By Deacon Derick Cranston
In this broken world of ours, some people have lost a sense of purpose in their life. They are adrift in an ocean of hopelessness, which leads to heartache and suffering. It is a vicious cycle that feeds on itself and spirals downward into despair and darkness.
A young woman who emerged from the darkness of an abusive relationship shared with me the emotional and mental agony that tormented her. She numbed her pain through alcohol and drugs, and drove her friends and loved ones away in furious bouts of rage and anger. Throughout our conversation, she kept referring to herself in a derogatory manner and emphasized what an awful person she was.
But she was not the metaphorically ugly and horrible soul she made herself out to be. Yes, she had endured a horrifying relationship and had done some harmful and vicious things in return. But that was the point. These were things she had experienced and done — not who she was. I told her this and stressed that in the eyes of God she was a beautiful and lovely creation. Nothing she might do was so horrible that it would keep God from loving her.
When life has battered and bruised you, it is difficult to find any substantial meaning in life. You can only be knocked down so many times before you begin to believe it is, useless to get back up again. As difficult as it is however, you must not let the bad things in your life define who you are. Strive to see yourself in the light of Christ’s love for you; a love so powerful that he allowed himself to be battered and bruised along with you, and ultimately nailed to a cross.
The cross is perhaps the most beautiful expression of love there is, for it leads to the glory of the resurrection, and the resurrection of Christ has sanctified the world. If you can see through the ugliness of sin, you can find the splendor and grandeur of the Kingdom of God that is “already here, but not yet fully.” It is already here because Christ has sanctified the world, but it has not yet been made fully known because it is buried under the muck and mire of sin. We cannot find the treasure of great price that is hidden in the field.
In the muddy trenches and battlefields of World War I the French priest, scholar and mystic, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, was able to find this buried treasure. He referred to it as the Cosmic Heart of Christ. During the Battle of Verdun, which would claim over a half-a-million lives and turn the verdant pastures of northern France into a hellish landscape, Teilhard found time to pray in an abandoned church before a statue of Christ. Cold, hungry and exhausted, he had a vision which he described in his diary.
“If I relaxed my visual concentration, the whole of Christ’s outline, the folds of his robe, the bloom of his skin merged, though without disappearing, into all the rest … the edge which divided Christ from the surrounding world was changing into a layer of vibration in which all distinction was lost. The whole universe was vibrating … it was thus that the light and the colors of all the beauties we know, shone with an inexpressible iridescence … these countless modifications melted into one another in a harmony that was utterly satisfying to me. Since that occasion, I believe I have seen just a hint of it once, and that was in the eyes of a dying soldier.”
The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. We just need to know how to look for it.
(Deacon Cranston is pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He can be reached at email@example.com.)