Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Progress in the Love of God

1. The entire Christian system is based on the love of God. This is the greatest and first commandment (Mt. 22:38) of Jesus, from which the second commandment to love our neighbour naturally flows. A man who does not observe this first commandment is not a Christian, whereas a man who endeavours to increase every day his love foi God is a saint. There are many grades of ascent in this love, but the basic step is indicated in the words of our Divine Master: He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. (John 14:15, 21)

The love of God should not consist of an empty and uneffective sentimentality, but should comprise a sincere determination to please God by carrying out His will without reserve and by becoming more closely united to Him by the help of His holy grace. Progress in the love of God is divided by the masters of the spiritual life into three stages:-(1) the period of purification; (2) the period of illumination; and (3) the period of union with God. We may have advanced no farther than the first stage because there is still so much to be purified in our souls. Nevertheless, let us ask God's grace to help us to begin this work immediately.

2. They are in the first grade of perfection in the love of God who desire to love Him but still feel an attachment to sin. How is it possible to love God and at the same time to offend Him by yielding to unlawful desires and to the attractions of the world? This is a mystery of the human heart, which can experience simultaneously the desire to love God and the disturbances of the flesh.

People like this must humbly persevere in praying for the grace which they need. They must eradicate their major vices one by one so that they may be free to love God. Since their course will be difficult and full of obstacles, they will need the courage of mountaineers, but, far above, the white and sun-kissed summit awaits them. Only toil and sacrifice can bring them there, but when they arrive they will know real happiness, for they will see God. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God. (Mt. 5:8)

3. The second stage is one of illumination and increase in perfection. When the soul has been set free from sin, it must be enriched by all the virtues.

The love of God demands that we should never stand still. If we sincerely love God, we must please Him in every way. Under the influence of His grace, therefore, we must ascend step by step towards the perfection which Jesus requires of us, (Mt. 5:48) until we reach the third stage, which is union with God. We shall be blessed with happiness if we can reach this peak, for we shall look upon the joys and sorrows of this world with a tranquil gaze. Our whole being will go out to God in an act of complete surrender. Like St. Paul, we shall no longer be ourselves, but shall belong wholly to God. Let us be fervent and energetic in striving to reach this summit of perfection, which is a foretaste of Heaven itself.

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