Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Grace Squeezes Us Through

Trying to become holy is a bit like trying to fit through a hole, or into a space, that is not quite large enough. Not surprising that our Lord said it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man into paradise (Mt 19:24; Mk 10:25; Lk 18:25). All three synoptic Evangelists make a note of the saying in their respective gospels. They must all have thought it a very important thing to make note of. It was shocking to Jews of their day because they had fallen into the same trap into which we Americans have fallen: the worship of money, or really more accurately, the admiration of the rich. Wealth was a sign of God's blessing, so if even the rich would have a hard time getting into heaven, how could poor fishermen hope for as much!?

But our Lord turned it around by saying that especially the rich will have a hard time getting in. Whether the "Eye of the Needle" was a gate into Jerusalem, or a rock formation, or just a metaphor is immaterial. What is clear is that under normal conditions camels cannot fit through eyes of needles of whatever sort. The camel must be unloaded, kneel down, shrunk to a miniature size, squeezed through, or something - something that it cannot do without the help of its master.

That's how we are. Jesus always knows exactly what lesson we must learn to move a step closer to his Sacred Heart, to loving Him just for who He is, as He loves us just for who we are. He doesn't rush the lesson by giving us more than we can handle, but he does always pick the next smaller door for us to squeeze through. Squeezing through too-small spaces hurts a bit. We feel pressure and a push. We'll be tempted to asked, "Oh, where I am is just fine. Jesus, let me stay here with you," as Peter, James, and John requested atop Mt. Tabor when they were dazzled by the glory revealed to them (Mt 17:1; Mk 9:1; Lk 9:28). But because of the spiritual downward slope that original sin has put us on, we can never stay just where we are. We must be making headway or else be sliding away. Our gentle Lord knows this. So gently he pulls and pushes us forward, squeezing us through smaller and smaller doors, until at last our great swollen heads are reduced to the Manufacturer's initial specifications and we will fit into the place where he has assigned us, the place from which we will have the best view, the place at which we are closest to His Heart.

The good news is that all we have to do is let Him. We just say with the Blessed Virgin, "Be it done unto me according to your word," (Lk 1:38). Jesus has already done the really hard work, the total death to self on a Cross. All he asks of us is a little death to self here and there: forego this distorted pleasure while he heals our twisted desires, or perhaps love this little hard-to-love person while he stretches our hearts to make them more loving.

We have two options at each turn: tell Him to back off and get out of our lives, thence to the long, downward slope into oblivion; or else we can brace ourselves, let Him see the spots that need squeezing, and let Him go to work on us - occasionally asking for a little extra grace to ease the pain. Because of His great love for us, we can be sure that whatever awaits us on the other side of the door will be well worth the work.

Right now, God is squeezing me through the next door. Let's pray for each other.

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