Life in Abundance

By: Jack Rigert, Director of JPII Renewal Center

While attending morning Mass on All Saints Day, I had a flashback to some not so saintly times in my life. In what seemed like an instant I realized how broken I was. This realization had me feeling rather uncomfortable when I had another flashback. This time I saw Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Pelagia, Saint Matthew, Saint Mary of Egypt and Saint Augustine, all quite broken at one time. I felt better…I had plenty of company.

I thought back to a story Christopher West told as he struggled with his own brokenness. He found himself in the confessional with a wise old priest who said, (I am going from memory) “Christopher, you think a saint is someone who has overcome their human brokenness, right?” “No… a saint is someone who has completely opened their human brokenness to the merciful love of the Father.”

St. John Paul ll understood this well when he said, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son.”

The brokenness we each experience (yes even you are broken in some way, sorry if I was the first to mention it) has been passed down to each succeeding generation ever since Adam and Eve turned away from the original gift of Divine Life and Love. It did not take long for their brokenness, their sin, to be experienced by the next generation…Cain kills his brother Abel. So how then did so many Saints, wallowing in their own brokenness, regain Divine Life and become Saints? The same way you and I do. We open our human brokenness to the merciful love of the Father, through the Son. Jesus came to restore what the human race had lost, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) If we respond to this ineffable self-giving of God we once again share in Divine Life that takes us beyond our human brokenness. It then becomes our duty to pass on our faith, this “the pearl of great price,” to be freely received or rejected, by the next generation.

Just a story you say? Yes just a story, until you realize that it’s your story and it’s my story. What might the world look like if the Gospel, in its essence a Love story, is no longer lived and shared or is rejected by the next generation? Just take a few minutes to reflect on the radical dysfunction going on in so many families today. How many families experience divorce, children born out of wedlock, pornography addiction, eating disorders, drug and alcohol addiction, sexual abuse, violence, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide and the list goes on and on. Did you know that nearly 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug, and more than half take two? According to the Mayo Clinic and the Olmsted Medical Center researchers, antibiotics, antidepressants, and painkilling opioids are most commonly prescribed. In addition, twenty percent of patients are on five or more prescription medications, according to the findings, published online in the journal, Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

“Often when people talk about health conditions, they’re talking about chronic conditions such as heath disease or diabetes,” Dr. St. Sauver says. “However, the second most common prescription was for antidepressants — that suggests mental health is a huge issue and is something we should focus on. And the third most common drugs were opioids, which is a bit concerning considering their addicting nature.”

Just a story you say? Do you too seek a sign? Proof in the power of God to bring transformation? Just grab a coffee with one of the countless men and women, former addicts, who have found new life through the 12-step program and ask them to share their story.

Russell Brand in the opening lines from his bookRecovery, Freedom From Our Addictions” writes, “Here in our Citadel of Limitless reflecting screens we live on the outside. Today we may awaken and instantly and unthinkingly reach for the phone, it’s glow reaching our eyes before the light of dawn, it’s bulletins dart into our minds before even a moment of acknowledgement of this unbending and unending fact:  you are going to die.

You and your children and everyone you love is hurtling toward the Boneyard, I know you know. We all know but because it yields so few ‘likes’ on Facebook, we purr on in blinkered compliance, filling our days with temporary fixes. A coffee here, an eBay purchase there…some glinting twitch of pleasure, like a silvery stitch on a cadaver, to tide you over. And you’re probably too clever to ‘repose in God’. Be honest, have you ever sat down and inventoried all the things that bug you: the childhood skirmishes; seething stings of patricidal rage; your fury with the government or traffic or global warming or racism, or Apple for continually changing their Chargers? When are you planning to become the person you were born to be? To ‘recover’ your connection to an intended path? On holiday? When the kids leave school? When you get a pay raise? Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Maybe if quantum physics could come up with some force, or web, or string or something that tethers the mystery to something solid, something measurable, you’d think again, but until then there’s nothing but an empty grave and a blank tombstone, chisel poised. So no one’s going to blame you if you perch on a carousel of destructive relationships and unfulfilling work, whirling round, never still, never truly looking within, never really going home. But because I had the ‘gift of desperation’, because I f’ d my life up so royalty, I had no option but to seek and accept help.” (R. Brand)

When you made your grand entrance unto the stage of material life you also entered a larger story, that of eternal life. Most of our sexual confusion and addiction stems from the fact that we are infinite beings, seeking infinite Divine Life and Love, in finite things. The material world, that we are part of, has been given to us as a gift to use and enjoy. But when we make idols out of the material world, or numb our deepest desires for the infinite, all hell breaks loose. When we lose sight of our destiny we easily lose sight of the meaning and purpose of our life. I propose a few simple guidelines; we are pilgrims on a journey, we have yet to reach our destination and we all need to be redeemed.

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.” –  Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day, 2000