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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Indeed, Life is a Pilgrimage...

“I am a stranger upon earth,” (Psalm 118:19)

 While we live in this life, we are so many pilgrims who wander up and down upon the earth, far from our country, which is Heaven, where the Lord awaits us, that we may rejoice forever in His glorious countenance. “While we are in the body,” writes the Apostle, “we are absent from the Lord.” If then we love God, we ought to have a continual desire to leave this place of exile by being separated from the body, that we may go and see Him. It was for this that St. Paul ever sighed as he said, “We are willing to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

Before the common redemption of us, miserable sons of Adam, the way of approach to God was closed up, but Jesus Christ, by His death, has obtained for us the grace of having it in our power to become the sons (and daughters) of God and thus has opened to us the gates by which we can have access, as children, to our Father, Almighty God.

On this account, St. Paul says, “Now, therefore, you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints.” (Ephesians 2:19) Thus, so long as we are in the grace of God, we enjoy the citizenship of Paradise and belong to the family of God. St. Augustine says, “Nature, corrupted with sin, produces citizens of an earthly city; but grace, which frees our nature from sin, makes us citizens of a heavenly country and vessels of mercy.”

This fact coerced David to say, “I am a stranger on earth; hide not Thy commandments from me.” (Psalm 118:119) O Lord, I am a pilgrim upon this earth; teach me to keep Thy precepts, which are the road by which I may reach my country in Heaven. It is not wonderful that the wicked should wish to live forever in this world, for they justly fear that they shall pass from the pains of this life to the eternal and infinitely more terrible pains of Hell. But how can he who loves God and has a moral certainty that he is in the state of grace, desire to go on living in this vale of tears, in continual bitterness, in straits of conscience, in peril of perishing? How can he help sighing, to depart at once to unite himself with God in a blessed eternity, where there is no danger of his destroying himself?

Souls which love God cry out with David, “Woe is me, for my banishment is prolonged.” (Psalm 119:5) Therefore it is that the Saints have continually had this prayer upon their lips: “Thy kingdom come: quickly, O Lord, quickly carry us to Thy kingdom!” Let us make speed, then, as the Apostle exhorts us, to enter that kingdom where we shall find perfect peace and contentment: “Let us hasten to enter into that rest.” (Hebrews 4:11) Let us hasten, I say, with desire and not cease to walk onwards till we come to that blessed country which God prepares for them that love Him.

The Soul Sanctified“He that runs,” says St. John Chrysostom, “pays not heed to the spectators, but hasten on his course.” Therefore, the Saint argues, the longer our life has been, the more we should hasten with good works to win the palm. Thus, our one constant prayer for relief from the troubles and trials which we endure in this life ought to be this, “Thy kingdom come,” Lord: may Thy kingdom speedily come, where united eternally to Thee and loving Thee face-to-face with all our powers, we shall no longer know fear or danger of falling away. And when we find ourselves afflicted with the labors or dishonors of the world, let us comfort ourselves with the thought of the great reward which God prepares for those who suffer for the love of Him. “Rejoice in that day and be glad, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.” (Luke 6:23)

(meditation extracted from The Day Sanctified, 1873, republished as The Soul Sanctified)

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