God in Search of Man
(The Divine Invasion)
Peace be to you.
Up to this point we were talking about conscience as an unbearable repartee and about the meaninglessness of life. Saying that we should lay our heart and mind open to saving experiences that come from with-out and which completely change our character. So, the subject therefore of this particular talk will be the Divine Invasion.
But I believe the best way to start it is to tell you a story about a divine invasion.
A woman wrote to me about her brother, saying that he was dying in the hospital and that he had been away from the sacraments for about 30 years. He said he led not just a bad life he was an evil man.
There was a difference between being bad and being evil.
- A bad man steal, a bad man kills.
- An evil man may do none of those things. But he seeks to destroy goodness in others.
Well he was an evil man. He did much to corrupt youth and circulated all manner of evil pamphlets among the young to destroy both faith and morals and the sister of this man which had wrote said about 20 priests have called on him and he threw them all out of the hospital room. So, will you please go, last resort Sheen I am. I visited him this particular night and stayed about 5 seconds because I knew that I would fair no better than anyone else but instead of just making one visit I made 40. For 40 straight nights I went to see this man. The second night I stayed about 10 to 15 seconds and I went up 5 to 10 seconds every night. And at the end of the month I was spending 10 or 15 minutes with him, but I never once approached the subject of his soul until the 40th night. And the 40th night I brought me with Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Oils and I said to him “William you are going to die tonight”. He said, “I know it.” He was dying of cancer, but cancer of the face. One of the most loathsome sights you ever saw. I said, “I am sure you want to make your peace with God tonight”, he said “I do not, get out!” I said, “I’m not alone.” “Who is with you?” I said, “I brought the Good Lord along, do want Him to get out too?” He said nothing, so I kneeled down along side of his bed for about 15 minutes because I had the Blessed Sacrament with me and I promised the Good Lord that if this man would show some sign of repentance before he died, that I would build a chapel in the southern part of the United States for the poor people. A chapel costing $3,500.00. Not much of a chapel? No, but an awful lot of money for me. So, after the prayer I again said, “William, I am sure you want to make your peace with God before you die.” He said, “I do not get out!” And he started screaming for the nurse. So, in order to stop him I ran to the door as if I was going to leave and then I quickly came back. And I put my head down along side of his face on the pillow and I said, “just one thing William, promise me, before you die tonight you will say “my Jesus Mercy”.” He said, “I will not, get out!” I had to leave. I told the nurse that if he wanted me during the night that I would come back. About 4 o’clock in the morning the nurse called, and she said, “he just died.” And I said, “how did he die?” “Well” she said, “about a minute after you left he began saying ‘My Jesus Mercy’. And he never stopped saying it until he died.”
Now you see there was nothing in me that influenced him. Here was a Divine Invasion upon someone who had the faith once and lost it. But it makes no difference whether one has the faith or not. There is this constant intrusion from the outside. It has come to many, many people. It comes to everyone, though it comes so suddenly that many reject it. It came to St. Augustine when he was leading a wild and furious life, and it came to him in the voice of a child and picking up scripture and reading it. St. Augustine wrote those famous lines. “ Our hearts were made for Thee oh Lord and they are restless until they rest in Thee”.(1)
And there was that famous playboy of the Sahara, Viscount Charles de Faucauld,
who in the midst of his wild life, slept under the stars in the Sahara and endured what Thompson called the “abaciousless inquisition of each star.” And there found grace and entered his life as a priest among the Moslems in the Sahara. And died a martyr there. And this practically in our times.
Divine Invasion: A Grace
And so I might go on to mention many, many such cases of the divine invasion but suppose we turn from just the stories to what form this divine invasion takes. It’s an infection that gets into the soul. It’s a grace but up to this point we do not know the meaning of the word grace.
And dare I might anticipate a bit and say there are: two kinds of graces,
- White grace which makes us pleasing to God and the other is
- Black grace in which we feel his absence. Most people in the world today feel his absence. And really feel it; even the atheist.
- You see really it is not man who is on the quest of God. It is God that is on the quest of man. It leaves us restless.
The first question we have in the scripture is “Man where art thou?” (2)
Frances Thompson’s poem. “Hound of Heaven:”
No poet has ever better expressed this divine invasions than Frances Thompson in his magnificent poem “The Hound of Heaven”. Thompson was at one time a student of medicine. About the only thing he learned was how to take dope. He became a bum, slept in Coven Garden, London under the vegetable trucks, contemplated suicide and then with this poem found in his pocket was befriended by a couple, the Manells. And this poem sold 50,000 copies within a few years after his death and within 30 years was studied in the University of Tokyo in Japanese. It’s because it suits the modern mood. The modern mood in a sense that men are beginning to feel this stirring of the finger of God. And he goes on to narrate the various escapes that he used. God is the hound of heaven.
- And first is the subconscious or the unconscious mind. He feels that if he sunk down into that, he would be less conscience of this hound who was pursuing him and so he said he fled God. “I fled him down the nights and down the days, down the arches of the years. I fled him down the labyrinth fine ways of my own mind. Up visited hopes I sped, and shocked precipitate a down titanic gloom from those strong feet that followed, followed after. And with majestic speed deliberate instancy they beat, and the voice above their beat, lo not shelters thee who wilt not shelter me.”
- That failing, he tries nature, science and he has a very rare and unique way of expressing the secrets of science. He said, “I drew the bolt of nature’s secrecy.” You can almost imagine somebody pulling a giant bolt on the door and all the secrets of science and nature pouring out. “I drew the bolt of nature’s secrecy, studied the swift importing’s on willful face of sky. I said to dawn be sudden, to eve, be soon. Keep me ore with thy sky blossoms from this tremendous lover.” But he said “nature poor step day cannot slate my thirst. We know not what each other speaks ,their sound is but their stir, they speak by silence.”
- And so, he tries another escape from “the hound.” And that is illegitimate love. And herein is hidden the story of one that he calls “a bud that fell from the coronal crown of spring.” And he uses the example of a hearted casement in a window in the northern part of England where there was a girl that he use to know and he says “by many a hearted casement, curtain rein, trellis by intertwining charities.” Then he goes on to speak of how he sought love with all of these little ivy growths of affection that never quite satisfied. Then he adds his fear. “For I was fearful less having him I must have not else beside.” How many think that? That God is a kind of a competitor. If I have him I must reject everything else. And then he goes on to say. “And when some hearted casement curtain wide, the gust of his approach would clash it too. Fear with not, to avoid as love with to pursue.” In other words, “I did not know how to run away as fast as love knew how to catch me.”
- And then he is fearful, fearful at the end and maybe after all who is this one who pursues? Maybe he is going to bring some amount of detachment. And he asks, “Thy love indeed a weed, albeit an amaranthine weed, that suffers no flower to grow except its own?” And then resorting to another example he asks, “Must thou char the wood err thoust canst line with it?” In other words, must you put wood into a fire, burn it, purge it, sacrifice it before it becomes charcoal and before you can trace with it? And then another question. “Must all thy fields be dung with rotten death? Is there sacrifice everywhere?” And there finally comes the answer. But before giving you his answer, unless this just be the poetic exploration, of Thompson let’s find about this divine invasion in our own hearts.
Just suppose you could take out your own heart and put it into your hand as a kind of crucible. The distill out of your heart is in most cravings, yearnings and aspirations what would you find them to be?
What do you want most? First, life, honor, ambition, power. What good are these without life?
And at night we put out our hand instinctively in the dark ready to lose that member and lose that which we treasure most, our life. Then as we continue we find there is something else that we want in life and that is truth.
One of the first questions we ask coming into the world was the question why?
We tore apart our toys to find out what makes the wheels go around. And then later on we tear apart the very wheels of the universe to find out what makes its wheels go around. We are bent on knowing causes. That is why we hate to have secrets kept from us. Men just as well as women. We were made to know.
And there is still something else we want beside life and truth, we want love.
Every child instinctively presses itself to its mother’s breast in token of affection. It goes to its mother to have its play wounds bound and then later on seeks a companion young liken to himself to whom he can unpack his heart with words. One who measures up to that beautiful definition of a friend. One in whose presence you can keep silence.
And so, the quest for love continues from the cradle to the grave and yet though we want these things do we find them here? To find life here in its fullness? Certainly not. Each tick of the clock brings us closer to the grave.
- Our hearts are but muffled drums beating a funeral march to the grave. “From hour to hour we ripe and ripe, from hour to hour we rot and rot.” (3)
Life is not here, nor truth, in all of its fullness.
- As a matter of fact, the more we study the less we know because we see knew avenues of knowledge down which we might travel for lifetime.
I wish I knew now just one ten millionth as much as I thought I knew the night I was graduated from high school. So, truth is not here, and love is not here either in its fullness. Because we love does remain fine and noble they must come when the last embrace is passed from friend to friend and the last cake is crumbled of life’s great feast.
So here we are looking for life in truth and love and not finding it.
Are we destined to live an absurd life? Would we ever have eyes unless there was something to see? These are fractions, there ought to be a whole somewhere. And so we ask ourselves very much like asking now what’s the source of light in this room? Certainly not here under the microphone because their light is mingled with shadow and under chairs their life is mingled with darkness.
If we are to find the source of light, we must go out to something that is pure light.
***And if we wish to find the source of the life and the truth and the love that is in this world:
- we must go out to a life that is not mingled with a shadowed death
- out to a truth that is not mingled with the shadow of error
- out to a love that is not mingled with a shadow hate or satiety.
We must go out to pure life, pure truth, pure love and that is the definition of God. In other words that’s what we want, that’s what we were made for.***
And its He that invades the soul as Thompson’s describes. And after all of these evasions from the Divine Invasion God speaks and Thompson concludes his poem with God speaking and saying “Poor piteous futile thing. Why should any set thee love apart, seeing none but of I, make much of not he said and human love needs human merity and how has thou merited? In all mans clotted clay the dingiest clot. Alas thou knowist not how little worthy of any love thou art. For whom wilt thou find to love thy noble thee. Save Me, save only Me.
All of thy child’s mistakes, fancy as lost, I have stored for thee at Home. Rise, clasp My Hand and come.”
God Love You.