Saturday, February 22, 2014


Friday afternoon I was reading a fine book of reflections by Fr. Michael Casey on the Holy Rule (Michael Casey OCSO, The Road to Eternal Life: Reflections on the Prologue of Benedict's Rule). His comments on the line "Let us hear God's voice crying out to us every day and admonishing us" began in a way that was familiar to me: "The voice of God speaks to us every day, if we have ears to listen. What we hear, if we hear anything, can be a source of challenge to our innate tendency to embrace an easygoing lifestyle." (p.34) 

The idea of God's challenging my "innate tendency to choose an easygoing lifestyle" struck home. That familiar tendency makes for a constant battle in my life. My inner two-year old, my false self, my hurt child, by whatever name it's called it still works against what I hope to become as a Christian. I know this only too well from personal experience. In fact, the monastic life is designed specifically to help us to win that battle. Then, however, the author continued with a surprising observation:

"But challenge is not always the way that God deals with us." 

I live in a community of men and teach in an all-boys school. We guys understand the idea of challenge -- life itself is one long series of challenges, right?. Seeing a situation as a challenge comes naturally to us -- and it's a standard part of my repertoire as a teacher. If a student isn't doing as well as he could I challenge him. Both of us understand that language and know how the deal works. On the other hand I tend to think in terms of God's challenging me with tests of my fortitude, trust, generosity and so on. God and I both know how the deal works.

So where was the author going to go with this business of  "But challenge is not always the way that God deals with us?"  I really started to pay attention at this point, wondering what the alternative could be, and ready to be surprised by some deep new insight. What came next, though, was something I experience all the time:

More often, God draws us to transcend our limits by giving us a taste of what lies beyond the world
of sense, stirring up in our hearts a mysterious experience of delight that causes us to drop what we are doing and to look more closely. It is a little like Moses being attracted to the burning bush. We experience something that draws us deeper into its mystery. 

Well of course! I said to myself, I know that feeling. God deals with me that way all the time. When you think about it, Jesus does not reveal to us a God of challenges. No, his parables show us a passionately loving parent who tirelessly keeps coming up with new ways to draw us closer in love. 

Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that I'm aware of how often God gives me " a taste of what lies beyond the world of sense" through the beauty of nature, through the heart-tugging beauty of the little children at Sunday mass, though the quiet, clumsy heroism of teenager struggling with personal problems that I can't even begin to comprehend. All of these things and dozens more are always "stirring up in my heart a mysterious experience of delight that causes me to drop what I'm doing and to look more closely."

Of course I hope that I'll keep on accepting whatever challenges that the Lord gives me. But even more, I hope that I'll keep getting better at being like Moses who noticed and was attracted to the burning bush. Maybe my life isn't so much a series of challenges as a field full of burning bushes that invite me to stop what I'm doing and walk over for a closer look, and so be drawn deeper into the mystery of God's infinite burning love. I'm going to watch for burning bushes this week!

How about you?

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