God Himself Lives in Their Heart and Soul
Audio can be found here or below the transcription.
Three weeks ago I had Sunday Mass in Iraq. You don’t go to Iraq for a vacation, do you?
I went to Iraq to visit the people – the refugees – who were fleeing persecution from ISIS. 110,000 Christians who had been driven from their homes in Mosul, and their ancient villages along the plains of Nineveh, who had fled to Kurdistan for refuge.
These people, as you might imagine… the name given to them, “Internally Displaced Persons,” …they were very sad. They were suffering much. They had left everything. Their lives had been placed at risk. Some of them didn’t even make it. But they knew that if they had been left behind, they would literally have lost their heads.
Anyway, one of the places we visited was a wonderful Catholic school run by the splendid Dominican sisters. About 500 young children. And they had all left. They… you can imagine these little children, the turmoil, the trauma they had been through.
And we met there a beautiful young French woman. I’d say she was in her early 20s. She had volunteered, she had come from France to help these refugees in Iraq and she was there at the school. She had mastered the language, see?
So we asked her, “Now what do you teach? Do you teach computer? Do you teach reading? Do you teach history? Do you teach science?”
She said, “No.” She said, “Every day, every day I bring one of each of the classes to our little chapel.” And she showed us the little chapel, it sure was little. It was big enough for the thirty or thirty-five children in each of the classes to come to. She said, “I have each of them here for just about fifteen minutes every day and we pray. I help the children pray.”
And she said, “What I try to teach them is that they have within their heart and soul the very life of God. They have God’s life within them. God Himself lives in their heart and soul.” She said, “If I can get them to believe that… Well then, in moments of turmoil, and trauma, they know that they have God. They can speak to Him. No one can take Him away from them. He will listen to them. He will care for them. If I can teach them they have the life of God in their soul… I will have taught them life’s greatest lesson.”
And one of the sisters who was listening said, “You know, she’s right. Fourteen months ago, when these children arrived, they couldn’t stop crying… and now they can’t stop smiling.”
Now, where did that young French woman, that volunteer, that teacher, get that? I presume she got it from the words of Jesus in this morning’s gospel. You heard what he said.
Whoever loves me, my Father and I will come and make our dwelling within them.
There’s the root of what we Catholics believe, what we call “grace.” Grace. Sanctifying grace. The life of God within the soul of the believer.
It almost seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? That we have within us, Jesus tells us, that young French woman taught those troubled children, we have within us the life – the very life of God! The gift of grace. How? How do we get that, everybody? You want some?
How do we get it?
Well, one thing we know, is that we really can’t do anything to get it. We can’t win it, we can’t achieve it, we can’t merit it. Because it is pure gift; that’s what the word “grace” means, right? It’s a pure gift from God to us.
He, God, gave it to us in Baptism, did He not? That’s where almighty God first poured His life into our heart and soul.
That gift of grace is fed every time we receive Him in Holy Communion, like you’re going to do this morning.
When that gift of God’s life within, that gift of grace is in jeopardy, or is in danger of going out, that light going out, we have it replenished in the sacrament of Penance. The sacrament of Confession.
For those of you old enough, you’ve had that life of God, that grace strengthened within you through the sacrament of Confirmation.
So you see what I’m saying. The sacraments, Seven Sacraments of the Church – that’s how God communicates His life to us.
We also… He also gives it to us, when we ask Him in prayer. We do that a lot. We might say, “Oh, dear God, help me.” What are we really saying? “Dear God, give me some of Your grace. Would You pour forth Your life within my heart and soul?”
We also, that life of God within us is intensified, that sanctifying grace intensified, when we hear His Holy Word in the Bible. That life is encouraged, that life is strengthened, as we learn more about this life through His Holy Word in the Bible, especially when proclaimed at Mass.
So you see all the ways that God gives us this gift of grace, this life, His very life, that dwells in the heart and soul of the believer. Now, if we really and truly are convinced that we have within this sanctifying grace, this life of God in the heart and soul of the believer as Jesus told us today, that’s extraordinarily good news, is it not?
It affects how we think. It affects how we treat ourselves. If we really believe that we are the house of God, that we are the temple of God’s life, boy oh boy, we would never treat ourselves than with anything less than the reverence and the dignity that we deserve.
Never, never, would we compromise ourselves. Never would we harm ourselves. Never would we cheapen ourselves, because we know God thinks so much of us that He has His dwelling place within us.
And, think of how we would treat one another. If we look at another person and say, he or she has the life of God within himself or herself, never would we hurt them.
So you see how extraordinarily fruitful this good news is. If affects our faith – what we believe – that we have the life of God within us, and so do you, and it affects how we act. Our morality. Because it would show how we would treat ourselves, it has implications in the way we treat one another.
The gift of sanctifying grace, the life of God in our soul. Jesus teaches that to us. That young French woman taught that to those suffering children of Iraq. And we all need to hear that same lesson.