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Transformation or Misinformation? Are Jesus’ Promises Real? What Hinders the Promises of Christ in Us?

October 5, 2015

blog10-5-2015A text that was read at daily Mass last week features Jesus describing remarkable blessings received by the disciples. He states these blessings as a simple and obvious fact for them, blessings never before received by anyone!

Do you see your life this way? Are your blessings obvious to you? Do they distinguish you from those who never knew Christ? Does your relationship with Jesus Christ grant you obvious transformation or is that just misinformation and exaggeration?

Consider the following, which Jesus said to the disciples:

Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it (Lk 10:22-24).

What did they see and hear?

At one level, they saw and heard the fulfillment of hundreds of prophesies of the Messiah. What prophets pointed to and longed to see, these disciples were seeing fulfilled before their very eyes.

But more richly, what they saw and heard was the experience of having their lives changed—by having met, seen, and heard the Lord Jesus. They felt the God-sized hole in their heart beginning to fill, the deepest longings of the heart being satisfied. For the first time, they began to experience what the first Christians called “grace.”

Grace is the free gift of God that ushers forth in us a life-changing, transformative relationship with Jesus Christ. And by this relationship we begin to experience the life, love, joy, and serenity of God. God’s thoughts and priorities gradually become ours. We think more as He thinks and love more as He does. We start to see our life change. Sins are put to death and many particular graces spring from the sanctifying grace we receive. We become more joyful, confident, serene, chaste, patient, loving, forgiving, and generous. We are more courageous. We love the truth more and proclaim it with love and clarity less than with fear; we proclaim it with greater conviction and knowledge.

In short, by sanctifying grace and the actual graces that flow from and support it, we see our life changed. The old Adam dies and is buried in Baptism. In that same baptism we rise with Christ to new life, to His life, to the life of the New Adam; this becomes ours.

It was to the early apostles and disciples that Jesus spoke the words above. Indeed, they had seen their lives changed by the Lord whom they had met. His teachings set their hearts ablaze. They saw wonders and witnessed countless scriptures fulfilled. They heard a Word that unsettled them at times, but also undeniably gave them peace. They would never again be the same; they had met Jesus, the desire of the everlasting hills. For indeed, Scripture had said,

The blessings of thy father are strengthened with the blessings of his fathers: until the desire of the everlasting hills should come (Gen 49:26).

And now they looked upon Jesus, whom their forbearers had longed to see. Here was the desire of the everlasting hills. And they were blessed; they were whole, complete, and changed (all but the one who would betray Him).

But again, for us the question remains. Are your eyes and ears blessed? Is your life really all that different from the prophets, who longed to see what you see but did not see it, who longed to hear what you hear but did not hear it? Has your life been changed? Have you met Christ? Are you different and blessed, changed and transformed?

Many people I talk to wonder how such a text of Christ’s is really true in their own lives. They know they are blessed somehow in a way that exceeds the faithful of the Old Testament, but they are not sure how. Is their life really all that different from that of a Jew who lived in 290 B.C.? Jesus says it is and calls it being “blessed.” The theologians say it is and call it “grace.” But honestly, is there a noticeable difference?

There is! And any saint will swear it is so. So, too, will those who have met Christ and are experiencing deeper prayer and the first stages of contemplative prayer. Yes, I will testify and say to you, along with the saints and those blessed with deeper prayer, Jesus is real! He is changing my life and filling the God-sized hole in my heart. Yes, Jesus is real; grace is real. The difference is enormous; the desire of the everlasting hills has come. Blessed, blessed are we.

But why do so many, including faithful Catholics, never experience this? Perhaps because they have never been taught to expect it! Yet of course Jesus says it in the text above. But, sadly, few priests preach new life or total transformation. Low expectations bring poor results.

But then, too, there is also the mediocrity that sin so easily causes in us. This stymies the work of the Holy Spirit in us and means that many of us never attain to the normal Christian Life. Consider a text from Fr. Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange:

How is it possible that so many persons, after living forty or fifty years in the state of grace, receiving Holy Communion frequently, give almost no indication of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in their conduct and actions, take offense at a trifle, show great eagerness for praise, and live a very natural life?

This condition springs from venial sins which they often commit without any concern for them; these sins, and the inclinations arising from them, lead the souls toward the earth and hold the gift of the Holy Spirit as it were, bound like wings that cannot spread. These souls lack recollection; they are not attentive to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit which passes unperceived … (The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Vol II, Tan Publications, P 233)

So, even venial sins have a way of clouding the lightsome work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to the new life that prophets and kings longed for, that desire of the everlasting hills. Too easily do we minimize venial sins simply because they are not mortal. And while this is good, venial sins too easily accumulate like soot on a window and hinder the light from getting through.

The problem with venial sins is that because they are light, we make light of them. A BB is not a bowling ball. But thousands of BBs can add up to more than a bowling ball and weigh down the soul. Venial sins can be to us like the death by a thousand cuts. Individually, a venial sin is a small cut, but the collective loss of blood from many of them can leave one increasingly lifeless.

Fr. LaGrange also details another issue that hinders spiritual growth and the enjoyment of the new order grace:

If silence does not reign in our soul, if the voice of excessively human affections troubles it, we cannot of a certainty hear the inspiration to our interior Master. For this reason, the Lord subjects our sensible appetites to severe trials and in a way crucifies them that they may eventually become silent or fully submissive to our will animated by charity. If we are ordinarily preoccupied with ourselves, we shall certainly hear ourselves or perhaps a more perfidious, more dangerous voice which seeks to lead us astray. Consequently our Lord invites us to die to ourselves like the grain of wheat placed in the ground (Ibid).

So the lack of living a reflective life stymies growth and the inheritance of the blessings that the Lord offers. Most people today are in a big hurry. Most people reflect little, if at all. There is little or no interiority. An unreflective life is unmoored. It has little in the way of a destination and little sense of how to progress let alone measure that progress.

But the blessings of the Lord require a stillness and a recollection that says, “Here am I, Lord. Speak, your servant is listening.” Here is the quiet place where we meet the true desire of our heart and of the everlasting hills. Here is where we can finally hear the Lord say, “Blessed are your eyes and blessed are your ears. Indeed, blessed are you.”

In our hurrying about and our preoccupation with the world and our own self, we forfeit many blessings. Dulled in mind by overstimulation and lack of recollection, we cannot have eyes that are blessed because they see the Lord, or ears that are blessed because they hear the Lord, who alone can satisfy.

Tragically, as Fr. LaGrange notes, we hear only our own self and other even more sinister voices. Indeed, how pitiable it is to be no different from our ancestors, who lived before Christ and had not grace!

Don’t block your blessings! Find time to pray and reflect. Find time to seek Him, who alone can fill the God-sized hole in your heart.

Are you blessed more than were the kings and prophets of old who longed for what you have? Only if you have it! Pray and work for that blessedness that Jesus described:

Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it (Lk 10:22-24).

Comments (5)

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  1. Byron Hildebrand says:

    Thank you for reminding me about spending time with God. It is so easy to stray.

  2. Lynne says:

    Msgr Pope, your blog posts are so typically good, one reads them and says yes, I must reflect on that some more. In reading this one, my jaw has figuratively hit the floor.

    Thank you.

  3. Carol says:

    Msgr. Pope, Thank you so much for the explanation of grace. Every morning on my way to work I say my morning prayers and this morning I asked the Lord to please explain grace. I’ve never really understood the definition until I read your blog. Wow!! the Holy Spirit at work. Eyes and ears must always be open so as not to miss what the Lord is trying to tell us. God knew I was going to read this blog tonight like I do every night and so he worked through you. I have a lot of these “God is in the small Stuff moments. Keep on teaching us. Bless you Msgr Pope.