40 THE CONVERSION BEGINNING UNFOLDS
THIS MORNING I spent several hours in prayer and the celebration of Holy Mass.
A great joy permeated my being. Joy and gratitude for this extraordinary grace of these months in semi-solitude, to write, pray and paint.
What a lavishness of grace for my own being in this Jubilee Year.
What a Gospel ‘talent’ not to be wasted but rather, by fidelity to the duty of the moment as a priest-writer, to labour with words until the work is done.
Then: to let go of it, for the Lord to use, as He wills.
Even if that use means, once written, this work, through the discernment of my spiritual father, is never published.
So as I write in my heart echo lines from Psalmist seeking discernment, understanding, giving praise and crying longing. [Ps. 119: 169-176]
IT IS a great mystery that God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, does not force Himself upon us, does not, when we yearn for true conversion of heart, remove from us our freedom to resist His invitation to repent and return to Him.
The extraordinary grace, the seed-sowing within the depths of my being of His word:’ come home My child’, poured into my being during that charismatic rally at the time of the death of Pope Paul VI on the feast of the Transfiguration.
To be accomplished, this transformation — for He so wills it — my free-will consent and co-operation with grace were/are required.
Only when I would truly open wide the doors of my being to Christ would any conversion take firm root, repentance begin to flower. Only when I would humble myself, by grace of course, and have recourse to sacramental confession, wherein my sins would be forgiven, might the healing process — Christ Himself, the Healer — become increasingly efficacious, as the Gospel reveals. [Mt. 9:1-8]
The trees are all in bud as I write once again.
Warm spring rains fall upon the small patch of grass outside my basement window. I can hear, but not see, little rivers of water washing across the parking lot, some ten feet higher up the slope from my window.
This is my basement cave!
In the old days a priest serving an institution, such as this home for the infirm, would have been granted a decent set of rooms — nowadays no one has much respect for themselves, let alone for others.
The priest is seen as a sort of unavoidable nuisance. Handy to have around when someone is dying, but otherwise best he remains hidden in his ‘cave’.
In my first few weeks here it was difficult to be down in here. Now it is a place for my heart, in the great hermitical tradition of all those who voluntarily have entered actual caves over the centuries to be alone with You.
I must not waste a moment of this precious space or time.
The news today announces Pope John Paul is off to visit Lebanon, a place soaked with fraternal blood through inter-religious civil war and hatred.
Why do we hate so much?
In mid-fall of the year of three Popes my new spiritual director contacted me by letter and phone.
Eventually I began to visit him, to open my heart, to attempt to listen and even to go to confession truthfully.
This was very difficult the first few times, for it meant admitting not only my sinfulness but my absolute need of God.
Fall unfolded into winter. I still found myself occasionally engaged in my habitual patterns.
However there was waging within me a true struggle against the satanic darkness and neurotic fears which had such a hold on my being, and, a real hunger to enter into the light.
Looking back I understand now part of the struggle was an inner expectation of spiritual magic. Namely, that it sufficed I wanted to be converted, healed, set-free from what had me in bondage — but converted, healed, set-free WITHOUT the divinely ordained ordinary process of progressive conversion, healing, release.
Only decades later would I appreciate what tremendous patience my impatience, and easily provoked discouragement, exacted from my spiritual director, whom I came to see more accurately as not only the friend of my soul but as my spiritual father, which is how I see him now.
My heart has come to see in the progressive process of conversion, healing, release — (keeping in mind, of course, that God sometimes does grant the miracle of an instantaneous conversion) — what appears to be the ordinary pilgrimage, wherein the Holy Spirit divinizes the soul, of which the Gospel account of healing found in Mark 8: 22-26 illuminates the mystery of progressive healing.
Here is what this Gospel passage says to my heart:
THERE is a place to which we must all come, — Christ Himself being the actual ‘place’ — being brought there by our brothers and sisters through their prayer for the conversion of sinners. That place is also the Church — participation in the sacramental life of the Church specifically.
THIS is the place per se of encounter with Christ, Saving Healer, who draws us to Himself because He loves the Father and loves us.
He is, in a sense, drawn to us through His own love for the Father and for us.
Our being drawn to Him is assisted through the plea on our behalf of our brothers and sisters at prayer, of Holy Mother the Church herself at prayer for the conversion of the world.
Critical is the prayerful intercession also of our Blessed Mother Mary, and of all the Saints and Blessed in heaven.
CONFESSION of our blindness is essential.
Perhaps, as would appear to be the case with the blind man in this Gospel passage, if not by spoken articulation, at least by the eloquent poverty of simply being in the place of encounter with Christ.
WE MUST be touched by Christ, therefore when He offers His hand to us to lead us into the depths of repentance, conversion, release, healing, we must accept — always we are endowed with free-will — His touch.
WE MUST willingly be led by Christ away from the place/places wherein we dwell in the dark ignorance of hell — for our blindness is not only interior but is exacerbated and facilitated by our dwelling in the places and companionship of accomplices.
SPITTLE is used here by Christ because He had not yet shed His blood — His Heart had not yet been torn open by the lance so the ‘ blood and water ‘ [ Jn.19:34] — the river of sanctifying grace, of sacramental life — was not yet pouring forth upon us.
It is sanctifying grace through the sacraments — especially of Baptism, Confession, Holy Eucharist — which the Holy Spirit uses as the forgiving, converting, releasing, healing touch of Christ.
ONCE touched the question posed is a query by Christ of the soul ascertaining the soul’s co-operative willing participation in the forgiveness-converting-healing-releasing-sanctifying process which unfolds through the holy action touch of Christ Himself.
THE SOUL’S response is not merely affirmative but an accepting admission of struggle — the blindness is deeply bitter-rooted, the blind attitude deeply inner-vowed as a commitment to rebellion against the very Eternal Father who so loves us He has given us Jesus, who with the Father, so loves us the Holy Spirit is given to us to Purify and Sanctify every soul who believes in Him and willingly receives Baptism, gateway to all sacramental life.
THE SECOND touch — maybe for some of us more resistant, more deeply wounded, more profoundly addicted to our blindness, a third, fourth, innumerable touches are required— in either case there will come what is the final touch of complete healing, total conversion, absolute release — the grace of communion of love, union with the Holy Trinity.
EVERYTHING now is seen distinctly, that is, our true relationship with the Trinity, our brothers and sisters, self, — we see clearly everything about life, about the danger of temptation, the destructive folly of sin, the absolute need we have of Divine Mercy.
DO NOT EVEN GO INTO THE VILLAGE is the divinely uttered, tender yet imperative caution.
We MUST heed this urgent Divine admonition NOT to return to the place and accomplices of our dark ignorance.
Such a return would be a refusal, a rejection of the very grace just given, a turning away from the Divine Self-Giver, Giver of Light, Truth, Healing, and Salvation.