Friday, February 1, 2019

Every Good Thing Will Be Fulfilled

Almighty, all good, all merciful God,
Our Father who loves us,
send your Holy Spirit into our hearts
with his creative and transforming love.
Come Holy Spirit,
work within me, and every person.
Come with your all-powerful gentleness
to touch,
to open up,
to heal and liberate
those deep, dark, unacknowledged spaces
in my heart,
and in the hearts of so many people,
where we are afraid of the Father's love,
afraid that we will lose ourselves
if we let God love us "too much."

Give us greater trust in you right here,
right in these places where we try to resist you
because we fear you will just overwhelm and annihilate us,
because we fear losing ourselves and finding nothing,
because we are terrified and don't know why,
because we are just anxious in the dark
and know not what we are doing or where we are going,
or because we are simply too attached to our own ideas about life:
our own measure,
our own narrow,
definition of who we are.

O Lord, you search for our hearts,
but we try to hide from you their most secret places
where we store away the difficulties of believing:
all the incomprehensible losses of people we loved,
the begging of prayers that seemed swallowed
by a vast emptiness and never heard or returned,
and all the hard obscure perplexity of faith's winding path.
We wonder why you are so silent amidst all the noise of war on earth,
why you permit all this evil,
why there is all this colossal pain that crushes people,
why life is so hard and inscrutable.

Here too we secretly keep our troubles
with the whole mess of our stunted human heritage
as children of Adam's dysfunctional family,
still sinning, struggling against stupid sin,
and the lingering impulses toward vanity, conceit, envy, lust;
the craving of easy satisfactions of mind and body;
the downward pull of comfortable negligence, and mediocrity
covered over in endless diversions and distractions.
We are Adam's kin down to the bone:
broken, burdened, limping, dull-minded,
weak, sick, hungry, off-balance, crazy -- even we,
who are members of your Son's body, washed,
initiated into new life,
and tasting the promise, in hope.
Blessed hope, sustaining hope,
often thinly stretched weary hope
so burdened on so long a journey.
Slow seems the healing
and the growing as your children,
through Jesus (still a great joy indeed, a sustaining joy,
but the center of it all remains a mystery,
for which we do not yet have eyes).

We don't even see these dark spaces in our hearts.
We are afraid, Lord, to let you enter the places
where we are hidden from ourselves.
Here are hardened scars of deep wounds:
the lacerations of our own failures
and the stabs of betrayal by others,
the vestiges of resentment,
all the disappointments,
the few hollow successes,
the persons we loved who fell short,
but only because they were weak, like us;
the sorrow over the fleeting years of life,
the long bittersweet ghosts of so many memories. 

And sometimes in the darkest depths of our hearts,
we hold in ourselves and wrestle with secret silent laments.
Without words, but groaning as if to say, "Lord
why did you make me?
"Who am I? Why do I matter?
"Lord, why did you give me freedom, when all I do
is use it to screw things up?
"Why does the Infinite One care whether or not I love him freely?
"Can't you just fix me to do your will automatically?
"Why do all my efforts end up being fake,
or at best still tainted with the hundred-little-lies 
of my petty hypocrisy and self-love?
"Why do I see the evil in the world but still connive with its edges?
"Why am I so pathetic?"
We know all the answers to these questions from our faith,
from its tradition, teaching, preaching, and theology,
and we believe them and acknowledge them firmly.
But here in the dark places of our hearts,
we suffer the apparent dissonance of mysteries,
we feel what seems like the sharp edge 
where deep mystery intersects with life,
we suffer impatience with reality and ourselves,
we are impatient with God,
with the fact that the Infinite Mystery is Infinite Love.
Our hearts groan, "Why am I free? Why do I sin? 
Can't you just make me good? 
Without all this long wandering? 
Can't you just make me happy? Like a little child?" 
"Yes," says God, "but you are ambitious to be a 'grownup,' 
to make yourself good by your own power, 
so I am letting you learn that your power is not enough...
with freedom you can then turn back, 
and discover that I love you even more, 
and you will find a new childhood, a deeper happiness..."

Thus it stands for us, sinners who beg for God, yet tremble
that he might come too close to us,
that Infinite Love might love us "too much"...

Love is a terrible thing, relentless against all that hinders it.
But God's love is good. God is always good.
We must remember this.
I must remember this when I look at myself,
when I worry within myself after 56 years,
as the arc of life bends toward the horizon of a setting sun.

There is strange death, approaching,
no longer appearing to me like the remote end of past generations,
or the rare, odd, accidental tragedy of youth.
Death is on the threshold of my house of many years.
I am in the infancy of old age
when weary heartbeats can stop suddenly in a moment,
or beat and beat on 20, 30, 40 more years...

Lord, you alone know this mystery,
this disjointed and jarring ending of life
that is happening for some of us now,
for others soon,
for others later.
Death is entirely mundane and scarcely noticed in the world,
but supremely significant and utterly personal
for each one of us.
Lord, this event that will finally establish who I am, forever...
its coming seems like a rolling of the dice!
Perhaps I shall die before I finish typing this sentence.
...Only now can I be sure that I'm still breathing.
Perhaps I shall die tonight, tomorrow, next week, next month.
Or perhaps years of new, great, and arduous work are still ahead of me.
Perhaps a road of venerable old age stretches before me,
with an abundance of joys,
with unimagined new cares and responsibilities,
with--finally--achievements I have dreamed of all my life.
Perhaps with harsh miseries too:
a terminal illness to break my nerves,
or a slow decline, new unremarkable infirmities,
quiet suffering, powerlessness, humiliation.
One way or another, however, I will have to face the end.
I will die.

Dear God, my poor faith tells me that I am in your loving hands,
that your mercy shapes (especially) this last moment for me,
with infinite wisdom and utterly personal love.
Still, death is strange. I don't know what it is like,
when it will happen,
what trials it will require me to endure,
what temptations might rise up in that unparalleled last second
(Lord grant me perseverance to the end!)
or what period of purgation,
what intensity of ultimate refining fire I must pass through
to reach you, my Father,
when you come rushing forth lovingly to meet me.
I host fast to you, God, in firm hope,
I entrust everything to your goodness and mercy.
I pray for the grace of a good death, through your Son Jesus.

And God forgive me, your foolish child,
but I still love this life here and now.
I love it too much.
I cling to it anxiously even now
because I am a weak and sinful man (Jesus, save me!),
but also because there is so much good here,
even though it's always changing and passing away.
There is so much that remains to be accomplished.
My wife by my side to love and cherish,
children still to raise and help,
then later to encourage and counsel,
and make a special grand-place in our hearts
for the new generation (Lord, grant us this gift).
There are my tenderly beloved, utterly frail father and mother
to care for and comfort and suffer with,
and my brother, our kids' terrific uncle,
lifelong comrade and friend,
the only person who really knows how to tell me
when I'm being stupid.
There are the seasons, the trees, the wonder of a green leaf,
sunrise and sunset, magnificent stars, rivers and creeks
and ancient hills.
Good food, and wine,
friends and conversation;
friendship, indeed, that grows deeper with the years.
Then there are these talents of my soul: there is
and images, patterns and shapes and colors
to craft together in so many ways,
and words to build poems,
There is this mind, my searching mind,
finally beginning to see pieces of wisdom,
beginning to see what is worth passing on, worth teaching...
"Be a teacher!
Be a teacher!
You will be a great teacher!" (L.G.)

Yet none of this guarantees a single hour more of this life,
and I know that in whatever comes there will also be mixed
more disappointment and pain,
more failures together with the good.
O God, I know that in you (and only in you) every good thing
will be fulfilled,
that nothing will be lost,
that these good seeds sown in life will bear fruit.
But have pity on me, Lord,
for seeds are all that my eyes know.
I trust in you, and I hope to live forever in this fruition.
Please sustain me, O God, in my weakness
and work according to your wisdom and mercy
to open the depths in my heart where I still worry,
where there is still fear, irrational, foolish fear,
as if you who are Goodness and Love itself
could oppose all the good and loving realities of my poor little life.
God, you are always good.
Take my whole heart,
take my fears,
and take my sins away.
Never let me run after anything in this world in such a way
that I would crave attachment to it rather than you.
Never let me be separated from you.
Have mercy on me now and at the hour of my death.

Come Holy Spirit,
come with your goodness and love
to the deep dark places of my heart,
where I hide from you with my sins and my wounds,
my lack of trust in you, my disappointments,
my fear of death.
Come Holy Spirit to these places
to heal and transform me,
to make me new and whole.

Jesus, you are the One who truly knows the mystery of "me."
I have been created through you and for you,
the Word,
the Only Son of the Father through whom all things were made.
Jesus, Lord and God, you give me my very existence in this moment.
You love me more than I love myself.
You have taken hold of my life.
Never let me be separated from you.
I don't know myself,
but you know me.
On the cross you understood me.
You suffered the whole depth and measure of me.
You knew my sins and sacrificed yourself for them
and for all the sins of the world.
You knew and you embraced my terrifying fragility, my weakness, my fear.
You know the road of conversion and freedom for me.
You are that road.
You have died on the cross that is me,
and you are rising in me in a love that heals and transforms,
a love that wants with infinite ardor to bring my life
to fulfillment and fruition,
to make me the person you have always willed me to be.

What else matters? I can only be grateful,
and allow gratitude to spring up in me,
gratitude for everything:
beyond all that I do not understand,
all that troubles me in the present moment,

Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Make of my heart all gratitude and love for you forever.
Jesus I trust in you.