I share with you one of my favorite prayers, attributed to St. Teresa of Jesus.
- Let nothing disturb you.
- Let nothing make you afraid.
- All things are passing.
- God alone never changes.
- Patience gains all things.
- If you have God, you will want for nothing.
- God alone suffices.
Perfection is not possible in this life. Perseverance is … and that is what we are called to.
There is a story told about a young man who hears that there is a monastery deep in the woods. He is curious as to what the monks do there. One day, he decides to find out. He ventures into the woods; finds the monastery; knocks on the door and eagerly awaits to be admitted. Finally, an old monk opens the door. He asks him what they do each day. The old monk replies, “We fall down and we get up.” Taken aback, the young man persists asking again about what the monks did all day. He got the same reply: “We fall down and we get up.”
The monk, of course, was talking about one’s spiritual journey and the need for perseverance. The just person sins seven times a day says the Bible. Falling is natural to us as humans. The challenge each day is to get up and keep on going.
We live in a highly polarized world. It’s “us” against “them.” Civility has become a thing of the past. Look at newspapers; listen to the news. Truth is relativized. Character assassination is the order of the day. This destructive mindset is not only in our wider society but also in the Church. This is offensive to the Lord, Jesus, who preached peace, harmony and mercy.
In today’s first reading, we hear St. Paul (Galatians 3:22-29) tell us: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
If we are all one in Christ Jesus then we must honor each other as brothers and sisters of Jesus. Differences in social standing, ideology and courses of action will be present but we need to have a fundamental respect for all.
We all know the old saying, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” That is true in every aspect of our lives. If we let go of something, we have to replace it with something else. Life is not lived in a vacuum.
The same is true of our spiritual lives. We either progress or we regress. We do not live in a vacuum. Jesus makes this clear in today’s Gospel, Luke 11:15-26:
”When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, ‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”
On our spiritual journey, we find ourselves encountering our personal Demons. We can challenge them; fight with them and seemingly put them in their place, but unless we fill in the vacuum with a consistent life of prayer and good works, we leave the door open for our Demons to return. And return they will but with greater fury than before. And they will not return alone but with companions we never expected.
There is a saying among addicts that when you relapse you never just go back to where you were, but you end up doing what you swore you would never do. The progression of unchecked addiction is inevitable. The same can be said of our spiritual journey. Some of the most vocal opponents of Christianity are those who once journeyed with the Lord but have now turned their backs on Him.
Anxious, anxious, anxious … who of us does not experience anxiety?
Today’s Gospel is the famous Martha and Mary story (Luke 10:38-42).
Martha is “burdened with much serving.” Mary, her sister, “sat beside the Lord at His feet listening to Him speak.” After a while, Martha has had it and tells Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving.” She is overwhelmed. Her complaint is justified. Jesus acknowledges her complaint but urges her to put it in context. ”Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part …”
Action is important – often crucial – but ultimately only one thing is non-negotiable: sitting at the feet of Jesus, that is, being in relationship with Jesus, Our Master.