Who guards the threshold I cross over?
Just the other day, I went in search of a prayer for a meeting I would attend later in the day and by chance I opened Joyce Rupp’s The Open Door: A Journey to the True Self (2008) at a section titled “Guardians of the Threshold.” She referred to the writings of Joseph Campbell and identified the Holy Spirit, Mary, the saints and guardian angels as the Guardians of the Threshold in the Christian tradition. These “guardians” (guards, wardens, guerrillas “guarding against,” “warding off”) are placed at the “threshold” of our interior life to guard and protect us as well as guide us as we seek God in the ordinary and extraordinary events of our lives.
Rupp writes that the guardians we meet “will demand our full cooperation in accepting the requirements for spiritual growth” (p. 104). And what are these “requirements”? In his book Grace: on the journey to God, Benedictine monk, Michael Casey, OSCO identifies “making time” for prayer and reflection as a requirement for the interior journey. And we will only make time if we are prepared to attend to the feelings of dissatisfaction with the way in which we live in the world.
(St) Joseph Cardijn guards the threshold that thousands, possibly millions of people have crossed over. He was barely a teenager when he was confronted with the choices some of his peers had made when they entered the workforce. He was protected from making the same choices by his decision to become a priest. And such a choice would not have been made had it not been for the influence of his parents and the priests and religious who also acted as his guardians.
The Christian tradition confirms the presence of guardians of the threshold. When people of faith choose to cross the threshold they have the opportunity to do so in the company of saints, who have crossed it before them. Jesus warns his followers that what lies beyond the threshold is challenging. It will require letting go of what provides them with a comfortable existence.
The Gospel reading for Mass today, Monday of the Third Week of Lent, is Luke’s account of Jesus’ return to his hometown of Nazareth. After reading from the prophet Isaiah about his mission, which is to announce the coming of God’s kingdom, he tells those who have gathered that “a prophet is never welcomed in his hometown” (Luke 4:24). He then gives them examples from their tradition of guardians passing over the Chosen People to announce God’s salvation to Gentiles. When people turn tradition into a fossil, they will be barred from crossing the threshold.
The change that is sought here is one that allows for transformation, which can only happen when people seek God, not themselves. The response for the Responsorial Psalm for today’s Mass is a powerful reminder of the mindset needed to step across the threshold and to move deeper into one’s spiritual life and being: “My soul is thirsting for the living God; when shall I see him face to face” (Ps 41:3).
The action that we can take is one that lends itself to being imitated by others and a powerful way of building the Kingdom of God on earth. It is illustrated well by what a friend shared with me recently. He related how his life is governed by his prayer, which goes something like, “Okay, God, if this is not meant to be a part of your plan, then it won’t happen. And you know I’m fine with that, Lord.” He was referring to choices he made to better his life in material and spiritual ways. His actions were taken in a spirit of prayer and with considerable discomfort and unease. But that is what happens when we pursue the interior life of a disciple of Jesus.
Read more …
Rupp, Joyce (2008). The open door: a journey to the true self. Notre Dame, Indiana: Sorin Books.
Casey, Michael (2018). Grace: on the journey to God. Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press, Inc.
Joseph Cardijn: a short biography of Cardijn by English YCW chaplain, Eugene Langdale – in the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library