Open Hearts, Open Hands

"He must become greater; I must become less" (Jn 3:30).

One of the hardest lessons to learn - and to keep ahold of - is that evangelization and all the work we do for God is not really our own.

We can do nothing regarding our relationship with God without the Holy Spirit. Nothing at all. Faith isn't something we can force other people to have, or that they can pull out of nowhere if they try hard enough. Faith isn't something humans really control. It's a gift from God, given by Jesus through the Holy Spirit and Baptism, if we're going to have it at all.

All that means that we can be good or bad stewards of the gift, but that in the end, we don't have mastery over it. We can encourage our faith, feed our faith, receive the Sacraments, read about the lives of the saints, study the Scriptures, or learn of the miracles that have accompanied faith in Jesus across the centuries. We can (and should) proclaim our faith, preach the Good News, spread Church-approved devotions, and bear witness to Jesus. We can immerse ourselves in the writings of St. Faustina, listen to the Divine Mercy message, and practice the affiliated devotions.

But mastery over faith? Mastery over the Holy Spirit, who blows where He wills (see Jn 3:8)? Mastery over God, the Father Almighty, or His Son, the Divine Mercy Incarnate? No. None of us can control God. We can trust Him, and do so wisely, for He is predictably loving, merciful, just, and wise. We can count on God to be God - and so we can count on Him to know more than we do, be stronger than we are, be perfect where we are flawed, and behave how He wills, not how we will.

The saints worked miracles with their prayers because they knew their prayers were words of love shared with their Beloved, not orders given to God by His creatures. They opened the door to God's action with faith and trust, with the love of little children, with hope. They didn't cast magic spells or control the power of Heaven with secret rituals.

We are children of God.

So an inevitable part of our work in the vineyard of the Lord is learning how to keep our hands open, how to ensure we are not grasping at past successes or control, or serving our own egos by our work. All of it was given to us for a relatively short season, and all of it someday will be taken away and given to another.

This is the way of things. This is the way of life, for none of us (save Enoch and Elijah) will postpone death in any extraordinary way. All of us are here for a season, given earthly goods for a season, and when our season is done, everything will gradually be taken away, handed on to others, till we lay down for the last time and our souls go to God.

If this pandemic gives us nothing else that is good, let us ask God to allow us to retain this one lesson: Everything is subject to change here below, save for the guarantees of Almighty God. We must trust in His promises and His purposes, but know that here below, we may share in Job's confusion. We can set our feet firmly on the Rock on which the Church is founded, but obedience isn't always easy, fun, or satisfying. By the grace of God, we are given a reliable faith, a safe refuge in the Church, and a role in the salvation of our fellow human beings - but of course, we also are given a share in the Cross. And other times, the cross is lifted from us and given to another.

So as we traverse these winter months, let us pray for the grace to bear the crosses given us well and fruitfully. Let us pray for those to whom crosses are now being handed. And let us intercede for those heading on to the next life, to a final reckoning and recompense for the lives they lived.

Come, Holy Spirit, in Jesus' name, we pray! Saint Faustina, you who lived these truths so intensely and so well, pray for us!

O my Jesus, You alone know what persecutions I suffer, and this only because I am being faithful to You and following Your orders. You are my strength; sustain me that I may always carry out what You ask of me. Of myself I can do nothing, but when You sustain me, all difficulties are nothing for me. O my Lord, I can see very well that from the time when my soul first received the capacity to know You, my life has been a continual struggle which has become increasingly intense ... Holy Communion assures me that I will win the victory (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 91).


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