A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Somebody has to do it

In the United States and other places in the Free World, young people are told that they can do anything they put their mind to do.

This is true, to some extent, although as Ecclesiastes famously observed (9:11):

I returned, and saw under the sun,
that the race is not to the swift,
nor the battle to the strong,
neither yet bread to the wise,
nor yet riches to men of understanding,
nor yet favour to men of skill;
but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Many people try to transfer this “self-made man” mentality to spirituality: building what they think to be their own path to God or their own heaven on earth.

Today’s readings remind us that, when it comes to the Infinite, we have our limitations.

In today’s first reading (Acts 8:26-40), the deacon Philip has this exchange with a royal official.

“Do you understand what you are reading?”

He replied,
“How can I, unless someone instructs me?”

The royal official is not stupid. No simple palace flunky, he has been raised and educated for positions of responsibility and currently manages the funds of a national government, yet he understands his human limitations in the realm of the divine.

In today’s Gospel (John 6:44-51), our Lord is very clear that knowing God and being united with Christ are not do-it-yourself projects.

No one can come to me
unless the Father who sent me
draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.

It is written in the prophets:

They shall all be taught by God.

Everyone who listens to my Father
and learns from him
comes to me.

Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God…

This does not mean that we should just sit back and do nothing except wallow in our sins.

We must continually open ourselves to the grace of God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, even the desire to open ourselves to God is itself the work of grace, yet this does not absolve us of our responsibility and purposeful involvement with the grace of God.

We may sometimes be very frustrated with our perceived lack of spiritual progress. We may even despair if (God forbid) we backslide into our old habits of sin.

We should not let ourselves become frustrated and we must never despair.

We need to remember that we can do nothing by ourselves: conversion and growth in the Spirit is the work of the Spirit.

We cannot do it: God has to do it.

All we can do
– indeed, what we MUST do –
is keep ourselves open to God’s grace
and the movement of his Holy Spirit:
not just giving God a narrow window
(as if he were a trained seal
ordered to hop through a hoop),
but keeping ourselves continually open,
day in and day out,
so that the grace of God
may continue to flow into us,
build within us,
and - according to his will -
flow through us
to those we meet.