Not too long ago I was speaking to a person seriously ill, unsure if he would survive or not. Naturally, the severity of his condition led him to question how God would receive him if he were to die. Had he lived a good enough life? He knew he had some serious sins in his past; and, even though he had acknowledged those sins, was he really forgiven or would he be barred from heaven? Was God’s compassion and mercy great enough to welcome him into eternal life?
We talked about saints and sinners, sinner saints, and about forgiving 70 X 7 times. If Christ expects this of us toward one another, would Christ do any less towards us? We shared about our humanity, imperfections, and sinfulness, realizing that God sent His Son into this world for only one thing – our salvation. Christ loved us so much that he died for us praying, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” In reality, most of us don’t know what we do when we sin or the effect it has on ourselves and others or what it takes away from the world around us.
Then we discussed how God has used us and how we have allowed ourselves to be used to bring love, peace, joy, reconciliation, compassion, and mercy into our world. We talked about the times God would have been pleased with us, the times when we felt the closeness of God inspiring us, urging us on, and the times we sensed God’s happiness to be with us, knowing the all-enveloping love of His presence.
That same evening, as I was praying Vespers, Psalm 103 stood out as being particularly appropriate. This is the lovely translation is from my bi-lingual Bible:
Praise the Lord my soul!
All my being praise his holy name!
Praise the Lord my soul
and do not forget how kind he is.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He keeps me from the grave
and blesses me with love and mercy.
He fills my life with good things,
so that I stay young and strong like an eagle.
The Lord is merciful and loving,
slow to become angry and full of constant love.
He does not keep on rebuking;
he is not angry forever.
He does not punish us as we deserve
or repay us according to our sins and wrongs.
As high as the sky is above the earth,
so great is his love for those who honor him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our sins from us.
As a father is kind to his children,
so the Lord is kind to those who honor him.
He knows what we are made of;
he remembers that we are dust.
As for us, our life is like grass.
We grow and flourish like a wildflower;
then the wind blows on it, and it is gone –
no one sees it again.
But for those who honor the Lord,
his love lasts forever;
and his goodness endures for all generations.
Again, that same evening, I read an article in Benedictines, an inter-federation magazine, called “Waiting in Joyful Hope.” It stated that waiting is not a passive verb; it is not a passive action. Our lives of waiting in joyful hope must be active. As long as we have a breath within us, we have a life of prayer, of promises lived daily, of shared family, of service, of love. It said this is where we are now, living lives of peace, of acceptance, of gratitude, joy, and always with hope, looking to the future where God leads. That God leads is a given. Where God leads us is not!
Jesus reveals to us how to wait: serve one another, be with the sinners, and outcasts, be faithful to prayer, share a meal, dance at a wedding, enjoy a glass of wine, always seek forgiveness for the times when we withhold love. “Do all in memory of me.” We know that God doesn’t expect perfection from us–only love. If I understand that the little or large crack of imperfection within myself will allow God’s light to get in, then my only calling is always to be open to that light. It is not just God’s light that gets in, but the light that comes to us through every person, every event, occasion, or celebration. That crack in us is also how our light gets out. We have an obligation to let our light out because it is not merely our light but God’s light shining through us. So, let us keep singing, ringing bells, and dancing the joy of that light of our lives now so that one day God might lead us all together to everlasting life.
No matter if we have a day, a week, or ten years more to our life, every moment is an opportunity to love God and others and to allow ourselves to be loved by them. We are not a people of fear but a people of hope—hope based on love, God’s love.
By Sister Veronica Ryan, OSB