The call of Christ to freedom and wholeness is a call from where we are now. It’s a call to become more of Him in us, which will bring about more of us, than we are today. In other words, we’re being opened to an inflowing, an outpouring of God’s presence in such a way that everything God’s presence touches, changes where it moves. Like fire and water, whatever God touches no longer remains the same, despite the pain. Or rather, not despite the pain, but especially because of the pain, something has changed. I am no longer the same and what remains is better than what was before.
But we need faith to get to the other side, to see the fruit and the effect. We need faith to get to the other side, to allow God to fulfill His promise amidst the problems; we need faith to allow a dawn to scatter our darkness without giving up on the way there. It takes faith to get there. Sometimes, that act of faith, that yes will take everything that you’ve got.
As a result, you’ll receive God in a way you’ve never known Him before. As big as the battle was to get there, the beauty of Christ, newly experienced, eclipses the darkness. We will easily forget about the blood, the sweat, and the tears when you experience the new birth that was meant to serve.
Scripture, of course, expresses this through the image of a mother giving birth to her child. In the Gospel of John, the apostle talks about when a woman is in labor, the labor pangs are ferocious, excruciating. Maybe for some women the third, the fourth, the fifth child, it got a little bit easier, but the labor pains with the first one is never that easy.
The labor pangs of childbearing is what scripture refers to as analogous to the spiritual purifications that we have to pass through in walking by faith and not by sight; it is the faith that transforms in the fire of love.
I was there when my mother was giving birth to my awesome brother. It looked like she wasn’t going to make it. She was 38 years old at the time and it didn’t look like she was going to make it. In the middle of labor, she was ready to give up. It was scary.
And yet, after getting to a point of acute suffering, there is a breakthrough and the childbirth takes place. Our faith life is similar. Right at the place when it feels like we can take no more, something breaks loose. After the breakthrough, finally you’re able to take a breath and to recollect yourself and the pieces fall into place. And you have the child that’s put in your lap and in your arms. How easy it is to forget, to forget the pain and the cost of the sacrifice because a child is so worth it.
So too in our lives, Saint Therese says, suffering is required to save souls. If we want to save souls, we can’t expect to be exempt from the cross.
Ouch, I know it hurts. It hurts for all of us, but it’s the truth. It’s the reality. Yeah, it’s painful. Sometimes, you can feel the nails in your hands and in your feet, can’t you? You’re walking around with pierced hands and feet. Nobody sees it but you and God. It’s all part of seeking communion in an immaculate way with God Almighty in His perfect love. It’s all part of it.
But how can we be renewed when we’ve been wiped out by it? You know, when you’re just tired and sometimes, maybe even bored, not by God but by the other things that can misrepresent God or get in His way.
We’re called to reach out to Him anew, to seek His face, not so much in the marvelous, the extraordinary, or even the charismatic, but rather, in the presence of God that burns within us, who gives and reveals divine life, the life of the Trinity. We must allow ourselves to be caught up in that embrace (to be continued).
SOURCE: Danville Retreat, 2014. Copyright 2017, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved