LET IT aLL sTART hERE
For Catholics who care...
Thomas Merton wrote in his journal on December 7, 1965:
“What is primary? God’s revelation of Himself to me
in Christ and my response in faith.”
I was two years old when Merton composed his powerful prayer, yet his words still resonate with me. With “ears of Faith", I hear the dialogue he had with himself as he scratched 16 words on paper, words that would come to summarize how he was “wagering everything on God’s mercy to him”1. With my “ears of Faith", I can hear Merton even now, as he responded to his first abbot, Dom Frederic Dunne, who asked the newly received novice, Merton: “What is it you seek?” Merton replied: “The Mercy of God….”
Once a person realizes that the Mercy of God is all that is needed, God begins to frequently reveal Himself. His Mercy becomes apparent in all things. I have only just recently learned to recognize this truth. I have only recently begun to pray these words daily: I seek the Mercy of God!
“Seek and ye shall find”…and I did in the following true story, this modern day parable of The Good Samaritan. This is a lesson I know Christ, in His Mercy, is administering to me so that I might respond in faith and share it.
A man had fallen victim to clinical depression as he grew older. The disease stripped him of all joy, of all his interest in
living fully in this world… it robbed him of all his dignity.
He was stripped, beaten by this unseen force, deeply wounded
and left half- dead. This man was a non-practicing,
baptized Catholic. Circumstances, coincidentally, put
him in front of a priest… but the priest was of no help.
The depressed man reached out to his family (and
many of his friends), but they eventually stopped
answering his calls. They would only avoid him.
Even his dog ignored him and passed by him on
the opposite side of the room.
But a “none”2 who came upon him was
moved with compassion at the sight of him.
He answered the depressed man’s call for help
spending hours of his own time listening to the man
speak of his unbearable pain. This same “none”,
in an attempt to administer a healing balm to care for the
depressed man, tried to recall what he had read about a
Catholic’s privilege in attending Mass and receiving the
Eucharist. He reminded the depressed man of God’s
Baptismal promise to him and urged the depressed man
to “trust in Him” and return to the Church so that he might
receive the Body of Christ. “From my understanding…” the
“none” offered: “For a Catholic, it’s all about the
Eucharist. If you believe in God,” the “none” added,
. “Surely, there is help for you there.”
But in his despair the depressed man could only answer:
“I’m not ready for that. I don’t even remember the prayers.
Once again, the “none” assured him that someone was
there at the church who could help him. “Just go.” he said.
Now I ask you this: “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robber’s victim?“ (Luke 10: 36-38)
1 From The Intimate Merton Edited by Patrick Hart and Jonathan
2 “None” is a tag for a person who does not identify with any religion. And yet it is clear that God’s Mercy was most at work in the actions of a man that one would least expect God to work through. It is also clear that God is at work in the life all people, whether they recognize Him or not.
1 From The Intimate Merton Edited by Patrick Hart and Jonathan
I haven't written an essay for this blog in two weeks. Not because I haven't anything Christ related to share, but because I had briefly become disenchanted with this call to The New Evangelization. I'm back now.
Many Catholic folks I know, who claim to love the material at www.letitallstarthere.com, also claim that they don't have the time to visit the blog so that they might read, comment on and share its content. Doing so would make them true evangelizing disciples of Christ. But they don't seem to get that. I can't think of an easier way to evangelize and yet the common excuse is: I've been too busy to get there. These are the same people who attend workshops on The New Evangelization and are committee members with Evangelization Outreach. Go figure.
A non-believing friend of mine asked me this pointed question: What do you want from these people?
My answer: I want them to grow their imagination and their courage.
So...here is an exercise in just that: Imagine your cell phone is ringing. Imagine that on the screen the caller's name reads: Jesus. Are you too busy to answer the phone call? I feel that my well intentioned audience at Let It All Start Here is doing just that. Not answering Jesus' call.
Christ calls us every day. And it is too bad and too sad when we are too busy for Him. I have learned that the way to answer His call is to be primarily preoccupied with Him. Think of Him the way and as often as you would a new, romantic love. Look forward to speaking with Him, to seeing Him, to being with Him. Or think of Him as often and as attentively as a new mother thinks of her newborn baby. If we adopted that sense of knowing Him, we could not help but answer His call.
I urge people to use their imagination to help support their desire to be a Faithful disciple of Christ....
Okay try this: Pretend you are the great painter Caravaggio with a highly developed imagination. With this keen skill you can actually hear Christ's voice... see His kind face... feel His warmth... smell the scent of His robes. You can even imagine that, with His grace, you are Christ in this world for others.... Read the Gospel, know the scenes of His life ...imagine what was really happening. Be preoccupied with Christ Jesus.
Now, why the need for a deeper sense of courage? Because there is a considerable lifestyle change if one is to be a disciple of Christ in this increasing secular world. To be a follower of Christ requires one to experiment with new behaviors and that can make a person VERY uncomfortable.
For example, this newly formed imagination that beckons Christ to you may be as difficult to develop as learning to write beautiful cursive with your none writing hand. One must practice. One must pay close attention to the details of forming the letters. One must not get too busy to do the work. One must imagine the lovely script already formed on the paper. Courage is required to be a witness of Christ in the world. I think that lack of courage keeps most of my readership from sharing their thoughts, concerns, ideas and feelings about their relationship to Christ and His church. Being brave is not a slowly developed personality trait. One can not ease into being brave. It is a quick decision that one makes. In every difficult situation, one is either brave or one is not. Understand that being brave also means being empowered.
It is within everyone's reach with God's grace.
With the New Evangelization movement there has been much use of the words conversion and reversion. But I think of the word aspersion instead. Aspersion, the act of sprinkling water after renewing baptismal promises, applies appropriately to my life of Faith. For baptism has left an indelible spiritual mark of belonging to Christ on my soul. Because of this I have been graced by Him to have the good sense to keep Him close.
However, I must admit I have done with my Faith what I have often done throughout my life regarding my physical well-being…. Like prescribed vitamin bottles, Faith hung around rarely opened. I believe in God. I believe that supplements work, yet I often forgot both of them.
I attended Sunday Mass; I took my occasional multi-vitamin…I thought I was doing enough. Distracted, I never got around to establishing a healthy routine. I clearly understood what was necessary to obtain optimal health, still the bottles of A, D, K & C collected dust on the counter just as my rosary and Bible waited for me on my dresser. They were ornaments that gave me a false sense of well being. False, because when tragedy struck in “losing” my daughter to drugs, I found that only through living my Faith would I survive.
God’s mercy permits the inconceivable to happen…it is never too late with God. There is never irreversible damage, there are just new beginnings. And just as in baptism, through water poured over an upturned face, He restores one’s soul to Newness of Life as soon as we return to have our Faith / our hearts cracked open.