Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Discerning Between God and God's Works

I dedicate this post to the memory of Bishop Paul Dudley, retired (Diocese of Sioux Falls, SD). He died this past Wednesday night. He will be remembered by many as a tireless pastor and lover of our Lord and His Church.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
The first time I met Bishop Dudley he spoke at length on a book called Five Loaves and Two Fish, by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan. I will not ever forget that talk.
Nguyen Van Thuan, as the new Bishop of Saigon, had been targeted for his faith as well as his family connection to Ngo Dinh Diem. He was detained by the Communist Government of Vietnam in a reeducation camp for 13 years, 9 of them in solitary confinement. During his imprisonment he wrote encouraging remarks and notes on scraps of paper which were passed to the outside world.

Cardinal Van Thuan ( elevated in 2001) shared some of his thoughts at the 1997 World Youth Day, which become the basis for the book and Bishop Dudley's own remarks. One piece struck me especially hard; Discerning Between God and God's Works.

Cardinal Van Thuan had ample opportunity to do this during his imprisonment. 48 years old and energetic, cut off from his flock and the ability to actively minister to them, Bishop Van Thuan was tortured by his enforced idleness.

One day the divine message came to him.

Everything you desire to do is excellent work, helping others, increasing vocations, providing reassurance to your flock and evangelizing non Christians. These are God's works, but they are not God.

Bishop Van Thuan was called by his isolation in prison to realize what is true for all who are involved in the active life. What we do for God is good, but it is not the goal or summit of our lives. Rather, we are called to follow God Himself.

This is important to remember always, but especially when we have good success in our lives or alternatively when we experience dejection and failure. At both times, at ALL times we can pray with Cardinal Van Thuan the words he wrote from prison:

Why, Lord are you
abandoning me?
I do not want to desert your work,
I want to complete it....
Kneeling before your altar
close to the eucharist,
I heard your answer, Lord:
"It is me you are supposed to be
following, not my work."

No comments: