May 24, 2017
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
but do it with gentleness and reverence,
keeping your conscience clear,
so that, when you are maligned,
those who defame your good conduct in Christ
may themselves be put to shame.
For it is better to suffer for doing good,
if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.
1 Peter 3:15-16
Disengage thyself a while from earthly care, and give thyself for a time to think of God, and to repose a little in Him. Then, having closed the door of thy senses, say with the affection of thy soul: O Lord, behold I am in quest of Thy lovely Countenance; teach Thy poor servant how to find it.
We ascend to the heights of contemplation by the steps of action.
Pope St. Gregory the Great
One of my greatest flaws is to always look for the end in sight in my endeavors. My motivation for work, productivity, prayer, you name it, is often "to get it over with" so I can get back to doing the things I really want, which are often woefully unsatisfying. You could say that I make an idol of my free time. In my mind, my leisure is a right to which I am entitled, and some of the things that frustrate me most in life are those that infringe upon "me time". That time is a fictional space in my mind where I don't have to feel bad about any of my time-wasting because I've "done everything that I need to do already". Of course, that's never true, and never could be. There's always more that could be done, and done with a charitable heart, at that. I'm constantly frustrated by my false idol, and yet I cling to it so desperately!
In trying to explain and rationalize my frustration, I fall into the trap of emphasizing the "marathon" metaphor for our faith journey a little too much. In my mind, my shortcomings are acceptable because I'm going to be working on this stuff all my life.
Sunday's second reading is a direct and practical challenge to this error. "Always be ready..." is the antithesis of the long-term, right? Sort of. We are called to give a reason for our hope, not our perfection. The former is ever-present, infused within us by the Holy Spirit, the latter only finally attainable through union with Christ in Heaven.
How do we explain our hope? How might we remain vigilant in our joy? In short, prayer. "The Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what to say", so we give the Advocate dominion in our life through prayer and reflection.
In Sunday's reading we can see traces of one of the central themes of a lived Catholic life: the cycle of contemplation, inspiration, and action. Contemplation gives us the time and space to recognize the hand of God in our lives, which gives us our own gospel to preach to others. But preaching requires an encounter, first with Christ and then the recipient. To put it bluntly, we're only going to meet those God wants us to meet if we're out meeting anyone at all. A life in Christ inherently possesses a call to action.
The Spirit moves when we move, and contemplation both inspires us to move and prevents us from moving blindly.
I would challenge you to write down your own "reason for your hope". As a practical exercise, writing out a 5 minute testimony was an insightful task in my past missionary work and helped me to see what I was truly valuing in my spiritual life. Maybe you could try the same.
As we approach Pentecost, let us ask for a greater love of the Spirit, which comes through contemplation.
Praised be Jesus Christ, who gives us the Spirit.