Our intentional sharing of this diaconal call, this pilgrim’s progress.
(Note: This is the first in an ongoing series written for the deacons of the Diocese of Colorado Springs)
Dear Brother Deacons in Christ,
Oh! How blessed we are to, together, serve our invisible, our poor, our outcast! How blessed are we to bring them the Word of Christ through the clay of our bodies, as the least members of His clergy! How blessed each of you able to bring these lost sheep back to the full body of Christ through the gift of serving at Mass! Cherish every moment of love and sacrifice as the gift it is, for Christ may see fit to focus your ministry elsewhere, anytime. As servants, we bow in humility, and go where we are told, do what is asked of us, and of equal import, do not do what is not ours to do. For we are but one member of a body of many members, each with our own calling. How beautiful! When, in humility, we each answer our call, Christ coordinates our efforts and His grace in ways we sometimes are blessed to glimpse after the fruit.
How different would your favorite movie or television show be if one, or all, of the characters wrestled with temptation but instead chose virtue over vice? No sex outside marriage (one man, one woman, for life) being a primary example.
Sin twists our vision like we are wearing a pair of invisible fun house glasses. Our vision is skewed, twisted, topsy-turvy. Instead of “up” being up, we are turned around so we think up is a squiggly line to the lower left; true left as a spiral to the upper right, and so on. Each person’s pair of sin’s fun house glasses distorts reality differently. Thus, if you tell me to turn left, I take an erratic lower right backwards, believing I am following your instructions.
Weird as all this looks to an outside observer, everything seems normal, even if most other people are doing things that make no sense.
Jesus said: “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:30). How do we apply the beautiful faith Jesus gives us to the chaos of daily life? The equation is simple. If you feel burdened, weighed down ... you're not bearing Christ's yoke, you're bearing the yoke of sin. Ooof.
Reading the Catena Aurea with the day's Gospel recently, in the context of heresy, we encountered the wonderful word for weeds that grow and are sown among the wheat: tares (pronounced tears, like a tear in my shirt). Tares of the soul are those weedy thoughts that quickly got to seed, spreading their worldly temptations on the winds of our soulscape and sow themselves into our clay so we cannot distinguish them from our own thoughts.
Sin makes us deaf, blind, dumb, and stupid. Where our inner sinner is large enough, even when others attempt to point it out, we cannot see. We have a choice, when others on multiple occasions point out sin we do not see: either persist in arrogant presumption that we are in the right, or humbly realize that sin may have us in its grip and we cannot see what we cannot see.
Entering the Wilderness Amidst the Chaos of Daily Life
When someone changes their diet, nutrition teaches the idea of a thirty day cleanse – the beginning of a shift to eating healthy by no longer eating unhealthy foods and eating only healthy foods. As with our clay, so with our soul.
Predestination is the reality that God, being Love and omniscient and omnipotent, knows who will choose to love His Son as Lord and Savior, Jesus our Christ and thus gives them the gifts to do so amidst the fallen world.
The worldly hear this and, being yet without eyes of innocence, cry injustice despite it being the very definition of justice. God gives His grace to those who will use them, however falteringly or poorly for being spiritual toddlers. God can do that. Free will remains, for each is free to choose God, but God, beyond time and space, infinite, needn't wait for them to choose Him to bestow His gifts upon them. In a solely linear time-and-space-limited existence, this would wreck free will, and, for us, herein lies the mystery because, for now, we are time-and-space-constrained, though, through Christ, we won't always be.
A wondrous commentary of the Gospels is given us by Saint Thomas Aquinas in his “Catena Aurea,” translated into English by Saint John Henry Neumann as “Golden Chain.” Imagine Saint Thomas inviting you to join a fire-side table tucked in the back corner of the local pub with a large halo of Saints and faith filled Catholic writers discussing the day's Gospel. To read the “Golden Chain” after reading the day's Gospel is to sit at that table and witness a masterful conversation unfold beyond time, at least through the centuries up to Saint Thomas' time.
A modern halo can hardly begin better than by reading the daily Gospel and the accompanying “Golden Chain” to deepen their intentional journey of entering into the eternal mysteries and applying them to our own lives, chatting, as is the experience, with Saints Augustine, Chrysostom, Gregory, Jerome, and many others. If you are looking for something for after having gone through the second reading of the Office of Readings for a year, here is your next year. May God startle you with joy!