One of the worst sins in life to aim too low. Sir Francis Drake was the most renowned seaman of the Elizabethan age. Son of a tenant farmer, he went to sea at 13, gaining a reputation as an outstanding seaman. He was the first Englishman to sail the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic.
One day while attempting to recruit a number of young men for an upcoming exploration, he promised them sandy white beaches, juicy fruits and priceless treasures if they came with him. Not one of them enlisted for the journey.
The next day a different group came out. This time, Drake spoke of the terrifying storms that they would encounter, the scarcity of water and food that they will have to endure, the constant dangers that would accompany them. He concluded by declaring that if they could handle these things, the joys of exploration would exceed their wildest dreams.
Every single one of them in the group joined Sir Francis Drake that day, some did not even go home to say goodbye to their families. They just boarded the boat eager for the journey.
What made the difference? The difference was in the message. The first spoke of rewards; the second spoke of challenges. The first offered comfort; the second promised suffering. The first tempted them with things; the second seduced them with an experience unlike any other.
If we are presented with a challenge that can change our life, we will be eager for the journey. This is why Christianity when presented in its fullness and freshness is so appealing!
The problem is what Thomas Reeves in his book The Empty Church describes so well. “Christianity in modern America is, in large part, innocuous. It tends to be easy, upbeat, convenient, and compatible. It does not require self-sacrifice, discipline, humility, a zeal for souls.”
Look how much it contrasts with what this young priest from Africa once wrote. “I’m apart of a community of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. I’m a disciple of his. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving and dwarfed goals.”
“I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits or popularity. I don’t have to be first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in his presence, walk in patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power.” This young priest was later martyred for his faith in Christ.
In a message to the youth that Pope Benedict XVI recently wrote to the youth to gear them towards the World Youth Day in Sydney next year, he challenged them courageously to dare to love!
“Everybody feels the longing to love and to be loved. Yet, how difficult it is to love, and how many mistakes and failures have to be reckoned with in love! There are those who even come to doubt that love is possible. But if emotional delusions or lack of affection can cause us to think that love is utopian, an impossible dream, should we then become resigned? No! Love is possible!”
“My dear young friends, I want to invite you to “dare to love”. Do not desire anything less for your life than a love that is strong and beautiful … Love is the only force capable of changing the heart of the human person and of all humanity.” And he gave them the example of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
It was Mother Teresa who said, “Today the Church needs saints. This calls for our combating our attachment to comforts that lead us to choose a comfortable and insignificant mediocrity. Each one of us has the possibility to be a saint, and the way to holiness is prayer. Holiness is, for each of us, a simple duty.”
It was she who said, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”
It was also she who said, “I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness”, adding humorously “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.”
Life is beautiful if it is love filled.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.