For some reason, these last few days have been a spiritual struggle for me. But, that is the reality of the spiritual life; it is a constant ebb and flow of ups and downs, of consolation and desolation, of fidelity and temptations. Through the course of every spiritual journey, God is doing what he does best, tempering us for holiness.
The life of the believer is a continual invitation to live what we believe, namely, by the power of God’s Word, the strength of Grace, going deeper everyday into the Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ own death and resurrection.
I pray often about the challenges of our culture and Church, wondering how to help people live at deeper levels the power of our faith in the risen Jesus Christ. During his recent pastoral visit to the United States and Cuba, one of the subtle messages of Pope Francis was to rise above the culture war mentality of our times. He knows well the many worldly attractions of our day which challenge the existence of God and the teachings of the Church, but he does not allow those realities to be the focus. He is astute in his awareness of these challenges, but lives and preaches centered in the life of the Risen Christ.
I noticed that nearly every address or homily he gave concluded with reference to the Light and Power of Christ, his Resurrection, and his Word, with a wise application of these realities to the challenges of human life. He also regularly seeks the intercession and example of the Blessed Mother.
I could not help but think of Jesus as I watched and listened to our Holy Father. He did not allow himself to be trapped by the usual parameters of liberal and conservative, democrat or republican, but instead kept preaching the Truth, in all of its fullness and beauty. He demonstrated very practically how we are to be bridge-builders and barrier-breakers by the way we engage one another and our surrounding culture.
Mercifully, this morning, as I begin a new day, I feel the tides of my own spiritual journey shifting, once again experiencing an abiding presence of Christ and the consolations of the Holy Spirit. But I have had to ask myself in recent days, and this is the question every follower of Christ faces periodically: “How do I draw upon the power of Christ in my darkness?” “How do I allow the power of God’s Word and the grace of the sacraments be my strength when I am weak?”
Clearly, all of us need to be faithful to prayer, time spent reading and studying God’s Word, and especially receiving the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation. We also need to place our trust in God by asking him for what we are most in need of, and here I am speaking of spiritual goods, not worldly, such as virtue, perseverance, faith, trust, hope, and most of all, greater love.
God is always with us. God is always faithful. We need only open up to these realities. Today’s Gospel is fitting instruction indeed:
And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? (Luke 11: 9-13)