On Columbus Day, Fr. Dailey and I – with a few other priests – took a drive to Mt. Equinox in VT. The mountain is home to 17 Carthusian Monks. The monks live in complete solitude – they live in private cells, tend private gardens, chop their own wood for heat, are allowed to gather together only for communal prayer, and Mass … they do not talk – they can speak once or twice per year and that’s about it. They have no means of modern technology, no TVs, no phones… they are completely shut out from the world and wholly devoted to contemplation/prayer, work, study and some recreation. They have a motto: The Cross is steady while the world is turning. Their highest and first priority is the eternal salvation of their souls, to be united to the Cross of Jesus Christ – no matter what is happening in the world around, they are to hold fast to the Cross – hold fast to Love – to a love that is steady and enduring. This is their first and primary obligation … all other aspects of their lives stem from it.
We might learn something from them … The Cross is steady while the world is turning. Times and seasons, ideologies and trends, politicians and popes all come and go, that which remains is the Cross – with its implications, sacrifices and sufferings but it is steady because does not bend with the winds of time, it remains firm. The Cross points us in the direction of God, it orients us to love, real love – a love that is not based on emotions and feelings, on self-indulgence and pleasure-seeking … the Cross is not a self-centered reality – it is “other-centered” … We see the Cross as the gateway to our eternal salvation and headed in that direction, we wish others to join, to be with us on our journey … This is love – not to let one or another walk the path of self-destruction, the road to eternal death, but rather to love another so much that we stop at nothing to keep them from damaging their souls and jeopardizing their salvation.
This is the meaning of the Great Commandment to love God and Neighbor … what is first, what is our highest priority – we owe our allegiance first to God and as such have a duty and a responsibility to one another as having been created by God and for Him, in His image and in His likeness. What does it mean to put God first, what does it mean to love thy neighbor? To put God first means that above, no matter what is happening in world around us, the eternal destination of our souls takes precedent among all other aspects of life. This also has its own implications – to live our lives in conformity with the Church’s teachings on dignity of life, the sanctity of marriage, the obligation to confess our sins and attend Mass and receive Holy Communion … to live in such a way that is not pleasure-seeking and self-indulgent, that sees sacrifice and sufferings not as punishment but as a means to grow closer to God and lift up those in need. Love thy neighbor flows from this font of grace that seeks out our eternal salvation … to want for others, as we do for ourselves, the highest good of all – God. In this way, we do not give credence nor condone another person’s sinful and destructive behavior … love thy neighbor helps each other turn to God, to reconciliation, to conversion … It places the highest priority, the highest good, at the very heart of our lives – God, eternal life first.
So maybe you are worried about what is happening in the world, in our country … where we are headed and what will happen on Election Day… I am too. My friend Mario reminded us, however, of something Pope St. John Paul II once said to him: “do not be afraid because God is always one day ahead.” The Cross is steady while the world is turning …