Three things I read this morning played into each other to reinforce a message that, apparently, I need to hear. First there is Saint Augustine, in Magnificat’s meditation of the day:
If the Apostles were unbelievers, who is a believer? What are the lambs to do if the rams stumble? However, the mercy of the Lord has not denied them for their lack of faith; instead he rebuked them, nursed them along, perfected them, decorated them.
After all, they were themselves aware of their weakness, and so as we read somewhere in the Gospel, they said to him, Lord, give us more faith (Lk 17:5). Lord, they say, give us more faith. The first thing that stood them in good stead was knowledge, knowing what they had too little of; they were even more fortunate in knowing where to look for it. Lord, they say, give us more faith. See how they were carrying their hearts, so to say, to the wellhead, and knocking to get it opened up, so that they may fill them up there. He wanted to make them knock at his door in order to exercise them in desiring, not to rebuff them in their knocking.
After all, dear brothers and sisters, do you imagine that God doesn’t know what your needs are? And as he knows what we lack, he knows in advance what our desires are.
Next comes a meditation from Father Jacques Philippe in an older Magnificat that I happened to have on hand. He writes:
I have often observed that people in difficult situations who come to terms with their inability to understand everything and begin to ask what God wants of them here and now receive enlightenment little by little. Perhaps an act of confidence is made, or forgiveness is accepted, or there is a renewed effort to pray. Relief and release are the result, and a pathway to the future opens up.
I remember something that happened several years ago. When I preach a retreat, people often come to see me for private conversations. This time a young woman told me: “Father, everything in my life is going wrong. It’s a disaster!” Humanly speaking, she was not exaggerating. I listened to her attentively, for someone in pain must be truly listened to and his or her sorrow must be understood. Her fiancé had left her, she was out of work, she had family difficulties, a bad relationship with her father, etc. As I listened, I said to myself: “My God, how can I possibly help her?” But as she spoke, at least one thing became clear: first of all, she had to forgive her father. The Lord would have to take care of the rest. God’s call was clear: “Forgive your father.” We prayed together for a moment, she confessed her sins, and now she had the courage to decide to forgive and leave the rest to God.
The young woman left peaceful and content. She understood what she needed to do, she had become an agent in her life again, and she felt confidence in God and in herself. She might have said: “Everything is going well in my life!”
If people know what they must do today and commit themselves to doing it and leave tomorrow in God’s providence, all is well. What more can anyone do? Take the step that needs taking today. Take another step tomorrow. Every day will have its own steps to take.
Finally, we get Madeleine L’Engle in today’s offering from Glimpses of Grace:
Part of our inheritance from our Puritan ancestors is a feeling that we “ought” to be good. Certainly it is not a bad thing to want to be good. The daily problem is that what my finite, conscious mind tells me I ought to do, and what the untamed, submerged, larger part of me makes me to do are often in direct conflict. But this is no surprise for the Christian. Two thousand years ago Paul of Tarsus admitted quite openly that the things he wanted to do were the very things he didn’t do, and the things he didn’t want to do were the very things he did. And yet Paul did not despair, nor drop out. He was even able to accept the reality that he had cheered on the stoning of Stephen and had been one of the most successful prosecutors of the early Christians. And yet when God took him by the scruff of the neck and shook him, he was able to let go, to let go of himself and his control of himself, and instead trust God, and experience a total reversal of his life. Alan Jones points out that before his conversion on the Damascus Road, Paul was suffering from paranoia, was out of his right mind. And afterwards he was in a state of metanoia—and metanoia means being turned around, repentance, being in a healthy state of mind.