Seek and You Will Be Overtaken

by Fr. David May

I seem to have come to another crossroads in my life. Having turned 70 this year and suffering from Parkinson’s now for 11 plus years, I don’t expect to last another 40 years, or even 30 or 20!

Something inside is starting to reflect more on the ephemeral nature of earthly life, and the nature of earthly life seen as a preparation for something considerably longer.

At the same time, as I prepare more consciously for eternity, there remains an awareness of the presence of the Eternal in everyday living, as if earthly life itself has become a sacrament of the presence of Jesus Christ.

And so, as has happened a few times in the forty years I have been writing a column for Restoration, I sense a need for a change in the thrust of my column. And as has happened with the other changes, I am giving this new series a new name: This time I’ve chosen “Eternal Life.”

In the last several columns, at the end of the series I called “Things New and Old,” I’ve alluded to the current situation we are all sharing in one way or the other: the pandemic and its consequences.

I don’t expect that by November (when this article is due to be published) it will all have worked itself out in an amicable and peaceful fashion.

Rather, no one seems to know how it is all going to play out: another round of lockdowns and severe penalties for ignoring same?

Bitter divisions between the masked and the unmasked, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, with plenty of pressure put on the latter by society at large? Travel restrictions, economic upheaval, and the Church not really seen by society at large as having either much relevance or being anywhere near an ‘essential service’.

And everywhere, fear, fear and more fear: fear of getting sick and dying; fear of being incarcerated for standing up for freedom. In short, the world we once knew (or thought we did) is passing away, and the societal order we once took for granted (at least here in North America) is looking shaky, unpredictable, and in the eyes of some, crumbling.

So, the question poses itself: what would a column on “Eternal Life” contribute in any way to dealing with the current situation? At the moment, I’m not sure! Maybe something helpful, maybe there is nothing useful to say!

But throughout my life I’ve followed an “instinct” for God that has not failed me, and that “instinct” is pushing me now into unknown territory that has yet to be experienced or explored.

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The first signpost I have discovered on this road into eternity proclaims in bold letters: WORSHIP THE LORD!

I’m taking it first as a directive to myself, which I feel compelled to share with you, the reader.

Without worship, all our efforts to deal with current problems will come to nothing. Of course, the Church has taught since the beginning that the liturgy is at the center of our lives. I agree, of course, but this sign seems to be pointing in a direction that fleshes out the Mass in the personal lives of each and every one of us.

Whenever the Church has offered the grace of renewal to the world through her saints, it is worship that has been at the center: whether it is the Desert Fathers going forth to confront evil and establish true worship in the wilderness of Egypt, Syria and Palestine; or St. Francis praying through the night “My Lord and my God”; or St. John Vianney re-establishing the Mass in the somnolent little parish of Ars, France; or Catherine Doherty bringing home to Roman Catholics the traditions of Eastern Christianity.

Always, adoration of the Lord is at the heart of every activity. Prayer such as this anchors you in eternity, and you begin to see, in specific situations, what is in accord with that vision and what is not.

Catherine taught us that all truly apostolic activity flows from silence and stillness before the face of God and returns constantly to that Source of all that is good for humanity. But this personal prayer itself flows from the Church’s liturgy, the first work of the people of God, which is at the foundation of all else.

To say that is to say nothing new, of course. And the fact is that worship of God is regarded in most secular societies today as a relic of days gone by but of little relevance to us today.

This attitude rests on the simple fact that there is nothing that modern people value so much as to adore their own ideas and activities and opinions! Whereas to worship the living God is to find oneself in the presence of One who re-creates us as we adore him.

This may indeed be a peace-bestowing experience, but it is seldom comfortable. Apparently the One we adore finds us lovable but lacking in the qualities he has in mind if we are to be truly the human beings created in the image that he intends us to be!

I once found myself asking God, and I mean really asking him, that his kingdom come. I even had a strong sense that it was he who was moving me to pray in this way, so much so that I found myself looking for it everywhere, expecting to see it breaking through in the many varied circumstances of daily living.

Instead, what happened was that I found myself positively battered by what day after day was coming at me: various tragedies of one kind or another, insoluble problems in people’s lives, anguish, restless nights with loss of sleep, as well as little signs of hope and victory here and there, as well as days of peace and natural beauty, but never lasting for long without further troubles piling in.

“Where is your kingdom, Lord?” I asked. Then I noticed that pouring out of my heart was a new compassion for many, patience, forgiveness—none of it simply me, but the kingdom in me seeking an outlet to bring consolation to many.

It was almost as if I was not finding the kingdom in

Yet, it all left me hungering for more as the call to worship intensified. That is why I have a hard time imagining worship as anything but an “essential service” for society.

For how will the Lord take us over but by overtaking us as we fall down to adore him, the only One who is holy and holiness itself? And unless the Lord does overcome us in prayer, how will we ever find the strength, patience, insight and power to forgive that are at the foundations of both family life and civil society itself?