Sinners Anonymous: 12 Steps to Holiness

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Step 3: The Love of God

I love You!

If we were to put a face on God’s love what would it look like?

-Jesus!

If we were to give it characteristics , what would they look like?

-kindness, patience, joy, truth, hope, charity, faith, endurance; VIRTUES!

and since we were created to be mirror images of God the Father who is the source of all Love then naturally we turn to Jesus, the Son of God. Creatures after his own heart we are drawn “to be perfect, just as [our] heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) but we ask ourselves, what constitutes perfection?

His Perfect Charity is the means of all perfection; GOD IS LOVE!

We have already determined that the incarnate face of Love is Jesus Christ and thus we look to him for guidance on how to love as he loves. So we move on to St. Paul who first asks us to focus on what love is not: “It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing.” Now let us consider what love Is: “Love is patient, love is kind, rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” VIRTUES!  VIRTUES! VIRTUES! These will perfect our love!

A perfect love is a selfless love; Jesus by dying on the cross for us has displayed a penetrating example of what it means to love selflessly.“With what love would we be inflamed did we but see the flames of love that burn in the heart of Christ!” (qtd. St. Francis of Paul). Should this not be a sufficient reason for our love, should we not seek to live our whole life for this purpose? We know that God has given us a secondary motive for our purpose in life, namely Hope for eternal Joy but even greater yet is the primary source of all our efforts in life. A woman found by King Louis companions said: “with this torch I would gladly burn Heaven, and with this water extinguish the fire of Hell, in order that men might love God not because of the reward of Heaven or the punishment of Hell but simply and solely because He deserves to be loved.”

St. Alphonsus asks us to first desire love; Pure Love, because without the grace of longing we cannot genuinely be disposed to receive it. He then warns us of the danger of complacency for the love of the world. This kind of love keeps the heart in a mediocre state.  ” if I knew in my heart there was a single fiber that was not from God, in God, and for God, I would immediately tear it out.” DO NOT SETTLE FOR ANYTHING LESS THAN PERFECT LOVE!

Likewise, it is our duty to help others avoid the contagion of false love. Charity is a gift and it must be shared with those we are naturally draw too but more importantly with those we do not seek to love. Charity is perfected in our seeking out the dark shadows of hate; the souls we do not delight in, the unlovable, and inserting our gift of love. St. John of the Cross reminds us “where there is no love, put love, and you will find love.” but when our efforts do not bear the fruit of love in return we find an opportunity to offer an even sweeter sacrifice of love to God.

Not for a second should we be convinced that our human love suffices, that it somehow fulfills our practice of charity. It does not come close! We are sustained by the Father and rely on him for our strength. Trials will come, weakness will come, contempt will come, sinful imperfections will come and when they do our love will not suffice; our capacity to become a selfless gift for others will cripple and when that happens our channel of love will run dry.

But to fear our limited humanity is to fear in vain because St. Paul reminds us of God’s unfailing Love; He will never leave us to our own efforts: “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? . . . No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, or height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So let us put on the Heart of Christ and fearlessly enter into the world seeking to give this precious gift of Love to others!

 

 

 

Sinners Anonymous: 12 steps to Holiness

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STEP 2: HOPE

“How I thirst for Heaven-that blessed habitation where our love for Jesus will have no limit!” St. Therese

What is my purpose in life? When I open my eyes at the break of dawn (or before) what is it that motivates, inspires, inclines me to rise out of bed and begin a new day? Well, one universal purpose for our rising is the hope of satisfying our thirst for love and deriving joy from this attainment. If we are headed to work, we hope to be acknowledged with a greeting because this signals someone’s delight in our presence. Or if we go to school, we hope to find loving and inviting friends because it brings us joy. If we are stopping by our parents house we more than hope, we expect to enter into a powerhouse of loving warmth. All this hoping, impels us to consciously make the effort of responding or behaving in a way that will keep the inflow of love coming; our actions aim at pleasing those who please us.

Consider this, if we walk into a Church and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, what do we seek? Is it not the very thing we have sought from others; a loving encounter? If Jesus can respond to this ardent desire for love we have in our heart but promises a more perfect and lasting fulfillment of it, would  we be out of our mind to pursue it? If in other cases we act so as to please those who love us, would we not do the same for Jesus? In fact we would eagerly and zealously hasten to Him and do all that he desires knowing that he could surely satisfy our thirst. But to hasten with an understanding of where we are hastening to, seems to me, more plausible, than to run blindly in any direction. Our compass therefore is Jesus and if we should obey him then we first need to know what it is he commands, otherwise how can we advance?

“Love!…I know but one thing now – to love Thee, O Jesus!…” to satisfy our thirst for love we must give love, says St. Therese. “How shall I show my love is proved by deeds?” (St. Therese) Deeds which can be perfected in Charity. “O my God, Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to labor for the glory of holy Church by saving souls still on earth..to accomplish Thy Will perfectly, and to attain to the degree of glory which Thou hast prepared for me in Thy Kingdom; in one word, I desire to be a saint, but I know that I am powerless, and I implore Thee, O my God, to be Thyself my sanctity.”

The purpose of life, then, is love! it is our means and our end. Our motive and our hope. And life becomes totally given over to this singular cause which is attained in Jesus Christ. “My beloved is mine, and I am His.” (SOS 2:16).

Three stepping-stones toward Heaven are given to us by St. Alphonsus:

  1. Pardon of our sins:We know that the gift of reconciliation brings comfort to the soul. Most notably because it is the sacrament of second chances. It also gives the heart freedom to remain receptive to grace. And still it serves an even higher purpose, that of preparing the repentant soul for restoration of life. It would be in vain to merely take His Mercy as a means of habitual cleansing. By that I mean a penciled in block of time in our weekly schedule for a spiritual bath from our habitual wrong doings. Given consideration, I’m sure that we could come to a consensus as to why we seek this purity of the heart. It is our hope that leads us back, time and time again, to the fount of mercy. Our hope in God’s promise.but this promise should not simply move us to repentance, it should be what injects a zealous desire in our heart for righteousness. “Mercy forgives but Justice restores” said a priest in a recent homily.
  2. Victory over temptation:“When the Lord commanded His people to love their neighbors as themselves, He had not as yet come upon the earth. Knowing the extent to which each one loved himself, He was not able to ask of His creatures a greater love than this for one’s neighbor. But when Jesus gave his Apostles a new commandment, HIS OWN COMMANDMENT, as He calls it later on, it is no longer a question of loving one’s neighbor as oneself but of loving him as He, Jesus, has loved him, and will love him to the consummation of the ages.” Using this genuine quote from St. Therese we can see that to our victory over temptation is simply to not give in to an act, thought, word or intention that is beneath our dignity  as Children of God and as such our Charity should resound in the interactions we have with our neighbor.
  3. A holy death:“The crown of all graces! Should the  devil therefore assail us in life or at death, bringing before us the sins of our youth, we must say to him with St. Bernard: “ What I need to enter Heaven, I appropriate from the merits of Jesus Christ who suffered and died in order to procure or me that glory of which I was unworthy.’” (St. Alphonsus) HOPE, HOPE, HOPE until our last breath we must ask for the grace of dying with the sure hope of His promise, brushing away the devils attempts of discouraging our faith and making us fall into the temptations we fought against so ardently.

    FINALLY, the antidote to life! Let us run together, then, toward the fount of our desires, and say to Him: “draw us after you; let us make haste!” (SOS 1:4)

Sinners Anonymous: 12 steps to holiness

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STEP 1: FAITH!

To believe or not to believe, that is the question!

Generally speaking, to believe means *”to accept something as true, genuine, or real.” In every respect this is accurately defined. I would not consider asking myself, for example, if the person standing in front of me exists; I might chuckle at the absurd question and quickly conclude that he does because I can see him with my own eyes. Or would I ask if the bird chirping in the distance is genuine? I’d say “It must be, because I can hear its beautiful melody.” There is no debating these facts. Creation in its entirety can be fully grasped, believed, and understood if I simply apply my senses and reason.

I can just as easily appreciate all that is good, beautiful, and true in life. For example it makes sense that if a flower has blossomed in the month of May, it would most likely be considered beautiful. Or if someone lends a helping hand, it would be considered good. How about being told that breathing is an essential component of life, that would be considered true. But how many would willingly venture out of their comfort zone and seek to know the transcendental reality of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth.

I can easily grasp that a flower is beautiful, that a kind person is good, even that breath sustains life. But what does it matter to know this. Suddenly reason is brought to a halt. All that we know intellectually reaches a pause and we are left with a piece of an unfinished puzzle. Silence to the unknown settles in and the light of truth within us dims.

It is at this moment, after all is still within, after all our faculties are at ease, that Jesus finds His long awaited chance to gently knock at the door of our heart with these words: “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me, walketh not in darkness but shall have the light of life.” (John 20:29) We return to the purpose of living! Our mission, as mentioned in an earlier post, is the glory of God and salvation of souls.

So, why is the flower beautiful? Because it reflects the glory of the Creator. Why is a person kind? Because, the heart is naturally drawn to do the good, we were created in the image of God after all. Why do we breath in order to live? Because life, if lived in Christ, is the only vehicle afforded us, on this earthly journey, to reach the fulfillment of eternal existence. Once faith begins to aid our reason, all other truths which surpass our understanding can be embraced.

Instead of posing the question “To believe or not to believe?” we should be asking ourselves: To merely believe or to truly believe? “To be pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God, it  is not enough merely to believe all that our holy faith teaches us; we must, moreover, regulate our life in accordance with our belief. Pico of Mirandola says:  ‘It is certainly great folly not to wish to believe the Gospel of Christ; but it would be greater folly still to believe it and to live as if you did not believe it.'” ( St. Alphonsus Liguori, 13) The 12 Steps To Holiness And Salvation

 

MISSION before VOCATION

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In the fulfillment of your duties, let your intentions be so pure that you reject from your actions any other motive than the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

St. Pope John Paul II

Very often we seek to understand what “God’s Will is for us”, we ask ourselves “what is my vocation?”. We ardently desire to discover the answer to this question and spend ourselves doing so. With zeal we hasten and in prayer we ask Him; it is no secret to those closest to us, those whom we confide in. We are on a journey to find that permanent state in life which will bring us fulfillment. And it pleases Our Lord to find this kind of zeal in our hearts, He by no means desires we seek anything less. But have we ever entered into the stillness of the heart where Jesus dwells and selflessly asked him, “what do you desire of me?”

In the midst of studies, at the heart of all relationships, at the core of our spirituality, at the start of every day, lies a mission given us by Jesus. This mission does not require tangible discernment to find, it is and has always been within the depth of our being and it is strengthened by prayer. This mission is nothing more than the glory of God and Salvation of souls. A mission most pleasing to God. It is what will bring us greater fulfillment.

The present moment lived in the presence of God gives birth to purity of Intention. This purity is characterized by having a single and undivided desired outcome for every action, word, and deed. Namely,to glorify God and bring others closer to His Sacred Heart. Vocation will come guaranteed. Once it does, we must not be surprised to find that our mission remains the same, it only takes on a different expression. It pleases Him to see the array in which we spend ourselves for His glory. Our petty sacrifice becomes a pure lily and our unseen charity  a beautiful rose. The fragrance of this kind of life given totally over to the service of God and the soul of the other becomes intoxicating,  “a soul that is afire with Divine love cannot remain inactive” (St. Therese).

We are drawn to that which is beautiful and good. Naturally a soul united to Jesus becomes beautifully adorned with his goodness and in this way we are able to draw others to Him. In this way souls can be won for God! It is simple to understand yet difficult to live. But if we preserve the same zeal portrayed in our search for God’s vocational will and apply it to our mission, all else will take its place. Including our vocation.

  • The following 12 posts will be focused on St. Alphonsus Liguori’s: 12 Steps To Holiness And Salvation. A book St. Alphosus wrote to reflectively guide us toward a better understanding of how to embrace and bring expression to our universal mission.

Life In Christ!

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“I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20)

“I live”- To live is to have being, and to have being we must come to be, this coming to be suggests we were created, and this leads to a Creator, and thus, his Omnipotence over all of creation. God as giver and sustainer of all life, also provided its essential purpose. This essence refers to the meaning of life and its values, believes, in short all that makes up ones fullest expression of self in God.

“The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his Creator” (Catechism #27).

“Now not I …”- Recognizing our purpose in life leads to a purification of the soul, freely chosen. Although it be an interior goal of holiness, it also relies on our exterior causes. “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mark 8:36) The heart that desires to be pure and holy settles for nothing less than eternal fulfillment; that which  not only satisfies the body but the soul. Jesus can and will provide fullness of life, given the soul opens its doors, there is no other choice but to commend ones self into His hands, He is in control! (with your permission).

“If then, says St. Chrysostom, God has given you all, and nothing more remains for him to give you, as indeed he has done in his Passion and in the Holy Eucharist, reason requires that you also should give yourself without reserve to him” (The Way Of Salvation And Of Perfection, 152)

“but Christ liveth in me.”- Now fully given over to, and alive in, Christ’ love we can most definitely live with a sure conviction of His presence. But to recognize the workings of Him who loves us in our darkest moments and to respond as He would respond with the purest of love is no  walk in the park. This takes habitual virtue, it takes acceptance of grace at every moment, it needs the practice of faith, hope, and love and it depends on purity of intellect, will, and emotions.

“The soul tends upward to God, and unites itself with Him: conversion ad Deum. The soul wishes in this way to be faithful to the grace which Our Lord offers to it at every moment. In a word, it lives, united to Jesus, and carries out in actuality the principle: ‘He that lives in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit'” (The Soul Of The Apostolate, 30)