An apostle of love and presence, St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552)
by my daughter
Tianna (Mallett) Williams
THE Diabolical Disorientation I wrote about seeks to drag everyone and everything into a sea of confusion, including (if not especially) Christians. It is the gales of the Great Storm I have written about that is like a hurricane; the closer you get to the Eye, the more fierce and blinding the winds become, disorientating everyone and everything to the point that much is turned upside down, and remaining “balanced” becomes difficult. I am constantly on the receiving end of letters from both clergy and laity that speak of their personal confusion, disillusion, and suffering in what is taking place at an increasingly exponential rate. To that end, I gave seven steps you can take to diffuse this diabolical disorientation in your personal and family life. However, that comes with a caveat: anything we do must be undertaken with the Divine Orientation.
THE DIVINE ORIENTATION
St. Paul put it so beautifully that I think no one has ever surpassed the eloquence and wisdom of his words:
…if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor 13:2-3)
It is not enough to know what is here and coming. We can spend hours every day reading news stories, following trends, and sending everything we’ve learned to our friends. Knowledge is important indeed….
My people perish for want of knowledge! (Hosea 4:6)
…but apart from the other gifts of the Holy Spirit of Wisdom, Understanding, Prudence, Fear of the Lord, etc., Knowledge remains inert, powerless to change. And all of those gifts, as a whole, are oriented to one thing alone: love of God and neighbour. As St. Paul said, if one’s knowledge, spiritual gifts, and even faith are not suffused with love, they amount to nothing.
So much of today’s discourse in the Church has become quasi-political, driven by a compulsion to score debate points rather than win souls. Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms have often become a means to tear complete strangers apart, if not friends or relatives. I want to tell you a secret, one I am constantly challenged to live: it’s not about what you say, but how you say it (or say nothing at all). It’s not about the content of your words so much as the content of your love. So many times I have seen in my own life where I have wanted to deliver a strong rebuke, a sarcastic blow… and when I do, the conversation descends into greater division. But when “love is patient, love is kind, is not jealous, pompous, inflated, self-centred, quick-tempered or rude…” 1 Cor 13:4-6 then I have often watched those who were at first antagonistic suddenly become defused and even humble as love paved the way for truth. Here is one occasion I will never forget: see The Scandal of Mercy.
Jesus said, “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” John 16:16 Love is what makes our actions linger on in the lives of others, what gives power to our words, what pierces the soul and stirs the heart of another… because God is love. If you want to defuse the diabolical disorientation, then take on the Divine Orientation—love. I think the opposite of fear is love. If you want to cast out the spirit of fear that this disorientation is instilling, then love as Christ has loved you, because “perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18
At the turn of the millennium, St. John Paul II gently exhorted the Church to remember that any work undertaken without grace eventually becomes a dead work. It is the mindset of one whose focus is doing, rather than being, or you could say, doing without first being.
There is a temptation which perennially besets every spiritual journey and pastoral work: that of thinking that the results depend on our ability to act and to plan. God of course asks us really to cooperate with his grace, and therefore invites us to invest all our resources of intelligence and energy in serving the cause of the Kingdom. But it is fatal to forget that “without Christ we can do nothing” (cf. Jn 15:5). —Novo Millennio Inuente, n. 38; vatican.va
Thus, in those seven steps I outlined of confession, prayer, fasting, forgiving, going to Mass, etc…. even these risk becoming sterile if they are undertaken without love, when they simply become rote. And what again is love?
Attentive desire for the good of the other.
I say “attentive” because this denotes “presence”—our presence to God and presence to others. This is why social media is leaving a tragic trail of loneliness: it fails to impart presence to others, or at least, makes a poor substitute. Here, I am speaking particularly of interior Presence, God within. John Paul II continues:
It is prayer which roots us in this truth. It constantly reminds us of the primacy of Christ and, in union with him, the primacy of the interior life and of holiness. When this principle is not respected, is it any wonder that pastoral plans come to nothing and leave us with a disheartening sense of frustration? —Ibid.
Even prayer cannot be seen as an end in itself, as though a certain volume of words or formulas is enough. Rather, the Catechism says:
Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him… Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2708, 2560
It’s this encounter with Love Himself that changes and transforms us into His own image, which is love. Without love—that attentive desire for the good of the other (and when it comes to God, simply an attentive love to His goodness, what one could call contemplation and worship)—then we inevitably become like the apostles one morning:
Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing… (Luke 5:5)
And so Jesus says to them, and to us now: Duc in altum! — “Put out into the deep!” Jesus sees the diabolical disorientation all around us. He sees how His Church, after 2000 years, is catching little more now in her nets than weeds and scandal. He sees how His faithful ones are tired and afraid, confused and disillusioned, divided and lonely, aching and longing for peace—His peace. And so, Jesus, rising from the stern of the Barque of Peter where He seems to have been sleeping of late, cries out to the entire Church once more:
Duc in altum! Do not be afraid! I am your Lord and Master! But now you must put out into the deep.
This is the moment of faith, of prayer, of conversation with God, in order to open our hearts to the tide of grace and allow the word of Christ to pass through us in all its power: Duc in altum!…As this millennium begins, allow the Successor of Peter to invite the whole Church to make this act of faith, which expresses itself in a renewed commitment to prayer. —Ibid.
Cast out into the deep of your relationships and encounters—of strained conversations, coarse debates, and bitter exchanges; of broken lives, wounded souls, and mortal sinners; of timid bishops, hesitant priests and lukewarm laity… cast out with the nets of love, leaving the results to God because…
Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:8)
The making of “St. Francis Xavier” by Tianna Williams
with original music by my son, Levi.
For more information on buying prints
or seeing other videos of Tianna’s works,
Mark is coming to the Ottawa area and Vermont
in May/June of 2019!
See here for more information.
Mark will be playing the gorgeous sounding
McGillivray hand-made acoustic guitar.
The Now Word is a full-time ministry that
continues by your support.
Bless you, and thank you.
To journey with Mark in The Now Word,
click on the banner below to subscribe.
Your email will not be shared with anyone.