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.

And The Ayes Have It!

One lesson that leaps out on the Feast of the Annunciation is obedience to God.  Mary's yes to God literally revolutionized the entire world and all of human history.  It rerouted us from the downward spiral of sin and slavery onto the upward path of redemption and grace.

But how can a single yes be so powerful?

A clue can be found by delving into what happens to be my favorite beatitude, if beatitudes are the sort of thing that can be ranked.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Mt 5:1) provides deep inside once we understand what is meant by meekness.  Meekness is not door-mat-ishness.  Meekness is the acceptance of reality.  Now, that doesn't sound too hard, but when we consider how much time, energy, money, thought, and emotion are invested into iPods, movies, shopping sprees, expensive vacations, distracting hobbies and enterntainment, and worse, darker things like addictions, we can quickly see that a lot of people prefer to avoid reality.  When we look at the power politics in a place like Washington, D.C., the micromanagement in our own office, or the violent behavior that often dominates in places like the Beltway, we can quickly see that a lot of people prefer to control reality.  The meek person, far from passively giving in to adverse forces, evaluates reality, understands what is possible to him without sinning against God or his neighbors, and then works within those parameters.  The meek person realizes that not only he or she, but also reality, is real too.  The meek person realizes that God is God, and that he is not.  Reality is real, and lying, cheating, or stealing won't make it go away.

This message can be really hard.  Some people feel very deeply that they have been jipped by life, and all of us have some hard knocks, from time to time, that tempt us to lash out against them, against somebody in our life, or against God.  The meek person, trusting in God's providence, rolls with the punches.

The virtue of meekness makes me think of a favorite movie of mine, Slumdog Millionaire. If you haven't seen it, you should.  Two of the movie's main characters are brothers.  One spends his life in tremendous violence, always grasping for a better life.  The other sets his heart on love, accepts circumstances as they come without letting them deter him, and refuses either to do wrong or accept discouragement along the way.  The characters are not Christians, but they come very close to a perfect illustration of the polar opposition between the one who does whatever it takes to get what he wants, and the one who accepts reality as the framework for living life.  If to the latter way of life we add humble trust in God's will and fatherly providence for us, we have the Christian virtue of meekness, the virtue that wins us the whole world.

If we, moved by grace, can be open to God's will and say, "Yes," whatever may come, we will be amazed by what follows.  Since we are not immaculately conceived, we'll typically have years or decades of spiritual grime clogging our heart.  But even this first yes will begin to move things along, open things up, turn things around.  God will begin, perhaps slowly, but certainly surely, to move in our life.  He will not suddenly transplant us to a rose garden of a life - that wouldn't be real.  But as long as we keep saying, "Yes," to Him, He will keep giving us more and more of the raw stuff that joy is made of - love, peace, service, friendship, virtue, a clean conscience, and a sound relationship with Him.  He will give us all the things that we can never seize for ourselves or control like masters.

A great way to say, "Yes," to God, to accept the reality of our own sinfulness and to proclaim the reality of God's amazing justice and mercy, is to go to confession.  Especially during these last days of Lent, and especially if you haven't been in a few months or years, consider going.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, understanding, and will.
All that I have and am You have given to me,
And I surrender it now to be governed entirely by Your will.
Your grace and Your love: these are wealth enough for me.
Grant me these, Lord, and that shall be enough for me.
The Suscipe Prayer of St. Ignatius Loyola

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