Understanding the Story of Our Lives – A Lenten Reflection
It is a positive fact that one day all of us will leave the bounds of time and enter into the limitless realms of eternity. The light of heaven will reveal to us things that eye has not seen, ear has not heard, and the mind of man has not conceived.
But while we live in time our lives are probably best characterized by the kind of story they tell, or at least have begun to tell. They can be small stories or great stories, subplots that weave in and out of greater narratives. The beauty of a story is that it develops over time. And while it is yet being written, the plot evolves, characters change, conflicts surface, challenges are faced, good and evil wrestle, heroes are born, villains are conquered and new adventures are begun. Heroes may fall. But even if they fall many times yet rise again to greatness, our hearts thrill just as they do when villains are converted. Until the last chapter is written suspense works in us and hope keeps vigil, while we strain to the greatness we are created to live.
Every person's life is really a unique story, one which can be read in different ways. A life can be understood in the context of family, or of an even greater history, whether that be a history of the Church or the world, or God's ongoing relationship with man in creation, salvation and glory.
Jesus' life has been called: "The Greatest Story Ever Told," and our life story becomes especially exciting when we begin to see and understand it in the light of Jesus' own life. Our life then becomes another story of God's infinite and unwearied love for us. At the same time, God's love gives to the story of our lives a participation in His own Life, and a special work, a mission we alone can fully accomplish. Part of the adventure of living is discovering our unique mission and playing out our beautiful, and irreplaceable part in the much greater drama of God's undying love for mankind.
This drama is the Lord's but it is ours too. It is divine but human too, a mingling of splendid creatures made from ash and mud, living in communion with angels and saints whose respective worlds, heaven and earth, the flesh and the spirit, interpenetrate each other even now.
We are all meant to be unique heroes in this great epic. The saints are true heroes and we are called to this same heroism, a heroism that has as many possible expressions as there are people born into the world, because it can only be lived and expressed in a personal way, in our particular relationship with God.
There is no real narrative thread outside God, nothing with the power to give meaning, to unify and integrate the complexities of the human heart or explain the struggles and yearnings that inhabit the depths of a soul and that steer the course of our history, our story as a people. Man tends toward God by His very nature. And this will always lead him outside himself in a quest to be a part of something greater, something transformative and transcendent. The awakening of a living Faith in our lives draws us into a real adventure with the Triune God, with our loving and provident Father, with Jesus our Savior and Brother, and with the Holy Spirit, our Comforter and Guide. They fill our lives, our stories, with the best of all characters, a Mother like no other, and brothers and sisters who surround us with unending help.
When time shall be no more, this drama of Faith, written in the great voluminous Book of Life, will be read in heaven over and over again to the delight of its citizens. All will have played an important role, whether obvious or hidden, in the grand story that ends in the triumphant victories of Christ and the communion of God with man for all eternity.
Charles Dickens famous story, “David Copperfield” opens with this line: “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”
Lent is a time to sharpen the focus of our own life narrative. It is a time to take the editor’s pen to the bad ideas, the bad habits, the bad attitudes, the bad writing, that makes us mediocre or worse. It is a time to strengthen the character of the hero that lives in us, and to come into conformity with the life of the greatest Hero ever (Christ), by aligning our lives more closely to His and adopting His Spirit in the vicissitudes of life, whether they be joyful, sorrowful, luminous or glorious. We must always be aware that the course of our story, our life, will in turn affect the course of countless other stories, lives that interface with ours, for better or for worse.
The Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of the end of time:
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him Who sat upon it; from His presence earth and sky fled away and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done.” Rev. 20: 11:15
May our Lenten exercises during this Year of Faith, become a source of grace for some of the greatest chapters of our lives, masterpieces in their witness to the great mystery of God’s love for mankind.
Sr. Anne Marie Walsh, SOLT
General Sister Servant