instance, demands a renunciation of various other created goods and values. A person who chooses marriage has to be willing to sacrifice certain values and activities that might well be appropriate for a single person, but are incompatible with the married vocation. The Christian scholar, who is called by God to make his or her contribution to the life of the Church in the academic sphere, must also learn the lesson of renunciation; such a person cannot be true to the demanding work of scholarship unless various human values—all of which are good in themselves—are nevertheless sacrificed.
Another use of renunciation is its special witness to the transcendent aspect of the Christian life, one element of which is that our life of grace is a participation in the transcendent life of God. This life has a radical thrust of desiring God as he is in himself; this particular desire will not be completely satisfied until we achieve the beatific vision in which we will possess God as he is in himself, without the mediation of the world. Here on this earth, however, we can, to a certain extent, go out to God as he is in himself. Among the methods for achieving this goal is the practice of renunciation. Speaking of this kind of renunciation, which is expressive of transcendent love of God, Karl Rahner observes: "For such renunciation is either senseless or it is the realized and combined expression of faith, hope and charity which reaches out toward God precisely insofar as he is in himself, and without any mediation of the world, the goal of man in the supernatural order" (Theological Investigations, vol. 3, pp. 51-52). God, then, wants us to seek him not only as he is immanent in creation, but also as he is transcendent in himself. To reiterate, one way to achieve this is through the prudent, periodic renunciation of created goods and values.
We have been discussing two main forms of dying with Jesus, namely, self-discipline, or asceticism, and renunciation. These traditional forms of the Christian cross actually permeate the experience of numerous and various kinds of pain, suffering, hardship, bearing with the difficult—whatever name one wishes to apply. Let us consider some of these ways in which we are daily called to mystically share in the death of Jesus.
A common form of suffering is the experience of loneliness. Trying to cope with loneliness, in fact, seems to be one of the major problems of our day, and some think that the problem is perhaps greater in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Loneliness, of course, is not limited to urban centers, but it does seem to haunt our crowded cities in a special way. Ironically, it seems that the more populated an area becomes, the more possibilities there are for loneliness.
There are two basic kinds of loneliness—that which need not be and that which cannot be avoided. The first type of loneliness results from the fact that we are not in proper touch with our true selves, with God, or with others; the second type results from our existential situation as wayfarers, as pilgrims, who have not yet arrived at our final destination. The pain that results from the first type need not be, and we should work to eliminate its causes. The suffering and dying that are related to the second kind, however, are inevitable. As Christians, we should use this suffering and dying to grow in various ways, among which is the maturing realization that we have no lasting home here on earth.
There is, in addition, the very prosaic type of suffering that is involved in the proper living of each day. There is nothing dramatic about this form of pain, and, precisely because it seems so uneventful, it is very difficult to properly relate to it in a consistent fashion. On particular occasions, we might feel that a quick death by martyrdom would be preferable to the daily dying that involves all sorts of little sufferings. But this daily dying is a precious type of suffering, and to grow in the realization of its importance is a significant sign of spiritual progress. It is a sign that we have the spiritual keenness to comprehend that God so often situates the cross within the ordinariness of everyday life.
Crucial decision making is also a distinct form of dying. Making a decision, we realize, is extremely important for both ourselves and others. There might be two possibilities or three or even more. We might seek advice from others, but in the last analysis, we know—oh, how well we know—that, ultimately, we alone must make the decision before God. We pray for light and strength, for we realize that we need help not only to make the proper decision, but also to properly deal with the pain that is inevitably involved.
The experience of failure is another suffering that we encounter in various degrees along the path of life. Some fail in their attempts to achieve the type of employment they so much desire; others fail to perform properly once they have been so employed. Some are not very successful in initiating interpersonal relationships; others are not very successful in maintaining the ones in which they do become involved. Some experience failure because they strive to accomplish too little; others experience failure because they strive to do too much. Some encounter failure because they have not given the proper effort; others feel failure's pain despite their conscientious perseverance. In these and in other types of failure there is a double pain—the pain of having failed and the pain in having to begin over again. The pain of having failed, however, must not be wasted; we must use it to become better persons. If we do use it, we are able to cope more maturely with the effort that is involved in beginning afresh.
Experiencing various types of transition along the path of life also produces its own kind of pain. Periods of transition from one age of life to another are numerous, and some are obviously much more radical than others. The transitions from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to young adulthood, from young adulthood to middle age, from middle age to old age produce various, and sometimes rather intense, kinds of sufferings. There is the classic kind of pain that adolescents experience, for example, as they grope for some kind of self-identity, as they try to cope with various types of peer pressure, as they struggle for a new kind of relationship with parents because their childhood relationship no longer suffices. These periods of transition, or life-stages, also involve changing interests and goals; that which held our interest at one stage of life leaves us bored at another. To establish a new set of interests and challenges is sometimes painful, but not so painful as the boring vacuum that we must exist in if we fail to replace those now-dead interests and goals with new ones.
Another type of transition involves our work-life. During the past decade, people have increasingly experienced the necessity, and sometimes the desirability, of making work or professional changeovers. Whereas in the past a person would more or less be expected to remain in the same skilled labor or professional position for the duration of his or her working years, today it is not uncommon for a person to embark upon several or more career changes. These changes, even when the desire for a change rather than a circumstance of necessity has been the catalyst, involve the inevitable difficulties that accompany the adjustment to new surroundings, different coworkers, and different responsibilities.
Furthermore, work or professional changeovers sometimes demand a change in residence, not only to vastly different parts of the country, but even to other parts of the world. The transition that involves a change of residence, in fact, is a growing characteristic of our times. We are definitely becoming a much more mobile and transient population; however, even when persons freely seek these changes in residence, they can experience considerable hardship. One must die a bit—one must separate himself or herself from people, places, customs, landmarks that he or she has perhaps cherished over a long time. Not to feel this jolt, this separation, this dying, would mean that one possessed less than a sensitive heart.
Rejection, in various forms, is another pain not uncommon to human experience. Rejection because of race, religion, or ethnic origin has been, sad to say, a rather prominent part of our country's history. Blacks, in particular, have felt the wrath of racial rejection and discrimination. Others, too, have not been immune—this group includes, among others, American Indians, Puerto Ricans, and Mexican-Americans.
Although we ourselves might not have suffered racial, ethnic, or religious rejection, we are certainly susceptible to other types. We may have experienced, for instance, a certain ostracism in not being accepted—or being only reluctantly accepted—by this or that group, by this or that organization. When our ideas and opinions are not accepted by others, we feel the sting of yet another type of rejection. Further still is that very painful yet all too common rejection of not feeling loved by the person whom we dearly love.
The type of rejection that we experience—no matter what it might be—carries with it its own kind and degree of suffering that we can neither deny nor instantaneously cause to go away; we can, however, profit from its painful presence. One of the things we must do in order to grow from the rejection that we experience is to refuse to harbor bitterness against the person or persons who have caused us pain. Not to be bitter can be difficult—at times, it can be very difficult. If we do remain bitter, however, our suffering is increased by a type of pain—the pain of bitterness—that is not growth promoting, but is, rather, pernicious to the well-being of our personality.
The experience of various kinds of uncertainty is another type of suffering, or dying. The list of examples of human uncertainty is a long one. There is the uncertainty that is connected with the approach of a first experience: the young doctor who is still in training, for example, is understandably apprehensive as he or she prepares for his or her first surgery. There is the uncertainty of the young man and the young woman who are about to marry. Both begin to realize the uncertainties that are attached to marriage: Am I really marrying the right person? Will the children be normal and healthy? Will my partner love me over a lifetime, or is it possible that love will turn to coldness or even hatred? Likewise, the young businessman wonders whether the financial investment that he is about to make will result in increased earnings or ultimately lead to bankruptcy. There is also that common uncertainty that has plagued men and women of our contemporary age—namely, the question of whether life as we now know it on this earth will suddenly end in a nuclear holocaust.
Christians, of course, experience these same uncertainties to the same extent that non-Christians experience them. Christians, however, precisely because they are Christians, should react to uncertainty and assimilate it in a manner that will differ from that of non-Christians. The Christian life is, after all, supposed to extend to all the dimensions of authentic human existence—including the experience of uncertainty.
There is, however, a way in which Christians experience uncertainty in a manner that differs from non-Christians. There are specific uncertainties that explicitly arise out of Christian practices. Let us consider a few examples. In deciding one's basic state of life, the doubt, confusion, and anxiety that can temporarily accompany a choice of vocation can be agonizingly painful for some people. There are, in addition, the uncertainties and obscurities that, at times, accompany spiritual development in general. In the practice of prayer, for instance, there can be dryness, or an apparent inability to encounter God, even though God is really present to the person. There can also be a certain repugnance as one feels the demanding effort that is required to pray in present circumstances, as well as the bothersome uncertainty that makes us wonder whether our prayer is the proper type for us here and now.
What is more, various uncertainties surround the seemingly contradictory manifestations of God's will. There might be, for example, a certain indication that God would have us act in a particular way, yet his will, as it is channeled to us from a different perspective, seems to suggest another course of action. Of course, God never contradicts himself; the contradiction is only an apparent one. We are not without pain, however, as we work through the confusion and uncertainty.
How should we Christians act in times of uncertainty? We must be conscious of the two great realities of love and trust. First, we must try to be particularly conscious of how much God loves us in Christ. This deepened realization, in turn, will lead us to return that love in such a way that our love will be characterized by an abandoning trust in God's providence for us. Consequently, times of uncertainty can be times of tremendous growth. For we are creatures who all too often can become self-complacent before God; we are prone to forget just how weak and helpless we are without God. The discomfort of uncertainty, then, can help arouse us from this false sense of security because at these times we become more conscious of our helplessness and we approach God for guidance, strength, and consolation.
When we experience uncertainty we should also be aware that, although we do not possess all possible light, we do have enough light to properly cope. The general pattern of Christ's life is always before us as an example and can be lived out in circumstances of uncertainty as well as at any other time. We can also utilize particular means that can lessen or even dispel the uncertainty, or that will at least help us to properly cope. Examples of such means are prayer and the seeking of advice from competent persons—if the particular uncertainty indicates that the counsel of another or others would be helpful.
We have been discussing some of the specific ways in which we experience suffering. Let us now end this discussion in the same way that we began—by reminding ourselves of suffering's purpose in God's overall plan. Suffering, when it is properly encountered, leads us to a more mature Christian existence, that is, to an increased participation in Jesus' resurrection. If it is unchristian to flee the suffering that God intends for us (we are, of course, allowed to take proper means, as indicated by God's will, to dispel or alleviate suffering), it is also unchristian to view suffering out of perspective. We should view suffering, or dying with Christ, in relation to growth in the life that Jesus came to give us in abundance. As we properly encounter suffering, we are more and more cutting through the layers of the false self and increasingly coming in touch with the true, Christic self. If we live according to this true self, we become more capable of loving God and our fellow human beings. We become more vibrant personalities, more sensitive to the true, the good, the beautiful. We concentrate on the good that God's love has put in creation rather than on the evil therein that results from man's sinfulness.
Although we might endure suffering with a proper Christian perspective, this is not to say that we find it easy to suffer. We need constant motivation for the proper assimilation of the suffering that daily faces us. This motivation, in turn, must be centered in the remembrance of the one who has suffered before us:
Though he was harshly treated, he
and opened not his mouth;
Like a lamb led to the slaughter
or a sheep before the shearers,
he was silent and opened not his
Oppressed and condemned, he was
and who would have thought any
more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of
and smitten for the sin of his people,
A grave was assigned him among the
and a burial place with evildoers,
Though he had done no wrong
nor spoken any falsehood.
end of excerpts from Response to God’s Love
You Love Always
March 18, 1994 7:15 a.m.
At All Saints, After Communion
Messenger: Dear Jesus, how holy is my soul? I do not see it as you desire. Do I judge my brothers? Do I compare myself to them and tell myself that I am right and they are wrong? Why do I judge at all? My job is to love, to love You with all my heart. My job is to preach Your gospel, to emit Your love from my very being!
When I am caught up in being wronged by my brother, how can Your love radiate to anyone? I am a clogged vessel and the love You want to give to those around me is trapped behind my anger.
Oh Lord, open my heart to Your ways. How easy for Satan to talk in my head and tell me how I should be feeling when I have a job to do. This job is more serious than any worldly job. This job is to spread Your love to a world that is hurting. When I am a clogged vessel, all those around me suffer from the loss of love they would receive if my heart were open and love were flowing out to them.
Oh, how Satan is so crafty as to steal our hearts away and fill them with such impurities, thoughts of anger at our brothers! How easily I comply. This is the self in me. Have I been wronged? Have I been threatened? Will someone think badly of me? Lord, help me to be selfless, to live only for love of You and to know You truly love me, to want not to answer any accusations of others, to remain silent when attacked unless You prompt me to speak.
Control my tongue as the doorway from my heart. Control my heart. Keep it full of Your love and free of all impurities. I want a heart that is free of hate and anger. I have a job to do, Lord, and it is to spread Your love. This job is a top priority. I receive all my love and support from You, Lord. Is that not enough or am I not thinking of how immense is the love of God?
Jesus: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened and I give you rest. I fill you with such love. I am God. I am love. Why focus on your suffering brothers? Because they are suffering from the evil of this world. You need not suffer if you turn to Me. I have all you need. I never abandon you or leave you. I am by your side. I, Jesus, walk with you where you go, and with such love. The love of God is all-encompassing. When I am by your side, why do you fret because of your ailing brothers? Pray for them. Some are in total darkness. How will My light shine from you if you are clogged with any anger or hatred? You must remain fixed only in love--love of God, love of one another!
Put your anger aside and look to My suffering face. I loved you all to My death. I did not count the cost. I did not number your sins. I loved you. I forgave you. I loved you unconditionally. I gave My all for you. Can you not do this for your brothers? I suffered for the sins of men and I was silent. I speak of My love. I do not speak of your sins. Who of you are sinless? If you expect Me to forgive you, can you not forgive your brothers when they have wronged you?
I am the light that shines through you to the dark world. I want to shine from your hearts. To have the least taint of hate and anger blocks My light from your souls. Clean out your hearts every minute. Let the hate and anger go! Do not let it fester and grow in your hearts. Keep your hearts pure only in the love of God. When your brother wrongs you, forgive him instantly. Do not let Satan talk in your head. Do not let self come to the front lines. Be ready to withstand the attack. Remain selfless and unattached.
I live in you and you live in Me. You are immersed in a vat of My love. My might shines from your being. Your brothers are suffering. Love them, watch them in their suffering and see them as My precious ones in need of My love. They are hurting so. Will you not tend to their bleeding wounds? Or will you scoff at them and go on your way?
This world is suffering. The only cure is the love of God. You have the opportunity to spread My love or act like the world. How can I love My sick ones if you act as they do? Did I argue on the way to Calvary? Did I answer their accusations and say, "Oh, I didn't do that?" I was silent! Can you not remain silent when you are accused? Can you not turn to Me and pick up your cross and see My suffering face?
I suffer for how they are hurting you. But to strike back in anger is not the way of love. This is not My way. My way is to love. I loved those who whipped Me. I loved those who crowned My head with thorns. I loved those who spit at Me and yelled obscenities at Me. I loved you all in all your sins! I loved you to My death! I showed you the way to love. I showed you the way to forgive. I showed you the way.
Why do you look to the ways of the suffering? If they scoff at and persecute you and yell any slander against you, focus on the love of your Father in heaven Who gave His only Son for love of you! The way of God is the way of love. Any taint of anger, of hatred, of getting even, of being wronged and making yourself right, is the way of the evil one.
My ways are steadfast and direct. I operate from love. Stay rooted firmly in the love of God. See Me suffering, beaten, bloodied, crowned, slapped, kicked, slandered--and every vile thing yelled at Me. See Me, see Me and then see Me dying on the cross in sweet surrender, arms outstretched, hanging by nails, head hanging--all out of great and ardent love for you!
I showed you how to love. Can you not forgive your suffering brothers? Can you not love? I loved to My death. Can you not let go of such little things coming from them who are hurting? You are My soldiers in this cold war. Your weapons are your hearts filled with the ardent, on-fire love of Jesus. Your hearts are powerful. God has all the power. Love finds the way. The only way to warm a cold heart is through the warmth of love, true love, unconditional love, that I give to you. Love always. I loved you to My death. Will you love My hurting ones for Me? Can I use you to light the dark world? I call this day. Will you answer?
The way to Me is the Way of the Cross. Do you see your life as the way to Me? Each day is a day on the way to the end which is heaven, hell or purgatory. Do you see yourself as making it for this life or for everlasting life? Oh, if only children were taught to see their lives in their entirety, from beginning to end, only to go to another place. If only children were taught to see that this is a "layover", not the end in itself!
Look at your life. You are on your way to somewhere else. This is a journey to get you to another place. If you are traveling, you do not camp out on the train, or try to make your vehicle an end in itself. You are in transit to another life. You have not arrived. You have not come to your destiny.
I am the Way. I am the Truth. I am the Life. To have eternal life you must model yourself after the Master. I loved you to My death. I love you this much this day. I gave My life for you. Do you not believe that to turn to Me is to give you all you need?
Follow Me. I show you the Way. You need to be led to the kingdom that waits for you. If you follow other leaders, they take you from the correct way. Only one way leads to My kingdom. It is the way I showed you. It is the way I show you this day. Would you go to a tour guide who knows the way or to one who is guessing?
Your brothers are following paths that lead to destruction. I show you the way to the kingdom of heaven. Why would you follow an amateur who knows not the way? You pay the price for your foolishness. My way is the Way of the Cross. If you try to find another way more to your liking, you get off course. The way to My kingdom is led by Me. I am with you this day in the Eucharist and in the tabernacle. Will you come and sit with Me in silence and listen when I give you your directions or will you go to a bad guide and try to find a short cut?
There is no short cut to My kingdom. My way is the only way. Pick up your cross and follow Me. Do not try to put your crosses down. Accept what I send you as coming from Him Who loves you. It is in this acceptance that you grow in your relationship with Me. My hand is in everything you experience.
See Me clothed in a white tunic, My love radiating from My being. See My hand outstretched as I walk before you and say, "Sweet one, this is the way to My kingdom. I bring you such love along the way. You will suffer, but My love will see you through. Come and follow as I lead. I walk before you backwards, right in front of you. Do you not see Me? Keep your eyes on Me, sweet one. I love you so. I will never lead you off the right road. I lead you with such love and peace. You will not know all My love here, sweet one, but when we get to My kingdom, what a reward for following Me! My house has many mansions. I have a place prepared just for you. I ardently love you. I am your Jesus, Son of the Living God. I come, you follow. We will live in My kingdom soon."
Jesus: Unless a grain of wheat dies, it does not produce fruit. Such dying must be cultivated by obedience and your covenant with God, rooted in love and forgiveness. Die to yourself and live in My love, child. Child, I love you. Do you know now?
R. Jesus, I believe. Jesus, I believe. Jesus, I believe. I believe in you.
You know that what I tell you is truth. Do not even think. I will bring them to you. You remain set in your place. Pray all day. Be busy about My work. I need you to do My work for Me.
end of March 18, 1994
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Shepherds of Christ Ministries
P.O. Box 193
Morrow, Ohio 45152-0193
Telephone: (toll free) 1-888-211-3041 or (513) 932-4451
FAX: (513) 932-6791