Over the weekend the subject came up of faith in God and a one on one relationship with God, and the simple meeting of mass obligations, including holy days of obligation. For non-catholic readers, the holy days of obligation are days required by the Church that all Catholics attend mass. There aren’t many of them, and a rather large number of catholics only go to mass on those days. There is a large number who attend mass every Sunday. There is a smaller number who attend mass every day.
No matter your denomination the practice of your faith is an outward sign, but what of the inner transformation that comes from the one to one relationship with God? There is a wonderful icon showing a ladder with monks ascending up to heaven and others falling off the ladder into hell. The ones falling are in the hands of demons, with wings naturally. I believe, but not sure, that it is called the ladder of perfection. You ascend this ladder by humility, and fall off of it by pride.
A recent conversation with a friend uncovered a mutual frustration with our inability to share fully the faith we have with those who want no more religious activity than going to Sunday mass. We both wondered why? Why is it that some people do just what is required while others have such an intense longing and desire for God that it consumes our lives?
I am as far from a saint as it is possible to get, but my life is consumed with desire to know God and be as close to God as I can possibly be. If this desire exists in me, a sinner, then why doesn’t it exist in the person next to me? I tried for years to share my enthusiasm with others, actually trying to give them the same type of faith experience as my own, until I realized that God issues a call to each one of us, a call to faith. This is where the Blessed Virgin Mary is our prime example, when the angel appeared to her she said “Yes.”
So it is with us when God stirs our souls and we have the chance to respond to God with either yes, or not yet, or flat out no. Why this happens can only be due to the person, for God desires us far more than we desire God. I could fill this page with a plethora of quotes from saints who say the same thing: God’s desire for us is unquenchable.
I believe that part of the problem is that being invisible, God is easily turned into an abstraction, something nice to believe, but not something you’re willing to turn over your life to God’s hands. A priest friend told me once that he asked several people what they thought would happen if they said, “I give myself totally to your will, do with me what you will.” The answer? “I would get cancer.”
Now where on earth do people come up with that idea? Bl. Teresa of Calcutta gave her life to God’s hands and she did not get cancer. St. Maximilian Kolbe died in a concentration camp, not from cancer. True, he died for taking a stand against the Nazi’s intention to starve a man to death who had a family, Maximilian said “take me instead of him.” Is that what we fear? That if we turn our life and control of our life over to God that God will kill us?
There is a strong strain of thought among religious people that God is vengeful and full of wrath. There are any number of writings where someone puts into the mouth of the Blessed Mother, “I restrain my Son’s avenging arm from destruction.” What? Jesus died for us out of love, why would he now have to be restrained by his mother from wiping us off the face of the earth? This is the type of thinking that has almost ruined Christianity. A vengeful God is no God of love.
So we know that God loves us. We depend on it. God is love. Anyone who leads a life of love shows that he is joined to God. And God is joined to him. I John 4:16
With such an assurance as this, how can we doubt that the love of God is stronger than our sins? To return to the original subject, I believe that God calls each of us to faith and it is up to us, individually, to respond with “yes.” Not all are called to the same ministry, some of us are called to the lonely path of solitude and contemplation; some are called to active ministry; others are called to work as missionaries, but each of us is called in some way to respond to God in faith.
How is God calling you? Do you respond with “yes” to God, or do you say “not yet?”