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As we round the final turn of this Lenten season, I wonder how many of us have struggled to stay faithful to whatever it was we made the commitment to do. I know I have. It’s easy to find enough inspiration to enter a race. But running it to completion is another matter altogether. That’s why fortitude is a cardinal virtue. Without it, we run the risk of losing every other virtue we have worked a lifetime to acquire.
Faith and faithfulness aren’t just linked by the same Latin root. Genuine faith is lived over the long haul. It is not a flash in the pan, an emotional high, or even the right set of beliefs and practices. Faith is not another item on our list of extracurriculars. It is the ground we stand on. It is less what we do, and more how we live.
The quality of our lives is often most visible in small things. A simple act can speak eloquent volumes. I saw something last Saturday that was, for me, a case in point. At the Boston Catholic Men’s Conference, an elderly priest who had volunteered his time to hear confessions, entered the eucharistic adoration room. His movements were slow and frail, and he was obviously in physical pain. From the behind he looked like any old man you might see. His hair was white and thinning, his frame small and a bit hunched over. He was a picture perfect grandfather, so much so, that just a look at him made me smile. But what I saw next brought me to tears.
When this elderly priest went into the adoration room, he immediately stopped to kneel before the Lord. Bending one knee at a time, this little old priest worshipped with profound reverence. Even though he could have easily justified simply taking a seat, he chose to kneel.
Choices like that, made despite the pain or humility it costs to make them, are powerful witnesses to fidelity. Without thinking about it, and probably without knowing it, that elderly priest’s simple act testified to the gift he made of his life to the service of Christ Jesus and His Church. Before the eucharistic Lord who animates the life to which he was called on the day of his ordination, this elderly priest assumed the posture of the humble servant he always had been, and was still determined to be.
Every day--and all around us-- we encounter beautiful signs of faithfulness. Priests and religious who live their vocations in fullness and in intimacy with Jesus call us all to a deeper union with God. Married couples who live their vows through all that life brings them call us all to the union of perseverance and tenderness. Single people who pour their lives into service call us all to reach out beyond ourselves. The steady gift of self in love regardless of the cost warms the world like an embrace. The day after day, year after year life of fidelity to who we are and what we are called to beats more like a heart than a drum.
Ultimately, all of us are called to live our lives with the same faithfulness that characterizes the life of Jesus. Jesus pressed on. He lived in obscurity for 30 years. He preached and ministered, prayed and healed for three years. He bore patiently with friends who often failed to understand the mission He shared with them. He was celebrated by crowds and condemned by them. He walked the way of the cross all the way up the hill, and when He got to the top He ascended the cross. He loved without limits and to the last drop of blood. Great is your faithfulness, O Lord, and great is the faithfulness of those who love you well.