Our Book of Life
God bless you and inspire you to sustain the journey of the spiritual life, Amen. Once upon a time a friend walked into my office and browse through my book shelf looking for my own titles that I had authored and he couldn’t find any. Guess what? He said, why not look for your beautiful write-ups, publish and immortalize your name in the annals of history. That kept me thinking and pondering until the Saints gave me the answer. The question is must I write a book? Yes if the inspirations and contents are there and no if there are no inspirations and contents. Unless I want to become what is popularly called “hungry author”; I don’t intend to be one. Note that Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and many saints whom we revere today and forever as our icons of the spiritual life did not write any book. Yet they have left lasting impressions in our hearts, and on our minds and souls. What is the secret? There is a book that all of us are called to write. That is the book of our life. That book is informally published when we are alive and it is formally published when we die.
Last week we shared on finding meaning in life and it was very clear that the only definers of the meaning of life are God and you or God and me. So, the introductory pages of our book of life contains the meaning of life. The first questions we must answer in life are: who made us and why were we made? The Church our wise Mother supplies the answer: first, God made us and secondly, He made us to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him and to be happy with Him in the next. Still we have to add up to the why question for our life.
The remaining part of the book of life is supposed to contain how we have known, loved and served God in this world in preparation to live in the next world with Him. That translates into how we have been able to apply the transformative power of the spiritual life. The special transformative power of the spiritual life is the ability to transform hurts into gifts, trials into triumphs. In essence it is the capacity to accentuate our gifts, triumphs, talents and charisms into virtues. At the level of virtues they become “habitual and firm disposition to do the good” (C.C.C. 1803). This is so important that the Master of the spiritual life taught about virtues in the Sermon on the Mount (Beatitudes). He did not teach about the Ten Commandments. That is not to say they were not important. Rather, He summarized them into LOVE of God and neighbours. He dropped them from the level of theory to practice. For “The Beatitudes (virtues) express the conditions, habits, and fruits of agape” (Robert Spitzer). The foregoing confirms the significance of virtues because they are the hallmark of the Christian/spiritual life. The contents of the various chapters of our book of life are virtues. Jesus asserts, “For I tell you, if your virtues do not surpass those of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).
Now we need to take our pursuit and cultivation of virtues seriously because neurosciences have come up with a lot of soul touching discoveries. Children do not only inherit DNA in genes but part of what is inherited from parents are habits. So, if we are full of virtues we can be rest assured of raising good children as good habits (virtues) are being transmitted to them and that will in effect affect the entire world.
You may write books but after sometime the books will become outdated and in need of revision. That is not and will not be the case with our book of life (virtues and good works). They remain as legacies. Jesus Christ, Mary and the Saints will continue to live and reign in the world because of their virtues. Accordingly, Thomas à Kempis says that the saints have left their traces today in the world through the virtues they cultivated and practiced. The virtues you and I cultivate and practice will be our greatest attainments now and beyond. So let us strive to embrace virtues and begin to write our book of life. This is the only book that will stand the test of time. Your virtues should be your footprints on earth not vices. Thanks so much. Your comments, contributions and questions are welcomed. Fr. John-Mary Atep.