After consistently praying for over a year for the Lord to provide me with a spiritual director who both understood and challenged me, the request was answered during my trip home to the states in December. Through this relationship with my new director and using the nine month Ignatian spiritual guide each day, I have found more healing, greater depth in my prayer times, and have attempted to become more contemplative using scripture as a communicative tool with the Lord. The most recent reading was 2 Peter 2:4:
“For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to the pits of deepest darkness to be kept until judgment;”
Shaking off my original, analytical thought of, “Well that’s not even a complete sentence,” and focusing my attention on its meaning, I found the message Christ desired to reveal. If God, after creating all that is or ever will be, could dispel His beloved angels into darkness, would He not do the same to those who deny His goodness, fight His ways, and/or openly choose sin? The very clear and obvious answer is of course, yes, followed by an exuberant proclamation of never being one of ‘those‘ who chooses another path. However, as our friend Peter would so lovingly remind us, writing this promise down on paper or even saying it in your heart, is much different than truly living it out.
In the Gospel readings this week we accompany Jesus through His Passion and are encouraged to relive this experience with Him. How have we approached and accepted this challenge? Have we decided to become a member of the audience merely viewing it from an outside perspective or, have we attempted to place ourselves in the position of one of the “key-players” in the story? If the latter, we would easily come to find many similarities between the disciples who abandoned Jesus at His weakest and ourselves. Our imperfect human condition hides our sins and even validates why they aren’t that bad. Denial of Christ comes in varying forms and degrees and often will sneak past our sights, for example:
- How frequently do I ignore a prompting to pray?
- How often do I allow moments of speaking His name fall through my grasp for fear of embarrassment or offending another?
- How many times have I been untrusting in His provision and tried (and failed) to provide for myself and my needs?
- Have I been more faithful to a routine, i.e. exercise or television series, making time and rearranging my schedule to fit it in, yet could not find the time to be alone with the Lord?
Are these not modern forms of denial that we fall in to almost each and every day? Have we not openly denied Him by the reflection of counter-Christian behaviors and words that demonstrate a negative witness? If we cannot remain faithful in these little ways how will we ever have the gumption to resist temptations in the larger forms? These realizations are not meant to persecute or serve as a judgment, instead, they are meant to open our eyes to the challenges that lay before us. I have fooled no one but myself with my over-confidence and cavalier attitude towards my ability to overcome and in Leviticus chapter 19, God reminds me who really has the reins in my life. In this single chapter there are 14 instances in which He states, “I am the Lord.” Repetitive? Yes, but more appropriately stated, IMPORTANT. We often forget who is in charge! By our discouragement and frustration with seemingly unanswered prayers and daily sufferings we claim the opposite of the Lord’s words to Isaiah.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
In humility, we must recognize this fact and claim the mercy purchased for us this week. We must realize the beauty of His all-knowing and perfect love. Let us root out even the smallest occasion of sin and ask the Lord for the graces to stand beside Him in our suffering, shouldering the cross proudly, knowing that our redemption is offered through its acceptance and our willingness to joyfully endure.
Let us pray for our daily conversions and for our brothers and sisters who live without the knowledge of His love. Happy Holy Week.