Thorny Ground: On the Lookout for God’s Will
Light and Life – Nov-Dec 2018, Vol 71, No 6 – A Publication of the Western Dominican Province
[Dominican Friar Chris Eggleton, O.P. was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and was influenced greatly by the Dominican priests and brothers at St. Louis Bertrand Parish. Growing up with the prayer of the Holy Rosary, Fr. Chris professed his vows in 1983 and was ordained in 1988 on the Feast of Dominican St. Juan Macias, of Peru. Fr. Chris has enjoyed parish and spiritual direction ministries as well as community and apostolic leadership ministries. He presently works in Rome as an assistant to the Master of the Order of Preachers for the Provinces of the United States and the Vicariate of Vietnam in Canada. Fr. Chris is also Promoter General of the Rosary for the Order. Preaching the Rosary and its Mysteries of the Incarnation fills him with fire and joy.]
“I rejoice in my weaknesses, because the strength of the Lord abides in me.” (I Cor. 12, 9b). Saint Paul wrote the community of Corinth freely sharing with the faithful his own particular struggle, which he names “a thorn.” This was certainly a holy preaching for, in so doing, he exhorts the people to rely on the presence of God abiding inside their being, including in the deep fog and torment of temptation and struggles. What “thorn” it was which caused torment and confusion for Paul, we don’t know. What Paul did was to appeal “to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’” (II Cor. 12, 8-9a).
How honest and open Paul was in revealing himself so deeply in his writings so to reach others with the truth of our God Who chooses to rest in us, to console us, and to animate us. It is Paul’s being in possession of truth in transparency that he enjoys the depth of relationship with Christ, Who sends him out over and over again on mission where Paul meets with all manner of successes and calamities. Paul’s martyrdom occurred while accomplishing God’s Will.
God’s holy will for us seems so very elusive, and we can spend an excessive amount of energy in nurturing a debilitating angst while fretting about knowing God’s will immediately in the here and now. Mostly, God does not offer “next day delivery” in communicating His will. God’s will for us is encountered in the hearing of the Word of God in prayer and then preaching that Word with our lives on mission. One of the key prayers we have been given is the prayer of the Rosary, which is filled with the mysteries of the Incarnation. It is here that our stories get mixed in with Jesus’ story, His life, His temptations, His own coming to discover God the Father’s Holy Will for Him and the accomplishment of that Will and mission. In this we become conformed to Christ.
While praying and preaching the rosary in Portland, Oregon, alongside my Dominican brothers this past June, I could not help but learn something of the people, events, and realities of the downtown area and some of the neighborhoods of Portland. From the beginning of my several days there, it was clear to me that there are a substantial number of people on the streets, homeless. Many were youth, most were young adults and medium-aged persons, and some quite elderly. Some of the poor homeless were quite up-front about begging something to eat, begging cash or coins, while others said nothing, awaiting in silence for a material blessing from passers-by. It was also notable that a good portion of the people of the streets were suffering from disease, including mental illnesses. Moreover, most of the homeless hungry were
not together in two’s or three’s, but isolated and alone.
This image of the people remained with me. Two weeks later, along with other members of my Dominican community, I was praying the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary late one Tuesday afternoon. We were praying the third mystery, Jesus being crowned with thorns, when I was given, in heart and mind, an image of Jesus’ head with the crown of thorns being driven, in rough manner, into His head. Rivulets of blood were streaming in crooked paths down his forehead and all around the rest of his head. It was a few moments later that the faces of the two homeless men who had crossed my path in Rome that very day came into view, replacing the face and head of Jesus and each one with the same crown of thorns causing bleeding and obvious intense pain. Following these pained faces, the images of several of the homeless
persons from Portland, each wearing a crown of thorns, were there in this contemplation.
Praying this sorrowful mystery was painful to me; however, these images came from Jesus’ suffering and the suffering of my sisters and brothers living a homeless life. This experience pulled forth from me a notable and visceral compassion, and subsequent action. Immersion into the mysteries of the Holy Rosary has provided an ever-deepening conviction in me to act on behalf of those who suffer the humiliation of having thorns, of whatever form or source, driven into their heads. To alleviate suffering by assisting in the removal of the thorns digging into another’s body, mind, and spirit from violence, injustice, or disease, personal or societal, is to do the Will of God. It is in the acts of prayer and alleviation of suffering that we discover ourselves already practicing what God desires. The delight of knowing God’s holy will which comes forth from immersion into the mysteries of Jesus’ life is a blessing. Along with the loving discipleship of Mary, Mother of God, Mother of Sorrows, Mother of Prompt Succor, the Holy Spirit instills in us the mission we will be capable of bringing to completion.
It is in this way that, being led to the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we are becoming the body of Christ in our neighborhood, in the world, in Mother Church. Always with love. We do well to remember that praying one decade of the Rosary with love in our hearts for God and neighbor is far greater than praying twenty decades of the Rosary without love.
We need not fret about how God chooses to reveal His will or in pride fool ourselves by attempting to impose our will on God. Let us delight in listening, praying, and putting into practice the compassion that emerges as we immerse ourselves in the mysteries of the Holy Rosary.