dimanche, avril 01, 2007

The Quest for Christian perfection

We are pigmies

Father Jerome dislodges many of our ideas about the spiritual life when he writes: “ How boring are the preachers and books of devotions which such affirmations as:
- If we are not more holy, it is because we don’t know how to do this or that, such as to renounce ourselves etc…
- If we don’t make any progress in the love of God, it is because we are not enough fervent or generous enough etc…

And Father Jérôme asks: “ Why do we always blame our deficiencies, as if they were the unique and supreme cause of our mediocrity? Why don’t we admit that mediocrity is wanted by God for most of us?

This is most unusual to hear. We are usually accustomed to hearing that mediocrity is the consequence of a lack of charity and the fruit of a certain spiritual laziness. Now, Father Jérôme tells us that it can be the will of God. At this point, dear Brethren, let us understand clearly. Father Jerome is certainly not speaking about the mediocrity of those people who do the 'bare minimum' that is required to tend to their souls. These people are the ones who try to find a compromise between God and the world. Christian perfection is absolutely not their concern. They are just trying to find pleasures on earth without committing any mortal sins if it is possible. With five or ten minutes a day of prayers, they think that God will be happy with this and they don’t even recognize the very poor state of their spiritual life or how great the danger of damnation is to them. If such souls are present in this church today, I implore them to meditate on this verse from the book of Apocalypse: “But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” May they open the ear of their soul and begin to return to God before it is too late. There is nothing worse than lukewarmness in the spiritual life, because it makes our will weak and predisposes us to mortal sin. It characterizes itself by a certain nonchalance regarding our eternal destiny. And the fact is that a soul who does not desire heaven will certainly never reach it.

But for now, we are speaking with Father Jérôme about another kind of mediocrity. It is the mediocrity of souls who really want to serve God and are concerned for their salvation. They aspire to holiness, and they are already holy if they are in state of grace, nevertheless, they are still overhelmed by the weight of their infirmities. They desire heaven and think about it, but they are still too constrained by earthly things. They would like to take off toward the heights of contemplative life, and yet they are nailed down to the floor of terrestrial realities. They!?… it could be us, if, hopefully, we do not belong to the first category of mediocrity.

This observation can bring trouble or sadness in a soul. “What? In spite of all my efforts and desire to love and serve God, I am still imperfect!” Then, a certain feeling of guilt can occur. “Well, it is certainly my fault!” Maybe! It is true that we can always do better. But let not this thought of sadness or discouragement encumber your mind. In fact, behind a true desire for perfection, pride can hide itself. It is probably for this reason that God wants us to remain in a certain state of mediocrity, so that we can be humble.

Father Jérôme continues: “ God’s aim is to make the most of us, not giants in the order of the Divine grace, but just pigmies. This is what, along with our deficiencies and failures, makes our lives so weighty. God could give us His grace in torrents, but, instead, He gives it to us drop by drop. He leads us in the way of ‘the minimum’ and of spiritual poverty. This is the only true explanation. We are the little people of whom the Prophet Isaiah speaks.”

We are not giants in the order of Divine grace. We have to accept it and to recognize our smallness. We have to accept that we must live with our “humiliating passions” as Saint Francis de Sales says. He advices us: “Do not be surprised by the unbidden things of your life and that you have so much difficulties to tell. God permits them to make you humble, with a true humility, which means you can recognize yourself as miserable and foul. It can be fought only by impetus toward God. Make a positive act by a contrary aspiration and override it.”

We need also patience, according to Our Lord Himself who says in the Gospel of Saint Luc: “In your patience you shall possess your souls.” Saint Francis de Sales explains that “the virtue of patience is the one that assures the most perfection. We should have patience toward others, but also toward ourselves, especially concerning the delay of our perfection, because we need to suffer our own imperfections in order to obtain perfection.

Patience, along with courage, is particularly necessary, because we have to begin again every day our journey of spiritual progress. The book of Ecclesiasticus says: “ When a man has done, then shall he begin.” Every day that God gives us must be used for our sanctification. Every morning we have to start again to work for it. “What we have done until now is good, Saint Francis de Sales says again, but what we are about to begin will be better. And when we achieve it, we will start something else which will be better, and then, another one, until we leave this world to begin another life which never ends because nothing better could come. "

Dear brethren, we have meditated during this Lenten season on Christian perfection. With Saint Francis de Sales and Father Jérôme throughout the Sundays of Lent and with Saint Ignatius of Loyola during last week of recollection we thought about the end of our life and the means to use in order to reach it. God is our end. His Son is the Way, the only Way, to go to Him. In Him we can find the perfection we are seeking. In His Sacred Heart, we can draw the love we need which makes us perfect. It is again Saint Francis de Sales who encourages us, saying that in the expectation of the eternal life, “we have to raise our hearts toward God and carry on His Holy work, confiding in Our Lord. He wants to give us everything that is necessary for its execution and asks us only for our consent and our fidelity.

This week, we have the grace to be able, through the Divine Liturgy, to follow Our Lord during His Passion. His Passion is the summary and the achievement of everything we have said previously since the beginning of Lent. At this point, there is nothing more to add, we just have to watch how much God loves us.

May Our Blessed Mother who stood near the Cross of her Son take us with her on this journey toward the Calvary. It will be a journey of pains and agony, but also a journey of hope toward the immensity of the Divine Love of our God. Let us not miss it.

2 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit…

"Only the mediocre are always at their best." - Jean Giraudoux (1852-1944)

Dear Father Demets,

Please continue to guide us through your sermons, lectures, and writings so that we do not miss this journey of hope.

Anonyme a dit…

Dear Father Demets,
This teaching certainly helps.
To continually realise that the way of salvation is one by which we get smaller not bigger,as John the baptist reminds us.
Thankyou for writing and God bless you