by Ken Rolheiser
Flesh and spirit and wrestling with God

“Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.” Albert Camus

A rock is a rock. A tree fulfills its destiny. You and I are sons and daughters of God who often struggle against the very spirituality of our nature. We are all born with an end in sight. We grow, age, and move toward a physical end. The soul is not so. Spiritually there is no end anticipated.

 We are a gift from God and this gift will be taken back at some point in time.
We can choose a life filled with happiness and love, or we can entertain sadness and sin. The realization of God’s daily presence makes all the difference. Faith is what makes happiness possible. 

As a young man, Nikos Kazantzakis, the famous Greek writer, contemplated becoming a monk and once spent a summer touring monasteries. Years later, writing on the experience, he recounts a marvellous conversation he had with an elderly monk, Fr. Makarios.

At one point, he asked the old monk: "Do you still wrestle with the devil, Father Makarios?" The old priest sighed and replied: "Not any longer, my child. I have grown old now, and he has grown old with me. He doesn't have the strength. I wrestle with God."

"With God!" Kazantzakis exclaimed in astonishment. "And you hope to win?" "I hope to lose, my child," the old man replied; "My bones remain with me still, and they continue to resist."

I am reminded of Jacob’s wrestling with God in Genesis 32. In the end, Jacob confronts his failures, his weaknesses, and all that is holding him back. Realizing that he could not go on without God, he received God’s blessing.

When we wrestle with God’s will in our lives, we are fighting a losing battle. Struggle and pain are a part of our lives, but we can balance them with God’s presence and the blessings that will follow those who do his will. Even physical death’s reality loses its sting.

“Death, in the final analysis, is only the easiest and quickest means to go back to God. … Death can be something beautiful. It is like going home.” St Teresa of Calcutta.

We are not made for this world. It is hard to fit into the chaos and corruption that surrounds us. As heaven bound pilgrims, we are only comfortable when we are in the grace of the Spirit that Jesus came to bring. We are sinners by our fallen nature. God expects some resistance. 

Nikos Kazantzakis put it this way:
A weak soul does not have the endurance to resist the flesh for very long. It grows heavy, becomes flesh itself, and the contest ends. But among responsible persons who keep their eyes riveted day and night upon the supreme duty, the conflict between flesh and spirit breaks out mercilessly and may last until death. The stronger the soul and the flesh, the more fruitful the struggle and the richer the final harmony.

Jesus came to give us the nourishment the spirit needs to ultimately defeat sin and death. “I have come so that you may have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). We can win this life-long battle.

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