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Rowing Towards God

|   Bishop’s reflection on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit
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It is rare that I remember any of my dreams. Last night, however, was an exception. Towards 3:00 am, I woke up in the middle of a dream, vividly remembering one scene. It was an incident that happened last year when I visited a classmate’s summer home in New Jersey, along with other seminary classmates. We decided to go out onto the lake, since it was a beautiful afternoon. Soon enough, we found ourselves sitting in the boat (which seated six people), in the middle of a very large lake, with the engine overheated, stranded.

For someone like me, who does not know how to swim, it was a terrifying experience. Despite all the modern convenience of a gas engine, the thought crossed my mind that it would have been great to have had a set of oars. At least we could have rowed our way back to shore!

This morning, as I was reading Divine Intimacy, Father Gabriel took up again the idea of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and he said this on page 570: “The sailor who is anxious to reach the port does not lazily wait for a favorable wind, but begins to once to row vigorously; similarly, the soul that seeks God, while waiting for Him to attract, it does not abandon itself to indolence; on the contrary, it searches fervently on its own initiative: making efforts to overcome its faults, to be detached from creatures, to practice the virtues and to apply itself to interior recollection.”

How many times do you and I use the easy, routine paths of the spiritual life to guide us (like a ship’s motor) and neglect to apply ourselves to the hard spiritual work needed to keep our ship from sinking (the spiritual oars of our lives)? This morning I was reminded once again that discipline, sacrifice, penance and the hard work of true charity are necessary as we guide the ship of our lives, to avoid finding ourselves one day spiritually drifting or even lost at sea.

Luckily, after the engine cooled, we were able to restart the engine and we got back to the shore. As I reflect back, I was reminded of a powerful lesson. In our spiritual life, we can’t rely solely on what is easy or routine. We will also need to use “spiritual oars” to journey to heaven! To fail to use them may leave us one day with nowhere to go.