We moderns have got some funny ideas. Many of us educated 21st-century folk defend the view that an unborn child is somehow not a human being. Fewer and fewer of us these days believe that there is a God, and some look to the brave new world of genetic engineering to usher in a golden age of transhumanism. Those of us who reject such folly and dedicate ourselves to the Christian belief system are still not immune to the lure of decidedly weird notions. We fool around with worldly pleasures, convinced that aiming for Purgatory is, well, close enough. We fall for worldly values such as looking out for Number One. We make ourselves believe that the times in our life when we are drawn particularly close to God are meant to define our own new, personal status quo. God, we forget, is Constancy itself. We are human. God woos and waits for us to respond, and we humans may respond passionately for a time, mistaking our ardor for a permanent state. Inevitably though, our passion cools – and we panic. Waking up one Sunday and realizing that we are actually toying with the idea of skipping Mass can be a real jolt. Being the generation that disposes of relationships as easily as used tissues, we are tempted to assume that our response to God was “a phase,” because of course the fervor of “real” love will never cool. As Anne Morrow Lindbergh put it:
We have such little faith in the ebb and flow of life and of love and of relationships. We leap forward at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb, for we are afraid it will never return.
How can I feel this way? If I were really the Catholic I thought I was, I would never, ever lose my ardor….
Imagine a child who visits the seashore and watches the waves recede. It would never dawn on him that what he was watching has been occurring since the oceans were formed, and that the water he sees receding will return with full force if he simply gives it enough time. So it is with us. We will have experiences that promise us Heaven, followed by droughts that leave our souls parched and pondering whether we have only imagined the existence of God. When those latter times come, prayer and Mass attendance become even more important as we beseech God for the grace of perseverance in the Faith and in all good works – easy to say, but particularly hard to carry out when our boat has been deserted by the ebbing tide of our emotions. Yet with such perseverance comes hope. Just as we can be confident that low tide will be followed by high, and high by low again, so also can we “be confident of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” – not simply despite the ebb and flow of life, but in it and through it.
On the memorial of Bl. Ivan Merz
Deo omnis gloria!