By: Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, O.M.I
In his memoir, Report to Greco, Nikos Kazantzakis shares this story: As a young man, he spent a summer in a monastery during which he had a series of conversations with an old monk. One day he asked the old monk: “Father, do you still do battle with the devil?” The old monk replied: “No, I used to, when I was younger, but now I have grown old and tired and the devil has grown old and tired with me. I leave him alone and he leaves me alone.” “So your life is easy then?” remarked Kazantzakis. “Oh no,” replied the monk, “it’s much worse, now I wrestle with God!”
There’s a lot contained in that remark – “I wrestle with God.” Among other things, it suggests that the struggles in later life can be very different than what we struggle with earlier on. In the normal pattern of things, we spend the first-half of our lives struggling with sensuality, greed, and sexuality, and spend the last half of our lives struggling with anger and forgiveness – and that anger is often, however unconsciously, focused on God. In the end, our real struggle is with God.
Ronald Rolheiser, is a priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Born in 1947 in Canada, he is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. Rolheiser is an internationally renowned speaker and writer, emphasizing spiritual growth. His book The Holy Longing, is a spiritual classic, selling over 250,000 copies.
For over fifteen years Fr. Ron has been using Kazantzakis’ story as the basis for many of his talks and articles….”in the end, our real struggle is with God”. This year he finally came out with a book, Wrestling with God.
I found every paragraph and chapter to be beautifully written, providing me with much to reflect upon page after page. This spiritual guide digs deeply into how how women and men today in our complex world must wrestle with self-understanding, our erotic energies, fear, the Gospel mandate to reach out to the poor, faith, doubt and especially God.
A few of Fr. Ron’s thoughts that I have highlighted and reflected upon:
“In essence, the soul is two things: it’s the fire inside us giving us life and energy, and it’s the glue that holds us together.” Rolheiser does a great job in explaining this.
“In a manner of speaking, to be made in the image and likeness of God is to have a microchip of divinity inside us. This constitutes our greatest dignity but also creates our biggest problems. The infinite does not sit calmly inside the finite. Because we have divine energy inside us, we do not make easy peace with this world; our longings and desires are too grandiose.”
“Where is God when senseless accidents and illnesses take lives of countless persons? Why doesn’t God forcefully intervene? God is present and intervening in all these situations, but not in the way we ordinarily understand presence, power, and intervention. God is present the way beauty is present, in the way a helpless, innocent newborn is present, and in the way truth as a moral agent is always present. God is never silent because of beauty, innocence, helplessness and truth are never alone…..God’s power, like that of a newborn, like the power of beauty itself, respects you by never forcing itself on you.”
Wrestling with God is not a quick read. There is much in the book for thought and for spiritual growth. Why would one ever think that wrestling with God was a brief exercise?