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.

Knowledge and Sanctity (July 23)

1. If there had been equal progress throughout the ages in sanctity and in science, men would now be very wise and very holy.

It is a well-known fact that science has made great strides, but it must be admitted, unfortunately, that it has often forgotten its beginning and final end, which is God alone. The object of knowledge is truth, and all truth comes from God, but it dwells in created things like a reflection of divine light. We must trace this reflected light back to its original source. If students had always done this, they could have become wise as well as learned. They would have gained from their studies and research a deeper knowledge of God, the author of all the marvels in the universe, and they would have discovered how to worship and obey Him.

When science goes astray or becomes an end in itself, it ceases to be of real service and can become an instrument of evil. When the history of philosophy was described as the history of human aberrations, this was not altogether an exaggeration. Moreover, the technical and practical sciences which are flourishing in this era have often become the means of human destruction. This is what happens when science turns away from God, who is its origin.

There is a great deal of learning in the modern world, but very little holiness. As a result of their absorption in intellectual labour and scientific research, men have forgotten the most important thing in life, which is goodness.

It would seem that the intellect has stifled the impulses of the heart and the dictates of conscience. Do not let this happen in your own case. By all means, have and promote learning, but more than anything else cultivate in your soul that sanctity which will be your greatest treasure in life.

2. We have no right to speak evil of human learning and industry, which are always a gift from God. But we must recognise that goodness is more important than knowledge. The devil's intellect is superior to ours, but he has lost God and in losing God has lost everything which is good.

Knowledge puffs up, (1 Cor. 8:1) writes St. Paul. Pride and presumption can easily spring from a little learning, whereas the fruits of holiness are always beneficial to ourselves and to others.

Let us be humble in our scientific studies and use the results which we obtain for our own progress in sanctity.

3. Padre Cordovans has described the proper progress of the intellect in the following way.

(1) First of all, it studies the things which it knows and mysteriously enriches itself.

(2) It rises from this abundance of knowledge to a keener sense of responsibility in life, until it achieves a Christian harmony. At this stage we have faith, meditation and Christian formation.

(3) Meditation cannot afford to become enclosed within itself, but goes on to become inflamed with love until it develops into contemplation. Now we have the contemplative, who can be a monk, a scientist, or a politician.

(4) If everything goes well, the contemplative abandons his state of solitude and goes in search of souls in the manner of the Saints and of our Divine Master. Otherwise, the contemplative can become a quietist. (Breviario Spirituale, p. 129)

We should try and follow this course in our studies, whether they are sacred or profane. If we do so, we shall achieve personal sanctity and shall engage ourselves in apostolic work for others.