Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:10-14 (NLT)
1033 Make those reflections of your friend your own. He wrote: “I was considering how good God was to me and, full of interior joy, I was ready to shout out loud, there in the street, for everyone to know about my filial gratitude: ‘Father! Father!’ And though not in fact shouting out loud, I kept calling him so—‘Father!’—in a low voice, many times, quite certain that it pleased him. I seek nothing else. I only want to please him and give him Glory. Everything for him. If I desire my salvation and my sanctification it is because I know that he desires it. If in my Christian life I hunger for souls, it is because I know that he has this great hunger. I say this in all truth: I will never set my sights on the prize. I don’t desire a reward: everything for Love!” (1)
As I was completing my devotions this morning, I came across the quote above my St. Josemaria Esciva, one of my favorite writers. My reaction to it, as I was reading it, was “WOW” – this is powerful stuff. And then I got to the last two sentences and was jarred a bit. Okay, more than a bit.
It seems to clash with the Bible passage above, one of my favorites since I could actually run long distances, back in high school and college.
I don’t set my eyes on the prize, or I do? Scripture should win this, the imitation of St/ Paul, an apostle and the author of scripture. RIght?
But what if the prize that Josemaria is speaking of is different than the one St. Paul is speaking of?
I’ve done enough funerals in my life to know that people have all sorts of interesting images of heaven. Most of which have nothing to do with what scripture teaches. A place of no more sorrow and tears for sure, but the idea of our sitting on the porch of our heavely mansions, sipping tea, or getting our wings fitted so we can play in the clouds, those ideas and many others don’t come from scripture. The peaceful, idealized version of heaven is not the prize we seek.
For Paul, and I believe Josemaria, and I pray for me, that the prize is simply knowing Jesus, to realize He is calling us into a relationship with God our Father. To enter into and bear witness to the glory and majesty of God which is seen so clearly in the depth of His love for us. To build up a level of faith, a level of trust in God that Josemaria describes so well. Where our desires become subject to His desires, because we realize the purity of His love. Where heaven is only a word that describes our cming into His presence. To have our trust in Him become such that His will becomes ours, where His righteousness is ours, where His mission, what Jesus was sent for, to seek and save the lost – is ours.
The prize that both seek is not heaven, it is the Lord of heaven.
It is not a reward for our work, but the reward already won, on a brutal cross.
Where communion with God is more than an event, it simply is life.
Lord have mercy on us, and show us your glory!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3650-3656). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.