by Rev. Donald Considine, S.J.
If I place myself between the source of light and what I want to see, I stand in my own light. In the same way I unwittingly interpose myself between God’s light (vouchsafed to me in prayer or at other times) and God Himself, and I mistake my own shadow for the Divine Beauty.
I am unfortunately selfish and mean and unforgiving and dreadfully suspicious, and I cannot believe that the qualities which exist in myself are not also to he found in God. I am judging God by myself; I am reading my own petty thoughts into the Divine Mind.
A moment’s reflection will show us how terrible a mistake this is, how fatal to all worthy conceptions of God and therefore to any noble enthusiasm in His service. I verily believe that this error has done more than any other of our day to chill fervent spirits and to sicken loyal hearts that would otherwise have beaten high with the love of the Master.
We have unconsciously dragged our God down to our own level, made Him in our imagination as petty and as unlovable as we are ourselves, and have then been surprised that we do not feel it easy to burn with devotion to our Father whom we have misunderstood.
If the turn of the phrase be not too familiar, I would lay down that God’s good opinion of us chiefly depends on our good opinion of Him. I do not mean that God is open to flattery or that it can matter to Him in itself what we choose to think of our Creator, but that our behavior towards Him is founded on our thoughts of Him, and noble thoughts beget noble deeds. Intimate thoughts lead to intimacy, and confiding thoughts of God to trustfulness and hope in Him.
God never constrains us. He allures us, but He always leaves us free, indeed He wishes to enlarge our freedom as far as possible, because the more willing is our obedience the more honorable it is to Him and to us: “God loves a cheerful giver,” St Paul says.
There are two persons concerned in our sanctification: God and ourselves, and they must work together. If they do not, or do not work harmoniously, no great result can be achieved.
There can never be any fault on God’s side: if things go amiss we are always to blame. For instance, God has a plan by which I am in course of time to be fitted to play an important part in the walk of life in which His Providence has placed me. But if I refuse to fall in with this design and am bent instead on a little scheme of my own, no real good comes of either, for neither can succeed. God will not overbear my opposition, and, naturally, I cannot overcome His.
Our Father in Heaven loves us most tenderly and desires to do us all manner of good. All that God wants of us, all that He asks of us and that He must ask from the very nature of the case, is that we will not thwart Him, that we will let Him do His own work in His own way.
But what do we really know about the Eternal God? How can we gauge His feelings? How can we make conjectures about His Mind?
We are afraid to leave ourselves in the hands of the Heavenly Titan if only because He is so great, infinitely greater than we. Not only does He tower to the clouds, and, if we are to speak of Him in material terms, immeasurably beyond.
We handle a butterfly carefully lest we bruise its wings. How can God touch us ever so slightly, ever so delicately, and not grind us to powder?
That is why He stoops so low to our feebleness and takes us up so tenderly for fear of crushing us, and speaks to us not with His voice of thunder (Apoc. vi. x) lest He deafen us, but as it were of a gentle wind. But, do as we will, our poor restless hearts flutter when we think Him near, and we can understand how the Israelites could have said to Moses: “Speak thou to us and we will hear: let not the Lord speak to us lest we die. We look out with our human eyes, which cannot see very far or very clear, into the counsel of God, and is it strange that our image of it is imperfect and distorted, belittled down to our own littleness, narrowed down to our own narrowness of soul?”
We are not blameworthy in this, we cannot raise ourselves above ourselves, nor does God require us to do so. Our help is not in ourselves, but in God. His complaint against us is that we will not accept His proffered aid.
He will lift us up from the dunghill and place us with princes, if we do not obstinately plant our feet on the earth and refuse to move; He will strengthen our eyes to see if we do not keep them firmly closed; if we will open our mouths He will gladly fill them. We shall know by experience that the Lord our God is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to forgive of the evil, if only we give Him a trial. In truth the decision lies not with Him but with us.
In our spiritual concerns even more than in our worldly ones “nothing ventured” means “nothing have.” God has done so much for us – can we do nothing for Him?
Can we not trust His word, and abandon ourselves to God’s guidance? Shall we not be safe in His Everlasting Arms, and are we not to hope in the shadow of His wings? (Ps. lvi. 2).
The Morning Mass
Before convincing yourself that you are out of favor with God and that He is punishing you by darkness, why not make some obvious experiments to find out whether it is not you yourself who are standing in your own light?
You complain that your soul is out of sorts. Perhaps your body, your mind, is out of sorts as well, and it is the soul which is suffering from its contact with the body, and not the other way round.
You have passed a bad night from whatever cause and have hurried some distance to attend your daily Mass; you arrive hot and tired, and cannot fix your mind on the sacred rite; you go up almost mechanically to the altar rails after the Domine, non sum dignus, and do not make a cold Thanksgiving simply because you do not make a Thanksgiving at all.
You are in a dream, or only half-awake. When you return to your home and throw your mind back upon the morning, your time in church seems to have been one long distraction. This surely spells tepidity, if tepidity there be.
Not a bit of it! It spells bodily discomfort, and bodily weakness, either passing or constitutional. It has nothing to do with the will, the set purpose of the soul to which God alone attends. If that purpose holds firm, our thoughts may wander where they list, they cannot withdraw us from God; the wind may blow about our hair or necktie or coat, but we shall reach our journey’s end in spite of it if we keep on our way.
And we do keep on our way if from beginning to end we have in view one aim only-to please God, to benefit our soul. Fits of inattention, which indeed are hardly conscious and are not wholly wilful, which amidst the stir and movement of a body of people are almost inevitable, do not seriously interfere with our master-thought.
We have come to pay homage to our God at the cost of no little inconvenience to ourselves, and He gladly welcomes us, not as seraphs, but as poor human creatures, men and women with bodies of clay, with no wings of our own to lift us above the earth whence we have sprung and whither we shall return.
Is it likely, is it conceivable, that at such moments as these our Father who is in Heaven, but also in every part of the earth, should be prying to discover whether and how far our imaginations may have strayed from Him, although He knows that He possesses our hearts?
God in the center of your heart knows that you want to serve Him, your distractions do not distract Him, He is nearer to you than they, and He understands that they are no part of your real self. They are the offspring of that mortal body which by His own permission weighs down the soul. He is content with your goodwill, and if He is satisfied why are not you?
In your living room and bedrooms, you should have at least one symbol of your faith–a statue of the Savior and the Blessed Mother, a crucifix, pictures which bring to mind events in the life of Our Lord. -Rev. George Kelly, 1950’s
Thank you so much for the prayers for Esther!! She is still in the hospital and her levels are not good when she is not on oxygen. Progress is slow…
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