An excerpt from the First Letter of Brother Lawrence:
“After having given myself wholly to God, that He might take away my sin, I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not He; and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world.”
On first reading that Brother Lawrence began to live as if there was none but God and himself in the world, a puzzlement came over me as to how appropriate that could possibly be. And then, I was enlightened, for such a relationship with God does not exlcude others, as I had first thought it to mean, but rather allows us to meet with God in all of His creation.
“Sometimes, I considered myself before Him as a poor criminal at the feet of His judge; at other times I beheld Him in my heart, as my Father, as my God: I worshipped Him the oftenist that I could, keeping my mind in His holy Presence and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him.”
How often, when we leave Mass, do we leave Jesus in the Tabernacle and not carry Him with us in our very hearts? I recently heard a fellow parishioner declare at the end of Mass, “well, that’s it, it’s done with for another week!”. We must be guard ourselves against complacency and of thinking that communing with God is for Sundays only!
“I found no small pain in this exercise, and yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred, without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind had wandered involuntarily. I made this my business all the day long as much as at the appointed times of prayer; for at all times, every hour, every minute, even in the height of my business, I drove away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of God.”
Isn’t it encouraging to learn that Christian pilgrim’s throughout the ages have also struggled to give God the greater place in their lives, that their prayer too has been arid and imperfect, that their minds also wandered at Mass and when praying? But how much more encouraging, that despite the difficulties that they have experienced, they continued to strive to give God the higher place in their lives, in all the busy-ness of their lives?
“Such has been my common practice ever since I entered in religion; and, though I have done it very imperfectly, yet I have found very great advantages by it.”
If such Christian pilgrims as Brother Lawrence believe themselves to have been imperfect in practicing prayerfulness and of communing with God, then is it any wonder, that we, who perhaps have so many more distractions, who live in such a wordly world, who face a multitude of sordid secularisms, experience such difficulty and stuggle so greatly with giving precedence to God. Living a perpetual life of faith is not easy, but there are indeed ‘very great advantages’ in striving to do so.
“When we are faithful to keep ourselves in His holy Presence, and set Him always before us, this not only hinders our offending Him, and doing anything that may displease Him, at least willfully, but it also begets in us, a holy freedom, and, if I may so speak, a familiarity with God, wherewith we ask, and that successfully, the graces we stand in need of”.
Don’t we Catholics all know how easy it is to walk out of the Church after making our confession and falling into sin as we sit in the traffic jam as we attempt to make our way home across the other side of the city?
When we attempt to keep ourselves in His holy Presence, as Brother Lawrence says, we are less likely to offend Him. Sometimes we forget that God is present always and everywhere, that He see us and hears us, knows our inmost thoughts. There is no hoodwinking God, he sees all that is done in private. Let us attempt to live transparent lives. Lives that show God in all our ways and thereby find our freedom in Him.