The endurance of darkness is preparation for great light. -Saint John of the Cross
A few weeks back I went to the mall for the first time in a long while, as the mall has never really been my thing. I was struck by the starkness of sin that has so overtaken the secular world, so much so, that I would venture to say most people don’t even recognize it. As I sat in the middle of our monuments to sex, beauty, materialism and status and I looked at the souls around me, God whispered, “these are my people, they can be converted, pray for them.” I came home and I did just that, I prayed for them.
Within a couple of days, I also saw poison arrows of legalism being shot at people over the internet, as if to say, God’s Love cannot venture beyond a box of rules and He will stop loving you if you don’t fit neatly inside this box. God whispered, “these are my people, they can be converted, pray for them.” And I did just that, I prayed for them.
My heart felt overwhelmed and sad. God whispered, “the road is narrow.”
I pondered this statement about the narrow road as I have many times before. It seems to me people are falling off to the left and to the right. There appears to me to be three paths. The one to the right lives principally by rules and laws but shows no compassion or love of neighbor. They are fixated on being “right” at all costs instead of being loving. The path to the left has no rules or laws and claims to love but has fallen prey to a false mercy that has no truth and is morally relative. Both of these paths lead to perdition.
The narrow road in the middle is the path of Christ and it leads to resurrection, but not before laying on the cross. It holds fast, not to political ideologies or cultural headwinds of perceived correctness, it holds fast to truth in love.
This path, this third way, is the path of reparation. This is the path of true love. This path is where a soul stops thinking of only himself or herself. They stop thinking of being right at all costs or feeling good at all costs. This soul recognizes that true love doesn’t depend on feelings. This soul thinks of the other and the well-being of the other. This soul wants heaven for others regardless of the cost to themselves in this world.
For me personally, the journey to this recognition has been long. You cannot take this journey without first receiving the healing that God wants to give you. This requires letting go of hurts and getting to the root causes of your own personal sin, especially the repetitive ones. If you scrupulously follow rules and look down on others, you are attached to the sin of Pride and are like the Pharisees. If you accept whatever feels good, this being especially prevalent sexually today, you fall prey to many sins like lust and power, and you may find yourself like Herodias asking for the head of John the Baptist. This is why self examination and confession are so key in living a life of virtue.
The soul that self examines, repents and confesses can rest securely in God’s love for them, knowing that even in each failure they have, the God of the Universe still intimately loves them. They keep the lines of communication open with God and they repent and confess when necessary. God lifts them up to live a Sacramental Life. A Eucharistic Life of thanksgiving and sacrifice.
I had a conversation with God the other day about all the sin that is so starkly displayed in the world today and how overwhelming it is. He whispered only one word to me, “Reparation.” I have to be honest here and tell you that this is a word that I used to strongly dislike. When I used to read about Saints that performed mortification, I thought they were crazy. And again, if you aren’t resting securely in God’s love for you and you’re performing mortification to follow a rule, I actually think it could be damaging, that’s why healing is so key on your journey with God. But over time, these Saints have become less and less crazy to me and have become, well, how should I say it? More Saintly. This is because I finally recognized what Reparation was. It is the acceptance of undeserved suffering and offering it for another. Isn’t that what Christ did? Isn’t that how we can be like him? Won’t this help us receive him?
I find that you don’t have to go looking for suffering to offer up, though you certainly can. But one way or the other suffering finds you. It is here in these everyday sufferings that we can change the world. Instead of thinking only of ourselves and complaining, we can offer it up and unite it to the cross. We can suffer well, in thanksgiving.
This is something I have very much struggled with. But I had a moment with God this week. I wasn’t even sure what was happening to me. You see I am pretty sure I have the flu. And I was laying on my couch with awful tightness in my chest, coughing, fever, body aches and weakness. And the strangest thing happened. I experienced being grateful for it. It’s like God was showing me all these times in my past when I suffered tremendously and the suffering changed my trajectory and led me to where I am today. Without the suffering I would not have the family I have today, I would have chosen differently. And it was as if I could definitively see HIS PLAN IS BETTER. Then I thought if He used my suffering to make my own life better, how much could he use it to make others' lives better? Every cough, every ache can be offered for another. If He can use it to help stop one person from falling into an abyss, then the suffering is worth it. Like a man on a cross taking away the sins of others.
I have always understood we should be grateful in all things, but I usually complain anyway, and lament my situation. Today I want to rest in the gratitude and pray that, in the future to come, I consistently recognize this no matter how I feel.
So in these times when I see people inside the church lead people astray with false love not bound to truth or with overzealous legalism, or I see people outside the church attacking her, I remember the narrow road. It is a road of true love that follows rules as a response to love and offers reparation. Use your suffering to pray for other souls who need it. That’s what Christ did and, in doing so, you will have Him in you.
I believe the devil knows his time is short and because of this, he is manifesting more and more. Sin has become more transparent. Things will get worse before they get better. So offer up your sufferings, because it helps build God’s Kingdom. And know things will get better, because Christ has already won the Victory.