Better Bruised Than Ill

Whenever we Christians are enclosed in our groups, our movements, our parishes, in our little worlds, we remain closed, and the same thing happens to us that happens to anything closed: when a room is closed, it begins to get dank. If a person is closed up in that room, he or she becomes ill! Whenever Christians are enclosed in their groups, parishes, and movements, they take ill. If a Christian goes to the streets, or to the outskirts, he or she may risk the same thing that can happen to anyone out there: an accident. How often have we seen accidents on the road! But I am telling you: I would prefer a thousand times over a bruised Church to an ill Church! A Church, a catechist, with the courage to risk going out, and not a catechist who is studious, who knows everything but is always closed — such a person is not well. And sometimes he or she is not well in the head . . .

But, careful! Jesus does not say, Go off and do things on your own. No! That is not what he is saying. Jesus says, Go, for I am with you! This is what is so beautiful for us; it is what guides us. If we go out to bring his Gospel with love, with a true apostolic spirit, with parrhesia, he walks with us, he goes ahead of us and he gets there first.

— Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy, p. 19

The Work of Jesus

Jesus would not give himself to only a portion of his Father’s will, but to all of it. He would not pluck the spreading branches of the tree; he would lay the axe to its root. He would not deal with the mere effect of sin; he would destroy sin altogether. It would take time, but the tree would be dead at last — dead, and cast into the lake of fire. It would take time, but his Father had time enough and to spare. It would take courage and strength and self-denial and endurance; but his Father could give him all. It would cost pain of body and mind, agony and torture, but those he was ready to take on himself. It would cost him the vision of many sad and, to all but him, hopeless sights. He would have to see tears without wiping them, hear sighs without changing them into laughter, see the dead lie, and let them lie. He would have to see Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted. He must look on his brothers and sisters crying as children over their broken toys, and must not mend them. He must go on to the grave, and none of these know that thus he was setting all things right for them. His work must be one with and completing God’s creation and God’s history.

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 283

Real Belief

Is Christianity a system of articles of belief? Never. It would be better for a man to hold the most obnoxious untruths, opinions the most irreverent, if at the same time he lived in the faith of the Son of God, that is trusted in God as the Son of God trusted in him, than for him to hold every formula of belief perfectly true, and yet know nothing of a daily life and walk with God. The one, holding doctrines of devils, is yet a child of God. The other, holding doctrines of Christ is of the world — yes, of the devil.

To hold to a doctrine or an opinion with the intellect alone is not to believe it. A man’s real belief is that which he lives by. If a man lives by the love of God, and obedience to God’s law, as far as he has recognized it, then whatever wrong opinions the man holds are outside of him. They are not true, and they cannot really be inside any good man. At the same time, no matter how many correct opinions another man holds, if he does not order his life by the law of God’s love, he is not a child of God. What a man believes is the thing he does, not the thing he thinks.

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 20

God’s Yes

God’s “no” to me was actually a “yes” in disguise. I needed only to accept the clear direction I was being given in order for me to start feeling relief.

When we surrender to God’s will for us, we often feel relief. We intuitively know we have been fighting a war we couldn’t win, and when we say, “Enough! I will do it your way!” we can almost hear the synapses of the universe snapping into place as our good starts to move toward us. It is not God’s will for us to be miserable. It is not God’s will that we should suffer. Many times when we oppose God’s will, we are actually in the process of selling ourselves far short.

I can see now that had I stayed married to the man I so loved I would have had a claustrophobic life, one in which many freedoms were curtailed and a great many friendships declared off-limits as well. I was in love with a man who was both possessive and territorial. I was not only his wife, I was his property, and straying too far into my own interests was a real threat to him. I was willing to pay this price, but God was not willing to have me pay it. Whenever I prayed for a knowledge of God’s will, I was firmly given the sense that I was to pursue a separate and equal course, which is what I did do — but not until I had fought with God for the better part of a decade.

— Julia Cameron, Faith and Will, p. 84

Knowledge and Power

“Please give me knowledge of your will for me and the power to carry it out.” It is in the knowledge of God’s will for us that we begin to discover our true nature. God’s will and our will are not at opposite ends of the table, although we may fear that they are. It is God’s will for us to be happy, joyous, and free and just what will make us that way is what we are out to discover. Things may make us happy that we do not credit with the power to give us happiness. Things may make us unhappy that we falsely believe will make us happy. When we turn our will and our life over to the care of God, the key word there is care. In God’s care, we discover ourselves and our true nature. We learn to see which of the many things on life’s menu might be appropriate to our own genuine appetites — and as we pray for knowledge of God’s will, we may find our tastes shifting. We can cooperate with where and how we are being led. The chief means by which we are able to cooperate is through our gratitude. Gratitude leads us to alertness to God’s involvement with our lives.

— Julia Cameron, Faith and Will, p. 80-81

Forgiving our Neighbor

When we forgive our neighbor, in flows the forgiveness of God’s forgiveness to us. For God to withhold his forgiveness from the one who will not forgive his neighbor is love as well as necessity. If God said, “I forgive you,” to a man who hated his brother, what would it mean to him? How would the man interpret it? Would it not mean to him, “You may go on hating. I do not mind it. You have had great provocation, and are justified in your hate.” No, the hater must be delivered from the hell of his hate, that God’s child should be made the loving child that he meant him to be.

— George MacDonald, Wisdom to Live By, p. 162

The Elder Brother’s Spirit

We see that the elder brother “became angry.” All of his words are dripping with resentment. The first sign you have an elder-brother spirit is that when your life doesn’t go as you want, you aren’t just sorrowful but deeply angry and bitter. Elder brothers believe that if they live a good life they should get a good life, that God owes them a smooth road if they try very hard to live up to standards.

What happens, then, if you are an elder brother and things go wrong in your life? If you feel you have been living up to your moral standards, you will be furious with God. You don’t deserve this, you will think, after how hard you’ve worked to be a decent person! What happens, however, if things have gone wrong in your life when you know that you have been falling short of your standards? Then you will be furious with yourself, filled with self-loathing and inner pain….

Elder brothers’ inability to handle suffering arises from the fact that their moral observance is results-oriented. The good life is lived not for delight in good deeds themselves, but as calculated ways to control their environment.

— Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, p. 49-50