Happy Third Week of Easter! Thanks be to God that He really did rise from the dead, enabling us, too, to really rise from the death of sin and later even the bodily death that is the result of sin! Sometimes we forget that what we celebrate Mass is real and of unspeakable importance, not symbols placed before us for an hour on Sundays.
This post is the fruit of my lectio divina (here is an excellent book on the saintly practice of the prayerful reading of holy texts that I will be reviewing on the blog when I finish it) from today and from this weekend during some personal time in the beautiful St. Brigid Church in Hanford, CA.
In Ephesians 4: 1-16 (the first reading of this past Saturday’s Office of Readings), St. Paul gives us an idea of how to realize Easter in our own lives — to do what we need to do to be what we want to be.
What do we want to be?
Attain … to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
Or, as the breviary has it, simply the “full stature” of Christ — to be fully integrated with Him.
[G]row up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.
As one of the saints put it, He became human so that we could become Divine! (This is obviously not meant in the sense of being made “gods,” but as being united with God Himself by His Power.)
So, what do we need to do?
[L]ead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.
Specifically, we are called to humility, bearing with each other in peaceful unity.
How are we to do this?
[G]race was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Through Christ’s gift — given in the Resurrection — we can be humble and live in peace together, eventually fully united with each other in Christ. What more could we ever want?!
But, we must live and do — not merely wish, think or even feel — in order to achieve this Divine life!
In my own day-to-day life, this has proved particularly challenging. I find myself avoiding doing in order think. To combat this, I have come-up with yet another system/plan/rule (as I have done regularly since high school, with little success), this one formatted on the “hours” of the Divine Office, and organized around regular and special tasks related to the people and responsibilities that are most important to me. I’ve tried to keep it focused and simple, but given past experience and the present situation (wife, caring for four children under the age of four and three cats, in a home), I know that there will be many days that my reality will not remotely resemble this rule. (If the rule works reasonably well, then I’ll blog on it.)
What’s most important now is how to move past these apparent “failures.” As we learn in the classic Abandonment to Divine Providence, we encounter God in the “sacrament of the present moment.” We find Him not necessarily in doing what we plan for His glory each day, but in doing what He wills in each moment, in following His “will of good pleasure.” We are reminded that too much of a good thing (study, rest, even lectio divina!) is not only not a good thing, but is actually a bad thing because it is keeping us from following God’s “will of good pleasure” in that moment! It is keeping us from God!
After a “failure,” then, what must be done is to return to the present moment where Our Lord is, and prayerfully proceed with what He has willed for this moment. This may not be what I planned, or even what I want right now, but it is what He wants. Therefore, I want it because I want to be united with Him!
It is also worth noting that human perfection is not necessary for holiness, for unity with God. Human failure can still mean supernatural success — holiness. In fact, we understand more clearly with contrast. Light is defined by darkness, and a wave by the trough that follows it and precedes the next one. Similarly, success can be seen more clearly in contrast with failure.
Finally, for those of us who are blessed to be parents, we should be mindful that our approach to daily life — how we use our time, how we respond to our failures, etc. — marks a path for our children, too. I heard it said once that “kid does not mean ‘stupid.'” They observe us, sometimes more clearly than we see ourselves. We need to show them and explain to them how Christians live safely in a world that is not ours. (An excellent guide for this is the classic Rule of St. Benedict, available with commentary useful for parents, in Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s Listen My Son.)