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God can work wonders through our perseverance. When a priest, or any sincere follower of Christ, finds it hard to believe in the saving power of the Cross, and sees life as a grim progress with little hope, he should reflect on this truth: whoever imitates Christ and accepts the Cross, in patience, finds that, little by little, it becomes a living thing, fruitful, putting out new branches and leaves, precisely because that person is reproducing Christ's life, and being fruitful in saving souls.
If we had a huge barn, that was full to the top with our sins, but then we confessed them sincerely, in the Sacrament of Penance, and received absolution, we could be certain that our sins are entirely banished, and that barn empty. Then our souls would be beautiful, giving joy to Christ, and hope to ourselves.
Whenever we make choices that lead us away from God it's as if we leave the safety of our home-town to wander off into a vast desert where there is neither shelter nor refreshment. Only by coming 'home' to the Church and the sacraments can we find peace, nourishment, the companionship of Christ, and the hope of Heaven.
When healthy people feel trapped in doubt, gloom or lack of hope, they might hide away in darkness, doing only the minimum of ordinary duties, and generally inactive and unsociable. The life of a Christian inevitably stagnates or decays if it is not regularly employed in the praise of God, and acts of love towards others.
Some theologians are reluctant to accept Christ's claim to be the only Saviour. It's as if they are willing to explore a dark cave in the hope that it will lead to a cave-system that will stretch as far as the bright land beyond the mountains, when there is only one way over. Similarly, there is only one Route to heaven: Christ Himself - visible, safe, and well-known - which begins in Baptism.
The prayers we offer in the name of Christ can be pictured as ascending to Heaven along the same channel in which faithful souls move, as they die and ascend to Heaven. We can have confidence in prayer, therefore, unlike those who do not believe in Christ and whose prayers are like cries uttered into a night sky, perhaps with little hope.
A person who tries to do God's Will but who cannot see exactly where God is leading him must not give up hope. Even in semi-darkness he can still move forward. As long as he is surviving, his state must not worry him. All will be well, and will become clearer, at a time that God decrees.
If we try to live without God, we live in spiritual darkness; yet as soon as we turn to Him in prayer, we can become hopeful of receiving His gifts and graces; and we shall be helped to open our hearts and lives to His influence, even if the 'light' of prayer seems to hurt or even blind us, at first.
If someone were to walk for thousands of miles, searching for peace, and found himself emerging into a place where there is, routinely, injustice in family life, corruption in Government, and war-like behaviour in everyday life, he will not find the peace he was looking for. Peace has to start in the human heart, and then spread outward. It cannot be imposed from outside upon persons whose hearts remain angry, cruel or hopeless.
Truthful Catholics know that there is no possibility of corporate union with a Christian group that claims to ordain people to the Priesthood and at present chooses women to receive such 'ordination' - and even proposes to make some of them to be 'Bishops'. This impossibility is obvious; although it is human nature to want to hope, when things are hopeless.
We can imagine a group of Christians in Roman times, hearing about the privileged men who are chosen to be ordained, to serve as priests in the Church - and to make Christ Really Present in the Holy Eucharist. How fervently some might have said: "Oh! I hope I'm chosen!" It is a hard life, but most men feel honoured to be called by God, though they are unworthy.
A market-stall can be seen as an illustration of the generosity of God - except that all His gifts are free. They are always available. It is through prayer and the sacraments that anyone can receive these gifts. He is full of love for us, and delights in giving us His Spirit, His Son, and encouragement, forgiveness, and hope.
Some Christians hope in vain for re-union with the Catholic Church, while they cling to mistaken beliefs about morality, or continue to believe that their ministers have valid orders. It's as though they want to worship God in communion with Catholics, but have erected or maintained a screen or wall, which has the appearance of beautiful church architecture, but which in fact separates them from the full life of the Church, and from her teaching and liturgical life.
We should be able to defend the Faith. It is not superstition. We believe in things Divinely revealed, but our faith is not unreasonable. God's beauty, power and laws are discernable in nature - including our nature and conscience. There is historical evidence for Christ's life; and His friends were transformed and made brave by His Resurrection. We have two thousand years of evidence - despite sins and mistakes - that Catholicism elevates society, marriage, government, education, treatment of the sick, and children, and brings peace, and hope of Heaven.
The Church is like a bus which takes grateful people through a desert. People on the bus have practical help, a little community, communal prayer, and hope of a safe arrival, whereas people who refuse to climb on, or who decide to leap off, will be making a perilous journey on foot, with no guide. What counts is being on board, even if we are uncomfortable or uncertain of our destination. The alternative is death. The 'bus' takes us towards Heaven.
We need to refocus our thoughts: on Heaven! Someone sad can gain a new perspective, by looking at a traditional scene, and realising that he or she enjoyed many more happy Christmasses than sad ones. What counts is to realise that in every season we are deeply loved by God, as precious individuals whom He wants to bring to enjoy eternal joy with Him.
Really to love God is to prefer His Will to our ambitions. The Lord is glad to see a non-Catholic Christian come into full Communion with the Catholic Church. Yet from that 'spot' on the road there is a lengthy journey to be made, towards Heaven, and much to learn. Growth in faith, hope and love should be achieved, by God's grace, through prayer, spiritual reading, self-mastery, and acts of kindness, in humility, patience and trust.
By sincere prayer in Christ's name, we can make a 'bridge' - thanks to Divine grace - between what we desire now, and what we ought to desire in order to become holy. A new stage of determination and repentance can give us a real hope of making progress on our spiritual journey instead of continuing in mediocrity or worldliness.
There are Christians in other countries whose lives seem to be as desolate and hopeless as an icy, snow-covered field. Yet we can bring hope to them, open doors in their lives, and ease heavy burdens, by the intercessions we offer with confidence, to God our Father, in the name of Christ, His beloved Son.
If we picture an underground car-park, after an earthquake, with its floor a mess of broken concrete, and people feeling really unsafe on the uneven floor, with little hope: it will be worse than that for all who have preyed on the poor and have committed every sort of evil, and who have not repented before they died. They will experience Eternal separation from God and from loving friends and relations.
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