Electricity is a powerful image for the Christian life. A lamp gives light only when it is plugged in. When our computer doesn't turn on, the first thing we check is whether it is plugged in or the battery charged. Blessed James Alberione said that holiness was living the Christian life at high voltage. We have no light within unless we are "plugged in" to the grace God gives us in Christ. It is a simple way of expressing Jesus’ statement that we are the branches and he the Vine. Unless we are attached to the Vine we will have no life in us.
The vine and the branches is an interesting image. The branches don't necessarily have to be attached to something bad for them to have no life. If the branches aren't attached to anything at all, they die. In the same way, the danger for us Christians in today’s world may not necessarily be that we are attached to--or "plugged in" to--what is destructive or sinful. The danger could be that we are not plugged in to anything at all.
In today’s world, if we absorb into ourselves the spiritual desert in which we live, we may find ourselves weighed down by the fears and boredom of a society that is progressively eliminating God and the spirit from its midst. We may wander through a fog of malaise that we can’t quite identify and from which we can’t seem to emerge. We have no life and we give no light, if we no longer live the Christian life at high voltage. We experience the stifling darkness and the inability to breathe in the desert of today’s struggling world.
Pope Francis speaking about the family in his Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel says it much better than I:
In some places a spiritual ‘desertification’ has evidently come about, as the result of attempts by some societies to build without God or to eliminate their Christian roots. In those places ‘the Christian world is becoming sterile, and it is depleting itself like an overexploited ground, which transforms into a desert.’ In other countries, violent opposition to Christianity forces Christians to hide their faith in their own beloved homeland. This is another painful kind of desert. But family and the workplace can also be a parched place where faith nonetheless has to be preserved and communicated. Yet ‘it is starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And in the desert people of faith are needed who, by the example of their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive.’ In these situations we are called to be living sources of water from which others can drink. At times, this becomes a heavy cross, but it was from the cross, from his pierced side, that our Lord gave himself to us as a source of living water. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope! (no. 86)
Walking through the desert takes courage and intent and perseverance. The Pauline Mission is here to help you through the desert. It may seem that a book is the last thing you need. Something else to do. Read. But it is through hearing and reading and listening that the Spirit has a chance to sneak into our hearts and connect us once more to the Breath of God which will keep us alive until we can breathe on our own once more the pure air of the spirit.
So many saints and great disciples of Jesus were completely captivated by the Spirit, surrendering to the plans of God which concerned them, handing themselves over to all that God wanted to accomplish in and through them…because they read a book. They found new life because a word, a line, or a paragraph in a book struck them profoundly: St. Augustine, St. Ignatius of Loyola, Blessed James Alberione, St. Teresa of Avila, Charles de Foucauld, Thomas Merton…. While neither a saint or a great disciple of Jesus, I add my name to that list. Books are my constant companions, goading me on to greater conversion and fullness of life.
Some books that might re-fascinate you with the life of the Spirit and give you Living Water to drink:
by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP
Has a book changed your life?