Lent begins this month, which makes it a perfect time to share the following reflections by Ralph Martin, on resting—abiding—with the Lord. The following article is compiled from a talk that Ralph originally shared at a recent Renewal Ministries’ staff retreat.
Why do we have this time on earth? We are here to get ready to be with Jesus. To prepare to be with our Lord, we must strive “for the holiness without which nobody will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14).
Sometimes we miss how clear and absolute what Jesus says is. An essential aspect of striving for holiness is “abiding in the Lord”—simply being present with Jesus.
Picture an image of the beloved disciple John resting his head on Jesus. What amazing confidence in His trustworthiness, fidelity, loyalty, and love! Only the love of God is perfectly reliable—something we can rest the whole weight of our lives on. God wants us to live in surrender, confidence, and trust. In order to do this, we must take the time to be attentive to the Lord, to be in His presence.
Christ loved the Church by sacrificing Himself for us so He could present Himself wholly and without blemish—and He asks us to love in this same way. To live in this way, we must tap into the supernatural. He says, “apart from me, you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Thankfully, He also says, “for God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).
However, while we must offer the Lord all of our loaves and fishes (Mt 14:17-18), we also must then dispose ourselves to God’s action; we can’t try to force God’s action. We must be open to receive from the Lord, instead of taking, even the good things that we think may be His will for us. This is why it is important to work from our rest, from our abiding with Jesus. We need to act in a way that allows God’s power to come into our actions. Abiding has value.
The Lord wants to be close to us. He had us in mind before He created the universe. He really chooses us. “He destined us in love to be His sons” (Eph 1:5). He created us to be holy and to love. Ultimately, there is no other vocation than holiness and love.
In order to live this way, we must get clear in our thinking. We must be sober. As 1 Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Christian hope, hope in Jesus, consists of sins forgiven, death overcome, eternal life, and union with God. The gift that’s coming to us is the gift for which we were created—perfect love and community.
Consider the simplicity of it all: Fatima, Guadalupe, and Lourdes—the mysterious action of God. At Lourdes, our Blessed Mother appeared to a fourteen-year-old girl, Bernadette, in a difficult family situation, in dire poverty, living in an old jail cell that was not fit for prisoners. She appeared to Bernadette eighteen times and eventually described herself as the “Immaculate Conception,” which indicates our Blessed Mother’s conception without sin, a title that the Church had given her only four years before the appearances at Lourdes. Bernadatte was uneducated and could not read or write; as her local priest later wrote, “She could never have invented this.”
After one of the apparitions, in which our Blessed Mother asked Bernadette to dig in the ground for a spring and to wash her face, Bernadette both humiliated herself by covering her face with mud as she drank and uncovered a spring that had not been known to previously exist. People continue to flock to Lourdes today, and many healings have been attributed to their prayers at the waters there.
After each of her visits with the “Beautiful Lady”—which is how Bernadette originally described our Blessed Mother—Bernadette’s own face was transformed and radiant with joy. Lourdes is not heavy on messages—it’s heavy on the reality and beauty of heaven and the supernatural. Bernadette would bow down to the ground and show profound reverence for the holiness of heaven revealing itself. She also made the Sign of the Cross with such reverence that it showed the holiness of the Trinity.
After the last apparition, Bernadette stayed in Lourdes another eight years and became illuminated every time she told the story of Mary’s appearances. She eventually joined a convent and lived a quiet life of prayer and suffering. Bernadette experienced ill health throughout the rest of her life and died at age thirty-five. In fact, our Blessed Mother had told Bernadette that she did “not promise to make (her) happy in this life, but in the next.” Now, almost 140 years later, Bernadette’s body remains incorrupt.
Much of Mary’s message at Lourdes was personal to Bernadette, about Bernadette joining her suffering to the suffering of Christ for the salvation of souls. However, Mary also called all of us to penance, penance, penance—prayer and sacrifice, just like in Fatima.
The last time Bernadette saw Mary was from across a river, because she couldn’t go to the grotto. For fifteen minutes, Bernadette said “all Mary did was look at me with love, and I’ve never seen her so beautiful.”
How often do we take time to abide with the Lord and ask Him to show us His love for us—to look at us with love? That is the only way we can go forward in His will, better loving Him and others.
Bernadette’s simplicity should reinforce our understanding of the fact that, unless you become like a little child, you will not enter the kingdom of God. Being like a little child affects our ability to receive the word He speaks to us. Let’s keep pressing on while resting in the heart of Jesus, allowing Him to little by little transform us into His likeness.
Rest in Him. Abide in Him. Be a child.