Friday, November 03, 2006

Everything is Yours

I’ve always liked to take little walks under the stars. The sky is so black and deep, and countless stars tell the glory of God. "The stars shone in their watches and were glad; the Lord called them and they said, 'Here we are!' They shone with gladness for Him who made them" (Baruch 3:34). Since we do not live near a city—and refuse to put up street lights on our property—the stars are so bright that it is sufficient to walk by starlight alone. If I didn't know better, I might think that the reflection of the morning star in our pond was actually the rising moon.

During one starlit prayer-walk, the following thought came to me. So many people today are maneuvering for power, enslaving themselves to the "freedom" which is mere licentiousness, running after wealth, trying to get their piece of the pie or, in more extreme cases, trying to secure a place in the ruling elite of the "new world order." As I walked in the night, enveloped by the silence which was only broken (but not really broken) by cricket-hymns and the crunching of the first-fallen autumn leaves beneath my feet, I thought, "How silly all that is. Without seeking these things, I have received everything!" Orion and Cassiopeia are mine, as are Ursa Major and the Milky Way. Crisp and scented night air, moon and morning mist, sunrise and sunset, and all God's creatures dwelling in land, air, and water: all these are mine to enjoy, according to God's good pleasure! The Scripture came to me: "Everything is yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1Cor. 3:22-23).

I hardly know what more I could ask for. Through Providence, manifested in the kindness of our benefactors, I have food, clothing, and shelter. By the grace and mercy of God, I have received a vocation which, though demanding, is nevertheless rewarding and allows me to be of service to many people in various ways, to share the word of the Gospel and the gifts of the Spirit. I have many brothers and sisters and friends in Christ. Whatever good (or perceived good) I had sought in the world, has been transformed and given back to me in greater abundance now that my life is "hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). God seems to delight in such paradoxes. I could never have foreseen it when I "renounced everything" to follow Jesus. Experience has proven that He wasn't kidding about the hundredfold return, about all things being given when we seek first the Kingdom of God.

St Paul speaks again: "We are treated as...unknown, and yet we are well known; as dying, and behold, we live... as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything" (2Cor. 6:8-10). If we don't get what we want, it is probably because we don't know what we've got. God wants to give, but He doesn't want us to take. We are to be grateful and not grasping. God wants us to recognize how gifted we are, and not to ask for things we really don't need. "We brought nothing into the world," Paul explains to Timothy, "and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into...many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction" (1Tim. 6: 7-9). So many people do not even have adequate food and clothing today because of the "senseless and hurtful desires" of those whose greed exploits the defenseless and creates the scandalous inequity of the rich and the poor.

If only we could be aware that everything that is really worth something is already ours, we would give away all our excess so that others could have their basic necessities, and then we would be instruments of Providence. If only we knew the imperishable gift of God and who it is who offers grace and life: now, in the sometimes bittersweet life in a creation groaning in travail, yet eager to share in the glorious liberty of the children of God, anticipated already by the first-fruits of the Spirit (see Rom. 8:19-23). And forever, when "the dwelling of God is with men... He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore..." (Rev. 21:3-4). Ours shall be only joy and fullness of life unto endless ages before the face of the God who is Love.

"Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord... Stars of heaven, bless the Lord... Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord... You children of men, bless the Lord, praise and exalt Him above all forever... for He has saved us from the power of death; He has freed us from the raging flame... Bless Him, all who worship the Lord, sing praise to Him and give thanks to Him, for His mercy endures forever" (Dan. 3:57ff).

I think I'm going to take another walk under the stars. Don't ask me what I want for Christmas this year, for everything is already mine. And everything is yours. For we are Christ's...