Let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice; turn to the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face—Entrance Antiphon, Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
By F. K. Bartels
27 October 2012
Given the difficulties which confront us daily, it is helpful to remember the many incomparable gifts that God has showered upon us, especially the supreme Gift above all gifts, his only Son who was sent “into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17).
We must not, however, simply remember the gifts of God, but appropriate them to ourselves by entering into the life of God, by making the story of the life of Christ our own story. It is here, in this and this alone, living in and through and with Christ, that we find the realization of every hope, discover the treasure buried in the field (Mt 13:44), and begin to taste the kingdom of heaven which God freely gives to those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).
As important as it is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in healing, elevating and perfecting culture and the world, striving to live a life of fullness in the human community, united with our brethren everywhere, our primary concern is the next life. This is not to advocate a dismissive attitude toward the present; on the contrary, because of the promise of Christ and everlasting life we are moved to work all the more in order to build a truly Christian society. Nevertheless, heaven is our home: permanent, unending life with God is our goal — that is our human destiny. God’s call to humanity to embrace him with open arms as his children, receive divine love and attain our final home, is the story of human history. And it is the story of our future, provided that we give ourselves over to God.
Yes, heaven is your goal. And the reality of heaven is certain beyond any doubt because God himself has revealed it. This wondrous destination, one which is everlasting, immune from every threat and filled with unending delight, will not be had without commitment, labor, hardship and sacrifice, for as Christ reminds us in the Gospel, we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48). Given the difficulties human nature experiences, however, the life of perfection can seem an impossible task.
It is, then, easy to laugh at the idea. Achieve perfection? You’re kidding, right? Impossible! And with that, many refocus their attention on worldly endeavors. Others, although they entertain for awhile thoughts of spiritual maturity, begin to imagine perfection as an unconquerable mountain, and dejectedly turn away, as if there exists not even a glimmer of hope. Still others rely on themselves, which is to guarantee failure.
Here we arrive at what might seem a paradox, although it is not. How can we be perfect, while yet we are sinners? Simply stated, we cannot be perfect unless God makes us so. It is only by God’s grace that we are saved; it is through the Holy Spirit that we are re-created and made anew. It is through the communication of God’s supernatural life to us that we are made members of the divine family. But God will not give us these incomparable gifts in spite of ourselves. Cooperation is a necessary component. Salvation is 100 percent God’s work and 100 percent our work. Christ freely gives himself to us, but we must also freely give ourselves to him. While the indwelling Spirit is unceasingly present to those who are in a state of grace, such a gift of love cannot be one-sided. It is to be received with love. A loving relationship must be reciprocal. God says, “I am here.” I respond, “Here I am Lord!”
The point is, you are not alone! That, too, is the story of salvation history and therefore human history. God himself, in every case, tenderly and with compassion comes to our aid. There is great cause for hope, for Christ has promised himself to those who seek him. Pray! Seek God! Give yourself over to God, whose love, infinitely beyond the riches of the cosmos, will transform you into the person he desires you to be. God will do this for but one purpose only: goodness.
St. Jose Maria Escriva put it this way: “For a son of God each day should be an opportunity for renewal, knowing for sure that with the help of grace he will reach the end of the road, which is Love. That is why if you begin and begin again, you are doing well. If you have a will to win, if you struggle, then with God’s help you will conquer. There will be no difficulty you cannot overcome.”
For he who possesses God, every difficulty fades away in the light of heaven. Let us pray:
O Lord, you are my strength, my salvation and my deliverer. You have set a golden shield in my hand and hung a breastplate of love about my chest. You walk beside me as my constant and everlasting protector, bedeck me with jewels, and bring me to drink from the well-spring of supernatural Love. You have anointed me with heavenly oil, set me amid unimaginable joy and gladness, and graced me with a share in your own divine life. I am yours forever and ever. Do with me as it pleases you, for in your will lies my eternal happiness. Amen.
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Photo Credit: Deacon Frederick Bartels, all rights reserved.
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.