06 October 2016

The virtuous act of hanging-in-there

27th Week OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Notre Dame Seminary, NOLA

How does a finite being – like a seminarian or a Dominican friar – receive Infinite Being? How do created beings seek their Creator? We know such things are possible b/c Christ himself says, “. . .ask and you will receive; seek and you will find. . .For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds. . .” We could say that asking is receiving and seeking is finding. And there's some truth in that. Asking for what I do not have is one way to confess my poverty. Seeking for what I have not yet found is one way to admit that I am lost. But asking and seeking imply an end, a goal. I am not asking just to ask, nor am I seeking just to seek. No. Emphatically NO. The journey is not the destination! For us, faithful followers of the Way, Christ is the one we find when we seek and the one we receive when we ask. So, how do we find and receive Christ? We endure. We persist. We practice (in grace) the virtuous act of perseverance, and we harvest its good fruit.

When we talk about asking for and receiving Christ, we are talking about asking for and receiving the divine gift – a more perfect participation in the Divine Life. As imperfect creatures who persist in being perfected, we ask for and receive the One we desire to become. Thomas tells us that perseverance “consists in enduring [long] delays” brought about by “special difficulties” (ST.II-II.137.1-3). Perseverance then is that virtuous act of fortitude that strengthens our constancy while we travel the narrow way toward becoming Christ. Jesus makes the point a bit more plainly, “I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.” So, we persist in prayer; in celebrating the sacraments; in attending to formation; in study, teaching, and in the joys of community life; we persevere in writing papers, exams, reflections, homilies; in going out to minister and coming home to rest. We persevere while being challenged to grow; while being challenged to change. And we do none of these things for the sake of just doing them. We persevere for the sake of Christ, his Church, the preaching of his Word, and the salvation of souls. 
We persevere to become Christ for others.


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