Warn the Children of God of the Terrible Speed of Mercy

Parish Newsletter Article
October 2014

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about how we can help one another make progress in our spiritual lives.  After all, shouldn’t this be a key priority in the Church?  Our mission is surely more specific and substantial than a generic “dosomething.org.”

Central to growth in faith is transparency to God; an increasing undefendedness before God’s purpose for us in Jesus Christ.

Easier said than done, perhaps.  In a word, we’re speaking of humility—which is not thinking miserable things about ourselves, but rather an open receptivity to the Divine Will (which also, of course, changes how we relate to one another).

Many people wish for a closer, more vivid sense of God’s ongoing presence.  Not so many are confident that they know how to cultivate such a sense.

To be honest, it isn’t always easy.  It often feels safer to stay with the hedged bet, remain uncommitted on the sidelines—and above all, preserve our feeling of control.  All traditions have their particular temptations.  Among our own, I would name our inclination to see ourselves as elites—who know so much more than so many others!  My goodness, we’re not like them (fill in the blank).  We’re not the sort who can be taken in.

The problem is that the Way of Life requires being “taken in.”  Precisely.

The “know-it-all, heard-it-all” de-bunking attitude of superiority is a serious issue because it functions spiritually, as a distancing mechanism.  All too effectively.  But no faith tradition can be “used”—or better, enacted—in the lives of its practitioners from a place of sophisticated cynicism.

Making real spiritual progress requires of us the risky setting aside of the strategies of evasion.  Only in so doing will we grow into a more perfect sense of the ongoing, living presence of God.  Only in so doing will we receive the abundant life that Christ intends to give.  (John 10:10)

Lord, help us—and praise be, indeed; the Lord has.  Our good God, both courteous and sovereign, has got past our defenses.  Except by Grace, we cannot stand “the terrible speed of Mercy.”  (Flannery O’Connor, The Violent Bear It Away)  And that same Mercy has planted in our hearts a new Desire and Joy.  Draw near and follow!

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