February 25, 2018

Glory in the Shadows

This Sunday of Lent, my thoughts go to the Reverend Billy Graham. Saint John Paul II called him "Brother" and I am thankful that God sent such a brother to walk with our nation during such times as ours. He witnessed to the Gospel of Christ with a certain wholesomeness and confidence that helped me remember the goodness of God. I do not believe that his witness has been diminished by his death, that death could ever diminish his life - for he lived for God and hoped that, by suffering his own death with faith in Jesus, he might finally enter into the fullness of life that Christ came to give him.  From what I have heard, there is little doubt that he saw glory in the shadows of death, and he knew his hope would not disappoint.

The Holy Transfiguration avails the heart to a secret glory - a hope flooding contemplation in faith that we hold in our hearts as we follow the Lord. The light of Christ shows us that the love of the Father, so immense and inexhaustible, is a mountain that towers above and overshadows our lives. When we allow Christ to lead us into this shadow, His glory baths the soul in a splendor that this world cannot hold. Our hearts are finally open to hear the Father's love speak to us in the midst of this astonishing beauty that only our Savior can reveal-- the truth that the Son has longed for us to know from before the foundation of the world.

This place to which the Word of the Father leads us is an up hill climb. He knows, because He has gone before us, that His Father's love is made known at a height that challenges us out of sluggishness. Yet, just as He is drawn to the Father, He draws us upward, against the grain of our lives. Sometimes this pathway of faith leaves us with many unanswered questions - questions about death and beyond death, about a difficult hope, far beyond our power to imagine and understand. Such is the greatness of the Father's love - His merciful love draws us up into a greatness that is unfamiliar to us, so different than our own expectations, so far beyond our own sinful limits.

To be led into these heights of eternal life, to this sacred place of truth, one must renounce the easy way, and climb with acts of faith through the difficult ambiguities of life - stretching above what is merely convenient and comfortable, beyond what we feel entitled to, and beyond even what the world judges to be respectable. This is because the great love to which we are called can never be confined by what is merely comfortable or convenient.

Witnesses like Billy Graham remind us that real love goes beyond social conventions and the fears of the culturally powerful. To ache with such love for God, and for those He has entrusted to us, is to share in the love of the Son for the Father, of the Savior for the world, of the Trinity for holy humanity. Such love gives hope. It heals marriages and makes families whole. It mends broken hearts and welcomes the lost home. It brings back to life. It stands firm in the face of death because it knows that death is not the end. This is the pathway of faith - a path that goes against our sluggishness, that ascends with the Word ablaze into the Father's shadow, that is vulnerable to the command of Love, that sets out to the Cross - that place of love poured out to the end - with unfathomable hope.

PS - for those interested, I am giving conferences for a retreat on the spiritual doctrine of Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity in Nebraska this Spring.  For more information, click here.