Many people have chosen to abandon the comforts and conflicts of society to find a new way of life.
Such a man was Charles de Foucauld.
He was born in Strasbourg, France in 1858. Like many young people enamoured with pleasure and in search of adventure, he came to doubt the existence of God and, finally, to abandon his faith altogether.
As a soldier in the French army, he toured much of Northern Africa. During his travels, he was touched by the simple faith of the desert peoples and began to long for a relationship with the God he had abandoned.
When he returned to France, he began taking spiritual direction from a priest to help him sort out his beliefs. Then, at the age of 28, it all began to make sense to him. He experienced a conversion back to faith in the God of Jesus Christ. Charles realized that, if God did truly exist, then he had no other choice but to make of his life a total offering to the Father. He described his experience in these words: “As soon as I believed in God, I understood that I could not do otherwise than live for him alone.”
That desire to make of his life a total offering to God led him to the Holy Land and then back to North Africa where he finally settled into a solitary life in the deserts of Algeria.
While there he wrote the beautiful but challenging “Prayer of Abandonment”.
Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
On December 1, 1916, Brother Charles fulfilled his desire to offer himself totally to God when his hut was surrounded by anti-French rebels who eventually killed him.
Brother Charles de Foucauld’s life and death teach us an important truth. We were created by God for no other purpose than to know, love and serve Him. We will always feel lost and restless until we make of our lives an offering to Him. Not all of us are called to leave everything behind for a solitary life in the desert as Brother Charles was. But we are all called to seek His will in all things and to strive to do what is pleasing to Him in every decision we make.
As baptized believers, we call this duty to offer ourselves to God as a spiritual sacrifice “the priesthood of all believers.” Every baptized person has a share in the eternal priesthood of Christ. Just as Jesus offered Himself up to the Father on the cross, so we are called to offer our very lives to God along with Him. Saint Peter tells us in today’s second reading, “....let yourselves be built up into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices. “ And later, speaking to us as baptized believers he writes, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people all his own....”
When we think of the priesthood we tend first to think of the ordained priesthood - those men set aside to celebrate the Mass and other sacraments. However all baptized persons are called to exercise the priesthood of Jesus. It is a simple matter of praying, “Lord, I offer you my efforts at work.” or “Lord, I offer up to you this time in traffic.” Making a Daily Offering when we first get out of bed or praying the Prayer of Abandonment are other ways of offering ourselves to the Father. In this way, by making every minute of our lives a gift to God through prayer and loving service to others, we make ourselves holy and sanctify the world around us. We are also meeting our deepest need to surrender ourselves to the love of God as Brother Charles describes so beautifully in his Prayer of Abandonment.
At every Mass, we have a wonderful opportunity to do this in the Offertory procession. The bread and wine that are brought up to the altar to become the Body and Blood of Christ represent us. In that bread and wine, we are offering ourselves up to God in a symbolic way. It is an opportunity for us to ask ourselves what we have to offer God. How have we lived up to His word? How have we failed to serve Him? How can we do better? What in our lives needs to change so that we can unite ourselves more fully to Him?
For our sakes, Jesus made of Himself an offering to the Father on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and so that we could have the hope of everlasting life. Even now, He is preparing a place for us in heaven and is looking forward to welcoming us there. We were created for no other purpose than to be united with God forever in the glory of our heavenly home. By uniting every aspect of our lives to the suffering of Jesus on the cross and offering it up to the Father together with Him we realize our life’s mission. Our whole life becomes an act of praise and worship, and we become transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.