During his homily at one of the daily, televised EWTN Masses this last week, Father Wade Menezes, CPM referred to The Imitation of Christ, a 14th century guide to Catholic spirituality, the popularity of which is second only to that of the Bible. In connection with the daily scripture readings, Fr. Menezes spoke about Book Two, Chapter Three, titled Goodness and Peace in Man. It is reproduced in part below:
The man who is at perfect ease is never suspicious, but the disturbed and discontented spirit is upset by many a suspicion. He neither rests himself nor permits others to do so. He often says what ought not to be said and leaves undone what ought to be done. He is concerned with the duties of others but neglects his own.
Direct your zeal, therefore, first upon yourself; then you may with justice exercise it upon those about you…If you wish men to bear with you, you must bear with them…
…Some people live at peace with themselves and with their fellow men, but others are never at peace with themselves nor do they bring it to anyone else. These latter are a burden to everyone, but they are more of a burden to themselves. A few, finally, live at peace with themselves and try to restore it to others.”
Wow—if this doesn’t cause each and every one of us, regardless of who we are, to stop and take stock of what we are doing to bring others to Jesus, what will? When I first read it, I could think of many others to whom it applied. But all too quickly, I had to accept the fact that it applied to me! And it raised a lot of questions—
· In this Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy, what am I doing to live as an exemplar of God’s merciful love?
· How do I show my joy in having God in my life to others in my daily circumstances?
· Are my actions the kind that bring peace to others or turmoil?
· Am I pulling others TO Jesus, or pushing them AWAY from Him?
(Excuse me for a second while I go remove this log from my eye…)
In a somewhat similar vein, a recent blog post at Charlie Johnston’s website mentioned the great deceiver’s effort to cause turmoil by creating unrest and a sense of betrayal among the faithful of God’s church, to divide them and push them into despair. The blog post uses the metaphor of a tree on fire:
“…This is like a tree in a huge fire. The sap super-heats and suddenly explodes, and sends showers of sparks igniting all the trees around it.” When a person feels betrayed – whether the betrayal is real or merely felt in that way – that person then experiences a sense of helplessness which quickly turns into anger and a need to lash out. The betrayed person cries out for justice, but then feels entirely justified in wreaking vengeance and hurt on those whom he perceives to have betrayed him. The betrayal may, indeed, be real, or the source of the temptation may be with the betrayer. It may be that someone who has been hurt is tempted to ascribe this hurt to the malice of betrayal on the part of the person who inadvertently caused the hurt without realizing it. Either way, what is most important is the nature of our own response in these kinds of situations.
Dominoes fall one at a time or in small groups. The tree exploding with fiery sparks immediately sets on fire all the trees around it, which then ignite all the trees around them. Such a forest fire will cause a huge conflagration in only a few minutes. The betrayed person justifies his own behavior in hurting others in his desperate need for vindication. He ignites the anger of those he believes have hurt him by hurting them. Like the flaming trees in the fire, these people then spread their own anger and vengeance to those around them until an entire area is filled with hate and revenge. We are seeing just this scenario being played out in so many areas around us….”
The approaching “storm” that many people have been referring to is already here. We see it among faithful Christians, among the ordained and lay leaders and among the rest of the faithful as well. None of us are without fault in this regard. If, like me, you find yourself at least occasionally being one of the “sparks” to which the above blog post refers, what are the implications? When this happens, who wins? Clearly the great deceiver, the accuser, is the only winner if we let these things continue unabated. All the souls turned away from God and from His merciful love lose.
If we contributed to the loss of these souls, we lose as well. When we’re called to account, will we be able to say we did all we could, with His grace and assistance, to bring souls to Jesus? Or will we use the excuse that someone else started it, they betrayed us, they did us wrong, it wasn’t my job or my concern, or [fill in the blank]?
Look at the converging trends positioned to create and sustain this storm:
· Serious, underlying structural weaknesses within the global economic system
· Losses of religious liberties in “developed” countries, including the USA
· Increased persecution of Christians world-wide
· Immigration of hordes of people driven from their homes due to persecution, with known terrorists inserted into the groups of immigrants
· A culture of death that devalues individuals from the unborn to the aged
· Societal unrest in general—a “them vs. us” view of life with a growing sense of incivility
· Eliminating God from the public square and prayer from private lives
· And more…
This life is short (take a look at the obits if you don’t believe it)—how much time does each of us have left here? It’s time to wake up—in some cases, it’s long past time—we’ve hit the spiritual snooze button one time too many.
Shouldn’t we be building up relationships to support one another in the storm that we see building instead of tearing one another down? Shouldn’t we be praying for God’s help, in showing His merciful love to everyone, through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, rather than, as The Imitation puts it, “[being] upset by many a suspicion”?
Let’s rewrite the “burning tree” metaphor:
The burning tree is indeed exploding with fiery sparks and immediately setting fire to all the trees around it, which then ignite all the trees around them, but the sparks are from the Holy Spirit.
We can become the sparks, spreading God’s peace and merciful love to all with whom we come into contact, enflaming them with His love, and leading as many souls with hearts afire as we can to Him for His Greater Glory.
“Yes,” you say, “but that’s easier said than done. Too much has been said and done to be undone.” It may be difficult, but with God all things are possible. He wants what’s best for us. Jesus tells us multiple times, “Peace be with you.” His Peace and Divine Mercy await us. Now is the time to pursue it and to pass it on to others with renewed vigor.
Let’s get out there and spread the fire of God’s love—all of us.