A number of years ago, my father-in-law gave me a copy of what he said had become one of his favorite books: “The Gift of Peace,” by Cardinal Joseph Bernadin.
In it, the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, dying from rapidly advancing pancreatic cancer, writes with tender mercy about his approaching death. He also writes about the scandal that enveloped the last years of his life: the man who accused him of sexual abuse, later recanted, dropped the charges, and made peace with the cardinal — and returned to the sacraments — just weeks before his own death from AIDS.
I pulled the book off the shelf last night and leafed through it for the first time in many years and my eyes fell on this passage below. So often, God gives us the advice we need, and the inspiration we seek, if only we ask. This seemed to speak to me:
To close the gap between what I am and what God wants of me, I must empty myself and let Jesus come in and take over. I have prayed to understand his agenda for me. Some things stand out. He wants me to focus on the essentials of his message and way of life rather than on the accidentals that needlessly occupy so much of our time and efforts. One can easily distinguish essentials from peripherals in the spiritual life. Essentials ask us to give true witness and to love others more. Nonessentials close us in on ourselves.
It is unsettling to pray to be emptied of self; it seems a challenge almost beyond our reach as humans. But if we try, I have learned, God does most of the work. I must simply let myself go in love and trust of the Lord.
When the hand of God’s purpose enters my life, however, it is usually not from the front, as I have always expected, but from the side, in murmurs and whispers that not only surprise but soon empty me beyond anything I could imagine.
Wise words from a man who, on more than one occasion, came to understand why it necessary to let go and let God …