Scimus autem quoniam diligentibus Deum omnia cooperantur in bonum, iis qui secundum propositum vocati sunt sancti.
And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.
The daily practice of an Examen is a part of Ignatian (Jesuit) spirituality, that I am finding very helpful, recently. It is, if you will, a daily examination of the day, finding the good and bad, the grace and the loss. I should be doing it now, honestly - it's after my bedtime as I write. Basically ask these questions:
What am I thankful for today?
What happened to me today?
What am I sorry for today?
What do I need to work on tomorrow?
I'd only been doing it a few weeks when I realized that I was "supposed" to be thankful for everything. That's why Saint James says "count it all joy;" and Saint Paul says, "In all things give thanks". We're in a culture of complaint, but God's Church calls us to "rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice."
When I heard Bishop Barron bring up this passage from Romans in his weekly homily podcast, I was walking down the hill in the dark, on my way out for the day. (And his homily on this passage is so wonderful, catch it here!) And this verse... this one line... suddenly clicked.
Now, can I convey the click...
My understanding of this verse used to hinge on the bare conception that what I think of as "good" isn't necessarily what God thinks of as good. God want's saints fitted for heaven, we usually want a more-comfortable seat on the airplane. God wants warriors, battle hardened in virtue, dressed in the full armor of Divine Human Communion; we usually want to avoid pain so much we'll amputate things just because they hurt too much. God wants miraculous purity, we want good enough.
So I get that.
But suddenly, I realized that wasn't it at all.
Omnia cooperantur all things work together... The Greek is πάντα συνεργεῖ panta synergei An omnipresent synergy... the WHOLE THING.
Is working for the Good of those who Love the Lord. There is only one that is good: God. There is only one Good, salvation - union with God.
See: Jesus comes as Human among us... and he doesn't just teach a new thing. He rips apart the very fabric of the universe so that Death itself becomes the pathway to life. Pain, passion, suffering are all made gateways to eternity. Self-death is the surest way to rise from the dead.
Bread is flesh
Wine is blood.
Love is death.
Death is life.
But it's not just these things that happen "to me". Omnia cooperantur, panta syndergei. Everything.
Obama's election, Trump's election, Hillary's loss, Merkle's beer drinking, George Steinbrenner fighting with Reggie Jackson, I leave the monastery, you get married, we drink whiskey, they smoke hash, Brazil wins the Olympics, Japan gets bombed, Kanye's ego, Korea splits, Germany unites, everything works for the good of those who Love the Lord.
In Calvin Miller's The Singer (IVP 1975) there is this great line:
Terra has just one stone
To mark her great insanity:
Across her continents it reads:
HERE LIES HUMANITY!
God's incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension, God's diapers, acne, puberty, and bathroom habits changed this whole world from a death trap into a Spirit-run Salvation Machine.
This is why Paul says elsewhere that he is crucified with Christ. That painful, capital punishment is now the door of life. I am crucified with Christ and yet I life: not I but Christ who lives in me.
My rootless cosmopolitanism, your square space middle class silliness, my coworkers' quasi-bohemian tech naivety, the starving millions of the world and right next door, all of us... we have one goal now, and it's not fixing things, per se: but using them. We dance now like so many angels on the head of a needle that is stitching together eternity and time - a tear we once made - held in God's own hand.
This world is our way home - even though it's broken, bleeding, and painful. God didn't fix the world, God subverted it. It still looks like the minions of evil trapped in time by the unlord of antilife. But it is not: the accidents remain but the essence is changed.
Praise be Jesus, we are so blessed! In our tears, our losses, our weakness -
HERE RISES HUMANITY!
This is why Paul can - beyond the edge of our reading today - cap off this passage with one of the most beautiful and mystical sayings in all of space and time:
Certus sum enim quia neque mors neque vita neque angeli neque principatus neque instantia neque futura neque fortitudines neque altitudo neque profundum neque creatura alia poterit nos separare a caritate Dei quae est in Christo Iesu Domino nostro
For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I won't leave you with out a caution, because there are those who don't love the Lord. There are those for whom the twins of covetousness and greed, anger and fear, jealousy and power, all birth the things that divide us one from another. Having and having not both become idols in this world just as easily now as ever. Sin is real: one need only mistake the map for the territory: we run away from pain, we chase after joy, we subvert our desires and make them drugs.
It's easy to forget...
That can separate us from the the Love of God. That - right there. You. Me. We have that power.
Give it up. The pearl of Great Price is worth everything you have. Give it all up: and get the one thing that's worth anything.
Here's this prayer from St Ignatius of Loyola:
Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem. Accipe memoriam, intellectum, atque voluntatem omnem. Quidquid habeo vel possideo mihi largitus es; id tibi totum restituo, ac tuae prorsus voluntati trado gubernandum. Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones, et dives sum satis, nec aliud quidquam ultra posco.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.
Give it all up. Rejoice: all is ours!
There is no reason to be afraid. There is no enemy anywhere. Examine your day - and count the blessings.
It's all Good.