Realize now that, thanks to Baptism, you have been taken into the family of God! With perfect right and truth you can call the Trinity’s First Person “Father,” the Second Person “Brother,” and the Third Person your “Spouse.” Since you are a member of God’s own household, you have angels — nine choirs of them — as friends, all the saints as intimates, and the Mother of God as your own Mother.
Thanks to this gift of faith, while still in exile and far from home, you can hold converse with God and with all in Heaven any hour of the day or night; for you can pray. Think of the gift God gave you in theChurch with her Seven Sacraments. When your eyes were closed to the sight of God, He opened them by the miracle of Baptism. When they were still youthful eyes, He cleared them of fear by Confirmation. When they were guilty eyes, He gently cleansed them by His miracle of Penance. When they were lonely eyes, He came to them in Holy Communion. If they glow with human love, He will sanctify that glow by Matrimony. If they should burn with holy ardor, He will chrism them with Holy Orders. If they become sick, dim, and hold the glint of death, He hurries to them with the Sacrament of the Sick. What return can you make?
How near is your God? If you are looking in the right manner, you can see God everywhere and in everything. The good poets, who are seers, have expressed this truth well. Joseph Mary Plunkett saw “. . . His Blood upon the rose, and in the stars the glory of His eyes.” Joyce Kilmer, looking at the loveliness of a tree, sang, “Only God could make a tree.” Of a wildflower Francis Thompson exclaimed, “His finger pushed it through the sod; that flower is redolent of God!” He closed his Orient Ode with those magnificent lines:
When men shall say to you: “Lo, Christ is here!” When men shall say to you: “Lo, Christ is there!” Believe them!
And know that thou art seer
When all thy crying clear
Is but: “Lo, here! Lo, there! Ah me, lo, everywhere!”
“Blessed are the pure of heart,” said Christ in His first sermon, “for they shall see God.” You can be pure of heart. You can see God everywhere, but nowhere so wonderfully as under the snowy garb of a consecrated wafer of wheat or in a golden cup that holds what looks like wine, but is the Blood of Christ Jesus. How near is God — near enough to take Him into your mouth — Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity! God — your food and drink! How can you make a return?
So many go to the grave before ever reaching boyhood or girlhood. God has kept you alive. He has to have an infinitely wise purpose. Part of that purpose is that you pay Him back in some sort of just measure for the countless gifts He has given you. Never forget the Gospel story of the lepers, and the anguished query of the Christ: “Were not the ten made clean? Where are the other nine? Oh, to find that not one has returned to give glory to God except this foreigner!” God loves gratitude.
Faced with the same problem, Ignatius of Loyola finally made reply by saying, “Take, O Lord, and receive my liberty. Take my will, my mind, my memory; take and receive whatever I hold or possess: my body with all its senses and every organ; my talents, my toils, my time — take all!” Then he adds, “Thou didst give them all to me; I now restore them all to Thee.” Magnificent oblation. A lover’s tribute. Nothing is held back. Complete, all-out surrender. Such is the only fitting reply to give to a God who has dowered man with all man holds. But Ignatius asked one thing. It is a lover’s request — legitimate, and even necessary if he was to go on loving: “Give me Thy love and Thy grace. With these I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.”
That famed prayer “Take and Receive” of St. Ignatius is a magnificent reply to “How can I make a return?” Yet, when you make it, although you have given your all, you know you have not given enough. So the question perdures and becomes even more pressing. It can be answered — answered by you and answered more than adequately. You can pay God back in His own coin and even in His own measure! You have something to offer God that is worthy of Him and commensurate with His donations to you, for you can tender Infinity to the Infinite.
God has given you countless blessings
He who is timeless chose the exact moment of time you were to be changed from a possible being into an actual one. He selected your parents, and like all His choices, it was an infinitely wise one. He endowed your soul with memory, intellect, and will. He made your will free with His own freedom and thus fashioned you into His very image and likeness. With that mind of yours, you can come to know not only an almost infinite number of truths, but actually to know Him who is infinite truth. With that will of yours, you can love not only everything that is good, but Him who gave that goodness to all things, simply because He is, by His very essence, good. With that memory of yours, you can recall all that is beautiful and, as you have already learned, know an aching nostalgia for Him who is beauty. This kind of thinking has you breathlessly asking, “How can I ever pay?”
But what will you do if you use your memory to go back over all your years, recalling every joy that has been yours — joys that came through your faculties and senses, joys that came from parents, family, relatives, friends, and mere acquaintances? Can you count those joys? Each came from God ultimately! What of the limitless love He has allowed you from the day you first recognized the face of her who gave you birth, down to the latest friend who has shown you real love? Every morsel of it came from God and, ultimately, simply because He loves you!
God has been prodigal in His giving to you. Each new day is like a new birth, and it is a day loaded with “birthday presents” from God! But think now of the wonder of your rebirth by Baptism.
God could have blessed you with brains and beauty; given you power and popularity; granted you every success in the social, economic, academic, and political spheres; and favored you above all your fellows, yet these “and all the world besides” would be nothing compared with that one gift which enables you to lift your eyes and say from your heart, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty . . . and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. . . .” For in granting you that gift, God really struck all scales from your eyes and allowed you to see reality, and view it in the light that never fades. Faith is the gift of gifts. God gave it to you!
You have already reviewed the fact that some smart, but not very wise, scientists would have you looking on the earth as little more than a grain of sand lost in immeasurable space, and on man as those mites that move across the surface of that sand. They like to impress people with the fact that those mites move for only the merest flash of time. From such “cosmic views” you cannot view fellowmen or yourself as other than infinitesimal.
But as you, in the quiet of your room, look into your eyes and realize that you were known and loved by the omniscient and omnipotent God before time was or space began to be; that He so loved you as to give His only-begotten Son; that this Son loved you enough to “empty Himself ” not only of divine glory but even of human life; then you can only pity these “learned” scientists, for you, and every other “mite” on this grain of sand called the earth, are of more import and concern to the infinite God than the Milky Way with all its galaxies or even the entire universe.
You also know that the “flash” of time which is your earthly existence means more to God than all the eons of time it has taken for the solar system to evolve. One beat of your heart, properly directed, the slightest movement of your free will, can mean more to the triune God than all the gyrations of sun, moon, stars, and sea from time’s first moment until time’s final end. In order that you might say, “I believe in God . . .” the heavens were one time moved as “darkness fell upon the whole land, the earth shook, the rocks were rent, tombs were opened and many of the dead rose to life.” In order that you might say, “I believe in Jesus Christ . . .” God not only became a beggar on earth, but a corpse on a criminal’s Cross. The price paid for your act of faith was infinite! What return can you make?
Editor’s note: This article has been adapted from Fr. Raymond’s Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk and is available form Sophia Institute Press.