THE RATHER TOUCHING STORY OF CORNELIUS
“If you have read the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible, you will recall the rather touching story of Cornelius, commander of the Roman garrison at Caesaria. Although he was a Gentile, Cornelius believed in the true God and gave much time to prayer and to acts of charity. An angel appeared to Cornelius to say that God was pleased with his piety and that he should invite Simon Peter to come from Joppa to instruct him. Cornelius did so, and gathered all his family and friends together to listen to the Apostle. Peter came, and the essence of his sermon was that Jesus ‘went about doing good and healing all who were in the power of the devil; for God was with Him.”
BLUEPRINT FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING
In that one sentence is contained, for all of us, a summary of the Christian life. Jesus’ interior life was devoted to adoration of the Father Who was ever present in Him. His exterior life was devoted to ministering to the ills of others.
This is the blueprint for our own lives also: an exterior life characterised by a sustained kindness towards others, stemming from an interior life in which the presence of God is never for long forgotten.
It may sound like a simple formula to say that habitual kindness is the chief mark of a true Christian. It is simple, in the sense that such kindness gathers together all the threads of religious obligations and releases us from the complicated network of do’s and don’ts, musts and must nots. This is because, while almost anyone can be kind on occasion, it requires a high degree of unselfishness, generosity and self-control to be uniformly kind to all persons at all times.
Anyone who has the self-forgetfulness to be always alert to the burdens, the worries and the handicaps of others, plus the strength to be patient with the ignorant and stupid, gentle with the aggressive and hostile, cheerful and helpful on bad days as well as good – that person never will fall an easy victim to temptation of any kind.
A SIMPLE FORMULA
Yes, habitual kindness is a simple recipe for a fully Christian life, but it does not mean it is an easy one. Indeed, it will be impossible to maintain an attitude of unvarying kindness unless we imitate Jesus, however weakly, in His spirit of adoration; unless we learn to live, as we commonly express it, in the presence of God. It is only then that His will becomes our unfailing norm and guide.
We cannot keep our eyes directly upon God all of the time. In one way or another, we have to be about our business (and His) through the day. But we never must let ourselves be wholly oblivious to the fact that we stand in His presence.
To achieve this ‘fix’ on God (as a navigator makes his ‘fix’ on a star) is within the capacity of anyone, but it does require effort. The effort consists principally in the formation of the habit of THINKING about God. It is a matter of throwing God a quick glance from time to time, with a brief but fervent movement of the heart.
‘MY GOD, I LOVE YOU’
At one time it may be, ‘My God, I love you.’ At another time, ‘My God, I adore you,’ or, ‘Dear God, help me to love you as I should,’ or, ‘Take me, God, and use me. I’m all yours,’ or, ‘Forgive me, God, for not doing better,’ or, ‘Thank you, God, for all your graces of this day.’
A dozen (and, with practice two or three dozen) swift but ardent advertences to God’s presence need not interfere with the flow of our work. On the contrary, this periodic flicking of the eyes Godward can work an enormous transformation in our day, even to the point of increasing our efficiency. One such instant of recollection every hour (or even half hour) would not consume a total of more than two or three minutes in the entire day. Yet these minutes could be more spiritually profitable than quadruple the time given to routine prayer only at the day’s beginning and end.
Constant kindness on the outside, springing from a spirit of adoration within; this is Christ’s own blueprint for living, traced by His personal example.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966