Happy Easter my friends. Alleluia, He is Risen! The King of Kings has sealed the covenant and redeemed the sins of mankind!
My Exodus journey has completed, but the call to Holiness has not faded from my ears. On Day 30, I was grappling with the magnitude of this journey, beginning to realize the weight of this undertaking. On Day 60, I was humbled by the full force of realizing that I am a sinner totally unworthy of the grace of God. But in this last week alone, I have received so many blessings, I can only see it as the grace of God. I needed to be humbled to full appreciate His work in my life. I needed to mortify myself to appreciate the everlasting life.
And do not take this to mean that I have ‘finished’ anything. The only thing that is finished today is one finite season in, God willing, my long life of many seasons of spiritual growth. While I have a renewed appreciation and love for my God, I remain an unworthy sinner.
Through this journey, though, I have been given many tools and learned many lessons. Many of these lessons can only be learned through your own experience, but hopefully in reading them here you can be prepared to recognize the opportunities to learn and grow.
Regarding the Sacraments
Do not underestimate the power of the sacraments; or rather, the power of God to work through them on your life. Between my conversion and Day 1 of Exodus, I was rotten about going to Mass, and as a result I struggled to gain a spiritual footing. It’s like going out to sea with oars but no canoe. You think you have the tools, but without the proper foundation they are useless. My friend (Shembone) wanted company, and I needed help, and we began a routine of going to Mass together, and helped secure it as a habit in my life. Remember this when people talk about both Sin and Grace affecting the whole body of the Church. My friend would not consider himself an evangelist, but he did a lot for me over the course of this Exodus through that alone.
Mass is the fundamental sacrament. I also was given the grace to hear daily Mass frequently on Saturdays. Just one additional day of Mass can reinforce the habit. And when Sin necessarily requires separation from the Eucharist, it reinforces the urgency to get to Confession. I did not have a healthy mindset regarding confession. I committed to once a month when I converted, thinking it would be a reasonable expectation. I found myself extremely frustrated. I couldn’t make it the full month without needed confession. I viewed that great sacrament as a personal failure when in fact it is the great Joy, the consequence of Christ’s passion we celebrate today. My Exodus brother, previously referred to here as Japhethbone, helped reinforce in me the importance of Confession. Weekly, Every two weeks, whenever: Go to Confession when the sin makes a home in your heart and separates you from the grace of God. God will welcome you back with open arms, every time.
Furthermore, how much do you contemplate your first, great Sacrament, Baptism? The Holy Water as you enter a Church is there to remind you of that Sacrament. If you begin to strengthen your weekly habit of Mass and even begin to go to daily Mass even one additional day, you will be reminded far more often of your baptism and have many reasons to give thanks.
My prayer life ebbs and flows with the rhythms of my life. I had only the most basic understanding of prayer at the beginning of Exodus. The spirit would move me, for periods of time, to pray a Rosary daily. And then I would stop. For Exodus, this devotion to our Blessed Mother became the cornerstone of my prayer life. Exodus called us to do more. I still struggled throughout Exodus to really expand my prayer life. But I did learn some valuable lessons here. First: Prayer is powerful, and we should be committed to it often. Building prayer into your daily routine can add structure to a chaotic life. Beginning the day and Ending the day in prayer turn your thoughts to God, and consecrate your day to Him. Examining your conscience daily is also, I’m convinced, a cornerstone of a strong life in God. I neglected that task nearly completely, but in connection with devotion to the Sacraments, it helps highlight where you are and reinforce where you are going. How can you fight against Sin if you do not know the weaknesses of your fortress?
Also, and not to be understated, spend time with Scripture. The USCCB has a daily readings email list, or find any number of devotionals which go through Scripture. I had never read Exodus before, and the lessons to be learned are remarkable. Let God speak to you through the written Word.
Second afterthought, last but by no means least: Adoration. Spend time in the presence of God. Words cannot express the feeling of being in His presence. Let Him do the work, you just need to be there.
“Simplify, Simplify” is a quote from Henry David Thoreau which I like to remember. The initial sting of this Exodus was not in the ascetic practices themselves, but in how much stuff I have that I don’t need. Cold showers are not that bad, and you learn to not miss your phone when major functions are terminated. I even learned to not miss the music I would listen to, which was by no means spiritual. Fasting and Abstinence (when combined, I refer to it as Fastinence) are powerful ways to remind yourself of what you really need, and to not fill the hole in your spirit with food. Every life can be simplified, and if you haven’t given thought to how yours can, it can be rejuvenating to do so.
The cornerstone of human life, I am convinced, is community. This Exodus journey was undertaken by only myself and Japhethbone. This would not have been possible alone. Where one struggled, the other could help lift him up. Where one despaired, the other could give hope. We both hit some low points during this time, but our mutual reinforcement ensured our success. Putting Exodus down would mean abandoning the Fraternity, and would mean saying an adamant “NO” to the practices, to scripture, and ultimately to God. It doesn’t take a loud “Yes”, but only a little one, each day, no matter what, to keep going. Fraternity reinforces that.
But now, beyond Exodus, what comes of the fraternity? I am sure we will remain committed to our practices in some form, but what of our bigger community? How can we reinforce others? As I stated when I was musing on my theme for this year, how can we be as Shepherds to each other and to those around us? With the close of Exodus, our Fraternity has just grown to include every soul we encounter. The best thing we can do is live our witness, lead by example, and support with love and charity those around us who need it, and even a few who don’t.
Onward and Upward
I am spiritually invigorated by the Exodus 90 and I hope that you all have gotten some benefit out of my musings on the subject. My spiritual journey is far from over, and there is plenty of room for everyone to grow.
God bless you, whoever you are.
God bless my friends, my fraternity, and my community.
God bless the Priests I encountered throughout this, the Priests of my Diocese, and the Priests around the world.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, Pray for us
The Divine Heart of our Blessed Mother, pray for us
St. Athanasius, Pray for us
St. Luke, Pray for us
St. Joseph, pray for us
St. Peter, pray for us
Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam