Heart of the matter

God our Father has seen fit to grant us, in the heart of his Son, “infinite treasures of love,” mercy and affection. If we want to find evidence that God loves us — that he not only listens to our prayers but anticipates them — we need only follow the same line of thought as St Paul: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things in him?” (Rom 8:32)
(excerpt from a homily given by St Josemaria Escriva June 17, 1966)

DSC00811
(Calla Lilly / Julie Cook / 2015)

Imagine this is your last week, as you know it, on earth.
Your death has been set.
There is no maybe that it happens, no maybe it doesn’t.
No 50 / 50 chance.
It’s set in stone.
The end of the week.
No getting around it, it’s going to happen, like it or not.

It is not a death of natural causes or illness.
It is not set to be some tragic accident.
It is not a death by lethal injection, electrocution, firing square, poison, hanging,
nothing so orderly and deemed oddly humane and / or neat.
No, your death is not to be easy.
It’s going to be horrific actually.
Slow
Agonizing
Painful. . .

And it comes when all those whom you love have run and hid, with some even turning their back.
Alone, deserted, abandoned.
There is no stopping it
avoiding it
averting it
altering it
moving it
preventing it
hiding from it. . .
It’s coming.
At the end of the week.

Armed with the sickly stalk reality of your demise.
Given it to be brutal, awful, horrible. . .
What do you do?
Do you run?
Do you hide?
Do you beg?
Do you plead?
Do you find another to take your place?
. . .Another to take your place. . .
Ahhhh. . .
A novel idea.
A substitue!

Some hapless sucker who you can perhaps pay off, talk your way around,
promise or lie to that it won’t be so bad.
You’ll tell them they have little if anything to lose, but you on the other hand,
you have too much to lose. . .
You’re too important.
You can’t die.
You have things to do.
They, well, it’s pretty obvious they have nothing.
Nothing to lose. . .just their seemingly insignificant little life.
and you, well you can keep your hide safe for yet another day

However imagine that something odd begins to takes place,
You discover that you don’t have to actually persuade this person.
You don’t have to beg
There is no pleading
No cajoling
No lying
No false promises
No bribing
No payoff

They want nothing from you.
They don’t want your phony promises
Your money
your lies
your bravado
your falsehoods

There’s no having to talk them into this
No sugarcoating the horrible details.
“Sure” they say, they’ll do it.
Just like that. . .”sure, for you, I’ll do it, gladly”
Gladly?
Huh?
Are they crazy you wonder.
Are they daft?

And then you find yourself questioning. . .
You question
their motive
their motivation
their sanity. . .
This seems too easy you think
Why so agreeable?
so willing?
so stupid?

Maybe you’re starting to feel guilty
A bit bad that you’re setting up an innocent man up for something that is meant for you?
Feeling a tad badly that you’re getting off so easily
Getting away with another’s man’s death, another man’s murder, another man’s execution. . .
The one that was meant for you.
Who’ll miss this fellow?
All that matters is that you’ll escape
You’ll walk free
The horrible, painful ordeal will not be yours to contend with.
Walk away, just walk away, and don’t look back. . .

Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
Hebrew 7:27

Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Hebrews 9:26

With Each Simple Action…

DSC00512
(interior of San Chappell/ Paris, France/ Julie Cook 2007)

“I assure you, my children, that when a Christian carries out with love the most insignificant everyday action, that action overflows with the transcendence of God. That is why I have told you so often, and hammered away at it, that the Christian vocation consists in making heroic verse out of the prose of each day. Heaven and earth seem to merge, my children, on the horizon. But where they really meet is in your hearts, when you sanctify your everyday lives…”

Blessed Josemaria Escriva

Many of us, especially those of us who are not Catholic, were first introduced to Father Josemaria Escriva by Dan Brown, in his book The Da Vinci Code and most likely did not even realize it—I for one did not. Fr. Escriva was the founder of the Opus Dei, an “institution” within the Catholic Church which teaches that all ordinary people living ordinary lives are called to holiness and by simply living our lives and striving to serve God and finding His love in the simplicity of our daily activity–that is a path to sanctity.

None of that cloak and dagger business for me. No secret societies or rituals…my true introduction to Fr. Escriva was when I happened to watch a small production movie, There Be Dragons—a movie based on the Spanish Civil war, the true life of Josemaria Escriva and that of one of his childhood friends– how their individual choices of life led to the dramatic climax in the movie.

The movie has its basis in fact, though there are always liberties taken in the name of theatrics. What the movie did however, was to pique my interest in an individual who had been previously painted as perhaps a little dubious by my first introduction to Opus Dei by Dan Brown.

Choices made, especially during the heat of conflict and war, most often showcase the true character of an individual. That an individual will continue doing the “right” thing by people, demonstrating God’s love and compassion through their own actions, and by not backing away from the convictions of faith, regardless of personal harm and or safety, is a true demonstration of Divine Love–which is something all Christians are called to reflect in their own lives lived— it is that- a conviction of faith and doing the right things in the face of danger-that is what I took away regarding Fr Escriva’s life.

Mother Teresa echos the same sentiments of the life of an individual, how even though we may be just one person, one small individual, that it is possible for even the one small person to indeed bring about change and goodness. I have used this quote of hers before, a quote that speaks to the power of one: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

It is important for each of us to understand and to remember that just by living our ordinary lives and by going about our daily routines, we can make a difference, we can demonstrate God’s goodness. So often we think we must do something of great importance, we must leave our ordinary worlds and go to far away exotic places in order to create positive change.

I can remember my own frustration when having read one of the countless biographies on Mother Teresa, closing the book, just sitting in a silent sadness that I was just here in my rather simple and boring life–just getting up each day, going to work, tending to my family—nothing on a grand scale, no massive impact for a world in desperate need of help—when it dawned on my that I was simply to make an impact in my own world—what was it that I could do in my own world, which at the time consisted of a small southern high school, that could bring about positive change and showcase the love and mercy of my God.

I got together with a small group of teachers with like minded hearts and we developed a small initiative for our kids who we knew were going hungry on the weekends– by providing food for them and their families. The initiative became a school-wide campaign. I won’t showcase that story here as it has it’s own separate tale—but my point is that we all can begin at home, in our own lives, spreading love, forgiveness, care, compassion, hope– all being a reflection of the unconditional love shown to each of us by the Cross on Good Friday, that is the holiness and sanctification that we share with the world.

It does all begin with us, the individual—know that it is you who reflects God’s love and compassion on a world in desperate need. It is you who can begin the cycle of love rather than that of death, sadness, and sorrow. It is you who wipes away the tears of hopelessness. It is you who opens your arms in comfort. This is your calling. It is now, it is today.