Posted by: Bishop David Walker
3 October 2013 | Bishop David Walker
The spiritual writer, the Abbé de Tourvillle, uses the image of an overgrown path to offer his understanding of the meaning of Christian perfection. As one walks this path, the branches make the journey difficult. Those going along such a path may not know how far they have traveled, they are not sure how far they have to go, and may not even know where they are. But they want to go on: he sees Christian perfection in that desire to go on.
It is the desire for God that is the key to living a life devoted to God. This is sometimes expressed by the word “intention”. We intend in all that we do to give glory to God. It is this desire, this intention, which brings together all the aspects of our life and focuses them on God.
The way to God is through our ordinary everyday life. We are living beings, and our life is a part of who we are. Therefore it is in our life that we find our greatest response to God. If we can orient our whole life as a disciple of Jesus to God, then what greater commitment can we make? God becomes the centre of all that we do.
In the past, it was common for many people to begin the day with the “morning offering”, a prayer that expressed one’s intention to offer the whole day to God. I’m sure many still say that prayer. However, I don’t feel we have stressed enough how important this prayer is. It reminds us each morning of the direction we want our life to take, of how we want to live in the upcoming day. What better orientation could the faithful have for their day?
One can build on this desire, by taking time to renew that initial intention during the day, so that it becomes more conscious in our life. It has the effect of fostering our awareness of the presence of God in each moment of our life, and transforms each moment into a sacrament, a holy place where we meet, and respond to, our God. It is this desire that moves us to live in the divine presence, so that we can consciously offer our life to God and do everything for the glory of God.
It is possible for all to live their life in this way, and it will take us to a deep intimacy with God. The Vatican Council spoke about the universal call to holiness, insisting that all can come to deep intimacy with God. At times in our tradition, we have tended to associate this deep intimacy with particular ways of Christian living eg religious life or priesthood. The council is reminding us that it open to all, and that we all can desire to come to it.
However, one will only come to this intimacy if we are ready to do the things that help it to develop. It is ultimately an invitation from God, but we are able to respond, or even not respond. We have a part to play. We must work, with the help of divine grace, to transform our life, so that we live in a way that fosters this intimacy. It is this desire for God, this intention to offer our whole life to the glory of God, which can help us come to this intimacy with God.
I believe that the important thing about our journey to God is not where we have come from, how far we have to go, nor even where we are. It is that desire to go on, to give oneself completely to God in every aspect of our life. One of the Church Fathers described the Christian journey as being “on the way”. It is the desire for God that keeps us journeying, and will carry us through the difficulties and trials that may beset us. If only we could foster this desire in all of our faithful.