Friday, November 29, 2013

Agony and Ecstasy both lift us up to God

Dear Fellow Christian, or if not a Christian, Dear Fellow Traveler on the road of life....

As it often happens to us moderns, or people living at the beginning of the third millennium, we run the risk of defining or valuing ourselves a lot by our "doing"... and when you go through a "valley" in life, dark shadows of suffering, pain, isolation, loneliness, loss of employment or recognition, or of downright persecution, harassment, exploitation, or abuse; then you could say that you are feeling as though you are "in crisis mode" and unable to do as you normally do.... Well, one could say "So far so good" in the sense that what you are feeling under such circumstances is entirely human and normal for a human being that is still alive.

For the Christian as a disciple of Jesus, as also for the Jew or Jewess as a son or daughter of God, this is a time of grace. For the Muslim, it depends on what kind of faith they have come to experience, since many dominant movements or trends in Islam are all about controlling and engineering society and the behavior of others - much as the Catholic Church, which I dearly love and to which I am very devoted, has done in many places at various times - whereas the Word that God addresses to both Jews and Christians and all people of good will is that the Lord is offering us human beings during times of trial a "spiritual package of grace" that under normal circumstances He is not able to offer us because we would not notice or if we did notice we would not recognize the value and would simply pass over it. God not only wants to advance his divine work in the world of human beings, but He also wants to give human beings growth towards the eternal life He offers and which begins already here and now on Earth....

When our ability to "do" is diminished, the reduction of "noise", of "racing thoughts", of "impulsive activity", and of so many other dynamics begins to "clear the air" within our soul; so that we could say that "the dust begins to settle" and "the smoke begins to clear" and our soul's "eyes" can begin to notice a divine presence and activity it may never have seen before....

To the mind, it appears as an interior "light" that clears up many thoughts and dismisses many thoughts as useless shadows and makes room for the thoughts that are in the "mind" of Christ.... Jesus can begin more easily to "think his thoughts" in our mind and guide us along and further, deeper into the "mind" of God.... Call it wisdom, and it opens up before our mind many doors through which we can enter into all the vitality and possibilities generated within the Holy Trinity. In simple terms, God can help us step back and take a "big picture" view of our life, activity, and experience.

To the heart, it appears as an inclination to relax, to trust, to rest in God and let Him take care of things for a change, and stop worrying, stop thinking that everything is up to me, and a greater, easier willingness to let God do his part. In this heavenly light, all things suddenly become much more clearly as in God's hands, that the Holy Trinity are and always will be "Master of life and existence" in the universe and in the heavenly realms.... Our heart suddenly remembers it is only a creature and not a god, that this corporeal existence began a short time ago in our mother's womb and will shortly leave this earthly realm and be clothed with immortality in preparation for entry into the heart of the Holy Trinity to enjoy unending life for all eternity, and it will be anything but boring....

To the soul, the divine presence and activity becomes slowly more perceptible as something that is so real that it is more real than I am, than the world is, than life itself. The soul begins to grasp the magnitude of the divine being - the Father, the Son - Jesus, Risen from the dead and Master of all - and the Holy Spirit; who have existed for all eternity... we are incapable of grasping there having been no beginning to God, intellectually that is... but the soul slowly accepts to "walk on the water" like Peter and simply accept the eternity of God and that He is offering us the incomparable gift of entering into that eternity.

We may have had a beginning but we too, in God, will have no ending, because our soul is immortal, incapable of dying. All that is asked of us is to enter into God and in this way avoid the "second death", the death of the soul, which is what happens to souls that refuse to trust in God or to become like Him.... The good news is that even now the Holy Trinity breathe into the soul that opens up in trust the very breathing that is happening in the Holy Trinity... so that deep within us our soul can accept to let the Holy Spirit take care of the breathing of our soul... breathing with the very love and trust that are in the Father and the Son... the Holy Spirit living within us now, and this happens so deep within, so imperceptibly, that the soul is only conscious of being loved and wanting to love back, and beginning to do so by letting go... letting God....

In the body, the divine presence and activity is perceived in a variety of ways and in each of them the scenario is similar... the body senses its own struggle and then also perceives from God an invitation to let go, to trust, to surrender, to make room, to open up and welcome that divine presence and action. This results in the body then softening up, opening, relaxing, letting go, trusting, warming up or cooling down in a way that is coming closer to what would be "normal" and good....

This experience of God happens in a wide variety of circumstances, from ecstasy to agony.... When a soul feels physically the beauty and goodness of God, the love of God, it experiences the kinds of feelings we could associate with allowing oneself to be "seduced" or "won over" by a beloved person. Someone we trust and admire loves us and we are so taken up by trust, gratitude, and a burning desire to return that love that we surrender, we give in, we want to turn our whole life over to the beloved.

When a soul suffers agony - the physical pain caused by disease, medical procedures, torture, accidental injury, or physical degeneration, or any other cause - the body is pushed beyond the limits of comfort, of acceptance, and even of ability to endure. It is ironic that similarly to ecstasy where joy lifts us up and out of ourselves in a pleasant way, agony also lifts us up and out of ourselves, but in an unpleasant way. Still, the lasting benefit for the body is the same or similar. When we accept to be lifted up and out of ourselves - whether by ecstasy or by agony - we are in a position to accept from God a great grace: that of indifference to our own fleshly existence, of such freedom regarding our existence in the flesh that this freedom gives us a new capacity to value God, to acknowledge the importance, value, and extravagant love of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

This is why God allows human suffering and eventually death, because his grace opens up for us through these experiences so many opportunities for spiritual growth that also prepare us for greater and greater vitality and enjoyment in eternity. Our time on Earth is so short that God wants to seize every opportunity to help us prepare for the much greater gifts that are yet to come....

Of course, in the meantime, it is right for us to value the life we have now, since it is the only life we know - not just the physical, earthly existence, but also the spiritual and supernatural one as daughters and sons of God. We become more fully and more mature sons and daughters as we take to heart the "things of our Father" and become eager that He be known and loved in Jesus his Son and that more and more people come to this personal knowledge and experience in the Holy Trinity and surrender to God's advances and welcome his love, only to become fruitful in turn and a blessing to all those around us, especially those who have not yet been touched and transformed by the life-giving love of God....

Peace to you Dear Reader and to your family, and if you will allow me to formulate a very Christian wish and prayer of blessing for you and your loved ones, during these days of trial, may you allow the Holy Spirit to lift you up to the heavenly realms within you, as Jesus and Mary walk with you moment by moment, and day by day....

With all my love and respect....
"Were not our hearts burning within us as He talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us
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   Fr. Gilles