Thursday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

In his book The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis tells the tale of the ghost of a man, once called Frank, who is offered a chance to leave hell behind and enjoy the life of heaven for all eternity. To stay in heaven, however, the ghost must give up his own idea of who he is—he fancies himself a great actor, “the Tragedian”—and instead surrender himself to the ordinary human existence that God intends for him, for it is through that existence alone that Frank can abide in love. But the ghost who was once Frank refuses to give up the personality that he has crafted for himself, and so he freely chooses to reject the purifying love of heaven and returns to that place where God is not present so that he can continue to be the great Tragedian that he worked so hard to become. The Tragedian is full of heroism, full of pathos: he is misunderstood, wrong, rejected, and yet, in spite of it all, has made himself into the “interesting” man that he has always wanted to be, defying even God and man in order to do so.

The way of the Tragedian is not the path of love that Jesus indicates. The eternally begotten Son of the Father, in whom and through whom all things came to be, could be anyone he wished in this world. He is not bound by necessity to live as the son of an obscure carpenter in a slum of a village (cf. Jn 1:46). And yet, the Son freely chooses this ordinary, hidden life to reveal the way of love, which is the life of grace that Jesus shares with us. When we see this life, knowing that God can do whatever God wants, but that what God wants is specifically this life, we can say, “this is what God is like.” This path that Jesus walks is the very one he invites us to follow him on. Yes, you may have constructed a nice life for yourself, but whether it is one of virtue or of vice, if it is not on this path, Jesus calls you to leave it behind and follow him. “Whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:7-8).

There is nothing extraordinary about the path that Jesus indicates, for all it involves is placing one foot in front of another and walking in faith. But it is, nonetheless, a path of miracles in its simplicity, for if you are truly following Christ, gazing at him in love, and simply placing one foot in front of another in trusting obedience, then you will be walking, and walking on water. But that you are walking on water is no concern of yours, but of Christ. You are called simply to walk, following him in his love.

November 3rd, 2016