December 6, 2014 Length: 47:25
"Loving God Without Fear" is a free three-part lecture series by Father Irenei (Steenberg), Ph.D., author of “The Beginnings of a Life of Prayer." Father Irenei, a onetime fellow of Oxford University and Chair of Theology and Religious Studies at Leeds in the United Kingdom, is currently director of the Ss. Cyril and Athanasius Institute for Orthodox Studies and an Archimandrite in the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in America. This is part two.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
My beloved fathers, my dear brothers and sisters, it is a joy to be with you again on this glorious day. I am used to living about five miles north in the heart of San Francisco, and if you’ve looked out the windows of this hotel, you see what blankets the city, day to day: that layer of fog. It looks so lovely from over here; it doesn’t look quite the same from underneath. I’ve enjoyed the sunshine outside of the window.
If I’m known for starting almost every talk that I give as I did yesterday, with the phrase, “The life in Christ is a mystery,” it’s because the intellectualizing tendencies of our modern day are so sorrowfully in need of being counteracted by the reminder that the Christian life is something more than just ideas, facts, and figures and interpretations. It is fundamentally something ineffable, indescribable, unspeakable. However much we learn of it, it goes beyond what we know. However much of it we see, there is still more of it to be seen. We experience God’s glory. We rise higher and higher, and yet, as St. Gregory of Nyssa, one of the greatest Fathers of the Church, once said, “Once we see God’s glory, we ascend eternally from glory to glory.” Of God, of the Church, of our faith, there is always something more.
And yet, for all of this, God’s mysteries are experienced concretely, absolutely, in his creation, and there is no greater mystery in all of creation than man himself. As I thought about what to say for my second out of three talks, I thought I might speak of one concrete example of how the mystery of God manifests itself in the life of a human person, and it’s an example particularly relevant to us at this conference, as we are gathered here in this God-preserved and fog-soaked city of San Francisco, because the man I want to speak about is a man who bears the name of this city, St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco.
I want to take as my starting point, in reflecting on the life of this remarkable saint, perhaps an unusual point of focus: his feet. How better to understand what it means to love God with all one’s heart and mind and soul and strength, or to love one’s neighbor as one’s self, than to follow in the footsteps of a man who did this and who is beloved in all the earth for the love that his life shows forth to us? I have the profound blessing of walking every day through the house that was for many years St. John’s home, the home he formed to care for the orphans that he brought with him to San Francisco when he first arrived in 1951. It was then named St. Tikhon’s House; it is now usually known as St. Tikhon’s Parish, where it is my good blessing to serve regularly with Bishop Theodosius of Seattle, our vicar-bishop for the Western American Diocese of the Russian Church.
I walk every day through that house, over the same creaking wooden floors. I so very hard not to make them creak so that I won’t disturb my brethren; I have yet to be successful. I walk over those same wooden floors where St. John used to walk, with his feet bare or in slippers, sometimes in stockings, or, when propriety absolutely demanded it, in shoes. I also walk regularly down Anza Street in the center of the Richmond District, towards the new cathedral, the route that St. John favored as he walked it on a regular basis to inspect the construction of that cathedral, which he had been called here to complete in the early 1960s, the same cathedral where only a few days ago this past Sunday we celebrated the 20th anniversary of his glorification: a remarkable service, celebrated by eleven bishops, one of whom was consecrated that morning—remember in your prayers the new bishop Nicholas of Manhattan—30 or 40 priests—I lost count—more deacons than you can shake a stick at. When I was a deacon, I remember asking of a very senior bishop in England what the collective noun was for deacons. I said, “You have a gaggle of geese, a herd of sheep.” He thought for a moment. “I believe it is a nuisance of deacons.” [Laughter] And there was a great nuisance of deacons this Sunday at that cathedral. [Laughter] That cathedral which St. John finished, the same cathedral which today holds his precious and incorrupt relics, including his feet.
I recall with particular vividness the solemn rites of the changing of the vestments on those precious relics which took place a few years ago, the first and only time that St. John’s relics have been re-vested since they were first vested for his glorification 20 years ago. The vestments had started to rot. One of the great miracles of his incorrupt body is that while it does not corrupt or decay, everything around it does, including the vestments he was wearing. As part of the rite of re-vesting the saint, and though I was not worthy I was blessed to take part in this, we gradually removed all those vestments in which he had been lying for the 18 years previous, which were decomposing, which had a foul about them from it. This included in due course removing the slippers.
I recall so potently the moment we stood there in the middle of the temple, in the dark of the night, the doors locked, only the clergy present, when we slipped those shoes off his feet, and suddenly there they were: his feet, the toes, toenails, the heel. They were fragile. Perhaps ironically, his toes are the most fragile part of his relics which are otherwise surprisingly sturdy and strong. They were fragile but they were preserved. By God’s mercy, the mold and the decay that was very visible inside the slippers—they themselves were rotten—had had no decay effect upon his feet. And so, with profound humility, tears in most of our eyes, we took sponges and rosewater, and we washed his body before re-vesting him in new garments.
So when I think of the footsteps of St. John, I have this very particular memory and vision that fills my heart. If I can never say anything else of my life before I die, I rejoice that I am able to say, “I have washed the feet of that saint of God.”
But I don’t wish this afternoon to simply reminisce about the glories of this holy man, though I could easily do so for far more time than I will be given. But what I do want to say relates directly to the theme of your conference, that verse recorded yesterday: “Thou shalt love thy God, the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength and thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself.” For St. John’s footsteps have something very practical to teach us about how to live lives of care and love and service, and I want to focus on three of these.
I consider to be a friend and spiritual father and mentor Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, who related to me one time two occasions on which he received spiritual counsel. When he was ordained a priest, he asked the ordaining bishop, “Tell me some advice, some spiritual counsel for my work,” and the priest told him, “Every sermon should have three points, no more, no less.” For this reason I’m going to use three points today. When Bp. Kallistos was consecrated a bishop, he asked the same question to the senior consecrating bishop, who with great piety responded, “Never let the subdeacons fold your vestments.” [Laughter] Also practical advice.
The first thing I want to say about the footsteps of Vladyka John… Vladyka, by the way, for those of you unfamiliar with the Russian-speak, is our version of Sayidna, the dear, affectionate form of Master. The first thing I would like to say about his footsteps, or more particularly about his feet themselves, is that they never stopped moving. His were feet in motion. That is, he used his feet the way feet are meant to be used: to move.
There is, I am saddened to see, a good deal of mythology that has arisen about the feet of St. John over the years. It’s well known that he suffered from amazing pain in his legs, and he would often not wear shoes, but these facts have wound their way into legend and myth into stories that his going shoeless was a sign of a kind of foolishness, of a radical renunciation of all things sensible and worldly. But I have the privilege to live and to work with children who grew up with him: his orphans. They’re not children any more, though in spirit they often are; they’re in their 80s now, most of them. Children who knew him day in and day out, not just for one brief visit or one little encounter. And I’ve spoken to far too many of them to believe this to be the case.
St. John was a fool only in the sense that the Gospel says, “True faith makes every man a fool in the eyes of the world.” He was not mad or thoughtless, nor was he foolish. Indeed, everyone who remembers him remembers that he was profoundly thoughtful, considerate, careful. He had a precise mind, well-educated and trained. But what struck the world in his lifetime as strange, what still strikes people as strange, even today, is that he was not motivated by the things that motivated the world, and he was not concerned about the things that concerned the world, including propriety in certain things. He was a man filled with the grace of God, that overflowed in his love of neighbor, and everything about him expressed that reality and that concern alone.
If St. John’s feet were sore, it was because he used them. He walked, he walked, he walked. He was not averse to being driven if someone was around to drive him, but if someone was not, he would simply take his feet and start to move. He would walk to the new cathedral, not so far from his house, about ten or eleven blocks. He would walk to the old cathedral, a significantly longer distance. He would walk to hospitals on the other side of the city, up and down the steep hills that I’m sure some of you who have gone into San Francisco proper have experienced. If you walk enough, your feet are going to ache. If you walk more, they’re going to grow sore. If you accompany this by never comforting them with relaxation… And we know that St. John’s ministerial work and prayer kept him busy nearly the whole day and night. He slept almost impossibly little, often an hour or two a night was all, and when he did so, very famously, he never laid down. He would simply sit in his chair or prostrate himself before his icons.
If that’s the way you live, accepting these opportunities for a little more suffering, your sore feet are going to get sorer. Legs will swell up, veins will rebel, and this is precisely what happened. So the saint would sometimes go around without wearing shoes: they hurt his feet. This wasn’t a self-willed act, a dramatic show, not a foolish absence of wits. In fact, it was inspired by something far more miraculous and far more wonderful. He often did not wear shoes for one reason: so that he could continue to walk, to walk without being hindered. His toes would occasionally peek out from beneath his vestments as he served the daily Liturgy at St. Tikhon’s chapel, something that we look back on now with a kind of romantic love, but which at the time was deeply scandalous to many people.
But the fact of the matter was: pain and discomfort were simply not going to let him be stopped in his divine service. His mind was on what needed to be done, not on the annoyances that might keep him from doing it. And there is something in this that is a lesson for what it means to love God and society and our fellow man. St. John’s love was active. It never ceased to express itself in motion. To be sure, he had a deep interior stillness that grounded the fervency of his love, but that still heart was planted over feet that simply didn’t stop moving. When, 48 years ago this week—the actual day of his repose was this Wednesday, two days ago—when he reposed, an old man, bent over, hunched, grey-haired, he was still a man in motion. He was taking the wonder-working Kursk Root icon, the protectress of the Russian Church, on a tour up through the diocese, carrying it himself from parish to parish, up to Seattle where finally he reposed—a man on a journey, a man on a mission. St. John loved and never stood still.
And if we are to contribute the welfare of our world, if we are to love God, if we are to love one another, we have to be ready to emulate this saint. Our feet must be ready, not to plant themselves in our little plot of land and say, “Here I am. This is where I’m going to do what I need to do,” but to step into motion and take the love of God that burns in your heart to those who need to receive him. That’s the first thing.
The second thing I want to note about the footsteps of St. John is that they are simply everywhere. Everywhere. Because his feet were constantly in motion, the reach of this saint in purely physical terms was extensive. His footsteps are almost literally scattered over the whole earth. He left footprints in Russia, in Serbia, in Shanghai, in the Philippines, on the steps of the United States capitol. He left footsteps in California, in Versailles, in Brussels, in Paris, in London, throughout England, in California, throughout Oregon, just outside, on the street beyond this hotel—everywhere.
We often get caught up, I think, in the spiritual nature of our outreach to the world. It’s a temptation peculiar to us as Orthodox Christians. We’re all familiar with the wonderful saying of St. Seraphim of Sarov: “Acquire the spirit of peace within you, and a thousand around you will be saved.” And this saying is true and wonderful and beautiful, a glorious encapsulation of something very deep and profound about our faith. God creates in the human heart a mystery in which all of creation is present, and an integral part of our spiritual lives as Orthodox Christians is knowing that even those who dwell in caves and on mountaintops and in deserts are changing the world. Within every human heart, all of creation falls and rises.
This brings me to the place where I must insert the quotation that I insert in every lecture, or at every series of lectures that I give. I quote it all the time because I love it so much, and every time I say, “You know, Father, you’ve quoted this enough, don’t do it this time,” I am unable to remove it. It’s a quotation by St. Macarius the Great of Egypt that speaks about the human heart. Listen to this:
The heart itself is only a small vessel, yet there are dragons there, and lions. There are poisonous beasts and all the treasuries of evil. There are precipices and uneven roads, but there, too, God and the angels. Life is there, and the kingdom. There, too, is lights. There the apostles. Heavenly cities, treasuries full of grace. All things lie in this little space.
Truly, my brethren, how great is the mystery of God! How wonderful, how glorious this creation of the human person that he has made! But—but, we sometimes run the risk as Orthodox Christians of emphasizing this reality in exclusion of the very real need to reach out and lay our hands upon the world around us, caring for it and those in it in a manner that requires walking up to them, touching them, talking to and being with those who are in need. Yes, yes, there are saints who live their whole lives in caves or on a mountaintop, never seeing another soul, saving the world by their prayer, and as St. Paul so beautifully says, of such men and women the world is not worthy—but those saints who exemplify that way of life stand out to us as much as they do precisely because their life is not the norm.
Christ himself describes what is to be the norm of our life in him. He says it carefully and emphatically and precisely, in a passage that we are used to hearing on the Sunday of the Last Judgment, just preceding the beginning of the Great Fast. From St. Matthew’s account of the holy Gospel:
When the Son of man shall come in glory, he shall set the sheep upon his right hand: “Well done.” [Laughter] And the goats he shall set upon his left. And he shall say to the sheep on his right hand, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was enhungered and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger and ye took me in; I was naked and ye clothed me; I was sick and ye visited me; in prison, and you came to me.” And then the righteous shall answer him, saying, “Lord, when saw we thee enhungered and fed thee, or thirsty and gave thee drink? when saw we thee a stranger and took thee in, or naked and clothed thee? when saw we thee sick or in prison and came to thee?” And the king shall answer and say unto them, “Amen, I say unto you. Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
That is what Christ says is the norm of the Christian life. These are the words the Church tells us we, individually, will hear spoken into our hearts at the great and dread Last Judgment. These are the questions we shall be asked. Christ speaks so freely about how we are to approach our fellow men, those whom he calls not only his children, but if you listen closely to that gospel, his brethren. In the gospel, he calls us children, friends, and his brethren, but to our discredit, we often listen very little to Christ. We like to think that we do, but we often do not.
Let’s not be judgmental, but let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment, right here in this hall. When was the last time we went to a jail or a prison to visit those who are confined there? When was the last time that we went to a hospital, apart from visiting a close relative or a friend, to bring comfort to someone there whom we did not know? When was the last time we made a meal and gave it to someone who had nothing? When was the last time we saw a stranger and we took him in? When? When was the last time we picked up our feet and walked up to someone? When was the last time we moved and did what Christ asks us to do?
We tend instead to plant our feet firmly in one spot and try to accomplish everything that we can right from there. We often become very attached to that place, whatever it may be: our parish, our home, our city, our job, our country. We cling to it. It becomes very comfortable to us, and we become convinced that here and here alone God will bring to fruition everything he asks of us.
But I want just for a moment to imagine what John the Wonderworker’s life might have looked like had he behaved in that sort of way, the way that we so often exemplify. You may not know a lot of his past, but St. John started life as a law student, and he received a degree in law from an imperial university in Russia. Presumably he studied law because he wished to practice law, and in Russia. And in fact his legal mind remained with him his whole life: he ruled by decree. Our current archbishop in our diocese issues about 20 or 25 official decrees a year. St. John would issue 300, 350 every year. Everything was done by decree, typed in triplicate by himself.
And yet, the world was changing. The Revolution was taking over the Russia that he knew, and so, following his family, he moved to Serbia. In Belgrade, still with an academic mind, God led him in a new direction. There he studied theology, eventually taking a degree in it from the university and starting to teach. Imagine if he had said to himself, “I am not leaving Russia. It is my homeland”! What would have come of him? What would have come of his witness to us? But of course God was going to call him much, much further away from his originally intended path in life.
A year after graduating with his degree in theology, he was tonsured a monk. The man who had set his path on becoming conversant with the judgments and on the operations of the world was called by God to renounce it—and so he did. Eight years later, to his absolute surprise, he was consecrated a bishop.
There is the famous story that on the bus on the way towards the holy synod in Belgrade, a lady met him and said, “What are you doing here, Fr. John?” He said, “Well, the synod sent out a letter to a Fr. John that they wish to make a bishop, but they sent it to the wrong John and it came to me, so I’m just going to correct this mistake.” On the way out of the building, the same woman was on the bus, and he said to her, “The mistake is worse than I feared.” [Laughter]
He protested. He said, “I can’t be a bishop well. I have a lisp.” He had a speech impediment [which] made it very hard for him to speak, but the holy synod said to him: “Moses likewise could not speak, and yet God used him, and so he will use you.”
And off he was to China, to be made responsible for the spiritual mission there. He would spend 15 years in that place, working for the salvation of his flock. During that time he finished and unfinished cathedral; he united a deeply divided, embittered ethnically tense community; he founded and operated a monastery that took in hundred, thousands of children off the streets and from families who simply could not support them in the circumstances of those days. In this time he became known for his ascetic feats and wonders. God allowed him to do so much.
And then in 1949 it was all taken away from him. The Communists invaded; the White Russians had only a few days to leave. St. John could have put his foot down. “This place is holy. We have dedicated it to God. It has a temple, an altar.” But he didn’t do this. He packed up his bags. They packed up the iconostasis: cut it into pieces, put it in suitcases, and got on a boat. If you want to see that iconostasis, you can go to St. Tikhon’s House, where it still stands. Within two years after a sojourn in the Philippines, he was in America, setting up a house for his orphans, and yet his feet barely had time to touch down on American soil before he was sent, not back to the China that he loved, but to Europe, to Paris and to Brussels. Ten years there, until the Church in America, needing his peace-making abilities, called him back.
Move, move, move. And as an old man in the early ‘60s, he arrived in California, once again to an unfinished cathedral, to an embittered, divided, broken community. At any point in any one of these journeys, Vladyka John could have said, “No.” He could have said, “Enough. I have done my moving around. I have been called and I have followed, but now I am here. Here I will remain.” But he never did, and so this little man’s footsteps covered the globe.
If we are to develop hearts that emulate his love, we have to be ready for our feet to do the same thing. You will find places in life, situations, callings, careers, that are comfortable, that are home, that are safe. This is a great blessing, but at any moment, at any moment, God may place into your heart the groaning of another human life. He may place into your heart the sighing of another of his precious children, whom he fashioned with his own two hands. And the question at that moment will be: What are you going to do? Will you plant your feet firmly in the soil that you know, and, like Jonah before Nineveh, refuse to go? Or will you set your own feet into motion and go wherever God calls you, do whatever God asks you to do, that the love he has for his children may reach out and touch them where they need to receive it?
The third and final thing that I want to say about the footsteps of St. John is that feet don’t move themselves. The holy Apostle St. Paul reminds us of the nature of a body, an organism in which each element and organ has its own place and function and purpose. And though the unique function of feet is to enable stability and movement, they can’t do this without being directed and governed by other parts of the body. Biologically, we might say that the governing factor here is the mind, the brain, the nervous system, but spiritually we know that the mind itself is governed by that deepest, most powerful reality in the human creature: the heart.
The Fathers of the Church will often use very technical language to describe the relationship of the mind and the heart, phrases such as “the nous descending into the heart” or “the intellect being transfigured in the space of the heart” and so on, but what they’re describing is fundamentally very simple. Our intellect, our reason, guides us, but if it guides us apart from the heart, it becomes very easily deluded, distracted, self-willed, and betrayed. But if the mind is governed by the heart, that space within us that is the temple of God himself, where the Holy Spirit makes his abode, then the mind is enfused with the grace and the power of the Lord himself. Then what governs us is not our own will but God’s.
St. John’s feet moved the way they did, his footsteps are where they are, because his heart was enflamed with the love of God. He knew what was the one thing needful, and he allowed it to be the only thing he needed. He needed to love God, and that was it. He did not need comfort or excessive sleep or worldly recognition or a pleasant routine. It was not that he had anything against these as a matter of principle, or that he rejected them in any global sense, but he did not need them. He needed, and therefore the only thing he wanted, was the love of God to fill him completely, his soul, his mind, his body, his strength. And because he loved God in this way, he loved his neighbor the same way that God loves those whom he calls his brethren. He loved with power, with sacrifice, with limitless self-offering. And when St. John’s tiny body—he was a tiny man—when his tiny body had simply no more power to give, no strength left to offer, God filled him with his own strength, with the power that had called the universe itself into being.
This, above all else, is what’s proclaimed to us when we go and we venerate his incorrupt relics, which I know many of you have done since you’ve been here; some of you may yet still do. Many people who go for the first time ask, “Why do his relics look like that?” The skin is dried and brown. It is withered and leathery. It does not look natural. And this is absolutely right. Incorruption does not mean that a body is kept exactly the same way as it was in life. Once a spirit departs from a body, that body is no longer the full man, and the miracle of incorruption is not that the full man remains. That is a miracle which we all await solely at the resurrection. And yet God has taken what remains—the flesh, the bones, skin—and he has preserved them from that normal order of decay in which flesh and skin dissolve away, only bone is left, and even that eventually turns to dust.
And what remains of St. John is smaller, it is withered, it is dry, but it is preserved. And here perhaps the greatest miracle of all: This tiny little man has become tinier still, and yet the power of God radiates from these relics through the whole of creation. The sick simply come near them and they are healed. They don’t even have to touch. The barren anoint themselves with oil from a lamp that simply burns nearby, and have children. The sorrowful bow down before them and find comfort and solace in their hearts. Blind people see. The grieving rejoice. All this from the remains of flesh and bone and skin that God has kept for us in this mysterious way.
And in this, my beloved fathers and brethren, God is speaking to us. He is speaking to you. He is saying to each of you, “Look what can happen in a man when he loves God. Look what power the Lord can and will give to those who give themselves to him.” If you think you are not strong enough, not sturdy enough to help those who need it, God will give you strength, a strength far beyond any you could comprehend. He would help you to stand up. If he says, “Go,” and you follow, he will plant your feet where they need to be planted. He will give you power when all of your strength is gone, so that those who need to receive his love will receive it despite your limitations. He will give you words when you have nothing left to say.
This brings me to the way I want to conclude, which is to tell you two tiny stories, one modern and one ancient, that relate to a dimension of the legacy of St. John that people often find themselves embarrassed to mention, but eventually they come to me or to someone else and say, “He’s just too holy. I can’t possibly follow him. He is too holy. He did too much. I need something more practical for my life.” Let me tell you two stories to counteract that sad position.
The first, the modern story, is one of a man whom I know, who once went to pray at St. John’s relics in the new cathedral. He venerated them in the normal way, and because it was a relatively empty church at that point, he was able to stand there in the shrine, gazing on the relics, for quite a long time without being disturbed. And he told me that in a mysterious moment, he was filled with the most overwhelming sense of beauty. The relics were so beautiful, as if nothing else in creation could match that beauty. His eyes were filled with tears. He couldn’t speak. And in that moment he heard a voice, the voice of the saint speaking into his heart, asking him, “My beloved child, do you think that in the eyes of God you are any less beautiful?”
Do you think that you are any less beautiful than this saint to the One who fashioned you out of the dust? If St. John has something to say to us, to me, to you, it is that our lives can be sanctified. God will create more wonder-workers. He will create more saints. He will enable you to give yourselves for his children, sanctifying them and yourselves and all the world. If there are so few holy people today, it is because there are so few people who believe God can make them holy.
To be clear, it’s great delusion to think that you are holy. Someone once came to the door of my little parish and said, “Hello. I am an elder.” And I answered by saying, “Hello. I am leaving.” I walked. [Laughter] It is delusion to think that we have attained holiness, but it is a sorrowful, bitter loss, a tragic denial of the most fundamental basics of our Christian faith not to believe that in God holiness is actually attainable.
Similarly, if we have so few people who do great things for God today, it is because so few people actually believe God can do things in them. To make that point, my final story, the ancient one, another of my favorites that I can’t stop quoting. Some of you may have heard me say it before. It is a story drawn from the life of Abba Joseph of Panephysis, one of the Desert Fathers.
There comes to this Abba Joseph an Abba Lot, who will go on himself to be one of the great saints and ascetics of the desert, but at this stage is still younger and inexperienced. According to the sayings of the Desert Fathers:
Abba Lot goes to the elder and says to him, “Abba, as far as I can, I say my rule, I fast a little, I pray, I meditate, I live in peace as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?”
Now, I want to interrupt the text for a moment and ask you to ponder these words. Fr. Lot is not complaining, nor is he bragging. He’s simply listing off the attributes of the Christian life as he understands it. He keeps his rule as best he can. He fasts to the best of his ability. He prays. He tries to be peaceful with others. He lives and tries to purify his thoughts. All these things are good; they are blessings. But it is his question at the end of this list that is so tragic, which so echoes our own hearts too often: What else can I do? What more is there? This is it, isn’t it? Abba Joseph responds in the most amazing way. It says in the text:
The old man stood up. He stretched out his fingers toward heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire, and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”
If you will, you can be completely transfigured. If you will, the power of God can be manifest in you. If you will it, and if you are obedient to him to follow it. This is the power that will infuse you with the strength to shape your lives according to the great commandment and the one that is like it. Yes, you must have your plans. You must have your activities and your works. These are important, but at the center of it all, a heart that burns with the love of God, which sets your feet into motion, which gives you life, which saves the world: this is the legacy of St. John. This is what he has to teach us. The glories of God are not a thing of the past. The power of God is present, even in frail men, even in this sinful world, even in each of you. The only question that remains is: What are you going to do with it?
Through the prayers of our holy father, St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.