” I’m probably the most humble person you’ll ever meet.”
Catholic piety speaks of Joseph as the exemplar of the “hidden life,” implying that this kind of life is of great value. If it is of great value, it must be because there is something about it that imitates God. In fact, God does seem to have a preference for concealment. God hides behind secondary causes and lets creatures get credit for what God actually is doing.
God also likes to hide his friends. God likes to hide them from the attention and acclaim of others and, above all, from themselves.
The hidden life takes many forms. In religious communities, the common life is a means of practicing the hidden life. In the apostolic way of life, external trials, rejection, and failure are means of doing the same thing. The wear and tear and ups and downs of marriage and family life are other means. The anonymity of oppressive circumstances is still another way. To be just a number in a jail, on a welfare role, or in a social security file; just another case for a social worker; to grow up and die in squalid circumstances where everybody is struggling for the bare necessities of life; or to endure a dog-eat-dog existence in the jungle of a ghetto — all these situations may conceal persons of extraordinary faith and love. The most beautiful flowers sometime blossom on a dump.
For the hidden life to do its work, one must accept and cheerfully accomplish the routine of ever-recurring duties and failures where nothing new ever seems to happen. The hidden life, in other words, is primarily a disposition. It is aimed directly at human pride, especially those religious pretensions that tempt us to make a splash in some pond or other. In Jesus’ temptations in the desert, Satan tempted him to become a pious celebrity. Jesus’ reply indicated that it is interior actions, much more than exterior actions, that really count. In order to turn us in this direction, God places us in circumstances that contradict, erode, or demolish our ambitions for ephemeral greatness.
— Thomas Keating in Reawakenings
Here’s your Lenten challenge: Go out and do something nice for someone and make certain that no one…I mean no one, sees you do it and that you keep this kind act hidden from everyone for the rest of your life. Can you do it? Here’s a little help. God will know you did.
Love in Christ,
The writings of Fr. Thomas Keating are taken from Spirituality and Practice. The reflections are my own.
M.Rev. Ed Jansen is the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Benedict and Rev. Dr. Trish Gaffney is its Vicar General
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