“Treat your soul gently, as God does.” Ven. Archbishop Luis Martinez

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Venerable Archbishop Luis Martinez tells us in Worshiping a Hidden God, that both power and gentleness are necessary for sanctification. This may seem contradictory, as he tells us that “The action of God in the sanctification of each soul is a marvel of power.” This we can see; furthermore he adds, “On our side, holiness is also the effect of power, since only those who exercise force achieve it.” We know this to be true because we know how much effort it takes for us to make any little gain. Just giving up sweets for Lent, or the equivalent thereof, requires heroic efforts for many of us! It is only our heroic struggles [which amount to little] coupled with Divine Strength that give us any hope of success.

Yet Ven. Martinez reminds us of the gentleness of the actions of God with his saints: “How He respects our liberty! How He condescends to our weakness! He does not run or jump or act violently. We, being weak creatures, rush; but God works slowly, because He deals with eternity. We bewail the passage of minutes; but God serenely watches the flow of years. We wish to achieve the goal of our desires with a single rush; but God prepares His work gently, nor does our inconstancy weary Him, nor do our failures startle Him….  Desirous of holiness, [we] wish to achieve it all at once.”

What does this mean for us? That we pour our full strength, our whole heart and will and mind into our duty of the moment—this is the power required of us, one moment at a time. Without rushing, without discouragement. At the same time, we must wait patiently, being gentle with ourselves, and not expect that this one mighty effort will carry us to any particular place in our sanctification. The fruit of our action is up to God alone. It is His power and gentleness that will carry the day. Remember this wonderful line, “Wait on the Lord, and be of good courage. He will strengthen thy heart.”
Sanctification is the work of our entire lifetime; we cannot accomplish it quickly, nor does God expect us to. All that He expects of us is fidelity to the moment with all the energy of our willing hearts.

[Worshiping a Hidden God, pp. 60-65]

Purification: Spiritual “Parasites”

In the process of purification and purgation, it seems we never end.  How could we?  God is infinite Purity, and we are unclean in so many ways, even with our best efforts.  How I love Venerable Archbishop Luis Martinez.  I’ve started a new book by him:  Worshipping a Hidden God  – Unlocking the Secrets of the Interior Life.  One chapter, “Rid your heart of all that hinders union” calls for me to do something that is virtually impossible.  I go so far, then get stymied–how do I even know what thing lurking in my heart is keeping me from perfect union with God?  I don’t have the discernment, can’t find it, and don’t even know where to look.  Knowing this full well, Luis gives us a prayer:  “If we do not discover anything, or if we are not able to pluck it out, let us say to our Lord,

‘I must have some parasite in my heart, O Lord. 

I do not know where it is, nor am I able to free myself of it. 

But I place myself in Thy Hands. 

Come, O Lord, with Thy scalpel, or with Thy fire,

or with whatever thing Thou dost wish, to rid me of it. 

Purify my heart, and dispose it for complete union with Thyself.’”  [Ch. XI, p. 35]

Many months ago, I chanced upon this reflection of St. Catherine of Genoa which is so consoling to those of us who struggle with purity of heart and intention.  No matter what I do in good works or prayer, it seems to me a work all speckled with imperfections and wrinkles, however hard I work at it.  Regarding this difficulty, she tells us:

“After God has given a soul the light in which she perceives the truth that she cannot even will, and much less work, apart from Him, without always soiling and making turbid the clear waters of His grace, then she sacrifices all for Him and He takes possession of His creature, and both inwardly and outwardly occupies her with Himself, so that she can do nothing but as her sweet Love wills.  Then the soul, by reason of its union with God, contradicts Him in nothing, nor does aught but what is pure, upright,  gentle, sweet, and delightful, because God allows nothing to molest it.  And these are the works which please the Lord.” [Chapter XI, p. 26,  The Life and Doctrine of St. Catherine of Genoa, offered by Christian Ethereal Library – ]
One insight noted here by St. Catherine may easily escape our notice:  “After God has given a soul the light in which she perceives the truth…”this action already presupposes a higher level of perfection in the soul.  Most people walking around, even those who are sincere, think they are doing pretty good and have achieved a lot of merit in God’s eyes.  They don’t see their actions [clearly not sinful] to have anything wrong with them!  Only the clarity and illumination of the Holy Spirit reveal to the souls longing for union that every action which they undertake is spoiled.  But how can we escape this paradox?  St. Catherine tells us,  “then she sacrifices all for Him…He takes possession…and by reason of [her] union with God,” does nothing but what is pure, upright, gentle, sweet, and delightful, pleasing the Lord in every way.
Let us strive for purity of heart, pray that God excise those pesky parasites from our heart, and trust Him who has given us the light to see our soiled and turbid actions.

In the Fire – Thirsting for God

IN THE FIRE  –  Thirsting for God

More than any other quality which characterizes your soul, a pure thirst for God will call Him to you in continuously deeper communion.  Long for a pure heart, for the pure in heart will see God.  Micha’el Ben David sings in hebraic, then in English Psalm 51: 

Unless we turn and become as little children, we cannot enter the Kingdom.  In Under the Father’s Gaze, Venerable Archbishop Luis Martinez tells us:  “If we raise motherly love to the infinite, we will have an idea of the divine tenderness of the Father’s love, because it is infinite fullness which is lovingly annihilated in order to adapt to our indestructible weakness, to our everlasting childhood”  [p. 169].

“Divine love has delightful nuances:

It is fullness which seeks the void;

It is grandeur which descends to littleness;

It is majesty which lowers itself to wretchedness;

It is omnipotence which protects weakness.

Our weakness, childlikeness, and vulnerability draws down infinite Tenderness.  His delight is to approach the miserable, to protect the weak, to adapt to the little ones” [p. 167].

What does it mean to be pure?  To be undivided, single, simple, unmixed with any other substance, one.  James 4,5 tell us, “The Spirit which He sent to live in us wants us for Himself alone.”

A meek and humble heart, a simple heart which sees only God, our adorable Abba, is a pure heart.  As Jesus cast Himself into the Father’s Will with the abandon of a mighty waterfall plunging into the depths, let us, in our littleness and simplicity, simply abandon ourselves to the Father, every atom of our being rushing to Him in delight.

So deep is the yearning of the pure and simple heart that  turns as child to Abba, as spouse to Jesus, as hearth where the Holy Spirit penetrates with fire.

“Stir into flame the gift of God” — 2 Tim. 1, 6

St. Paul’s letter to St. Timothy, part of which was read as the epistle on St. Timothy’s feast day, was so moving to me because it sounded so warm, a friendly, loving letter—from an older father figure to someone like a son. St. Paul writes: “I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, as I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you.”

Later, St. Timothy would be one of the bishops of the early church, but it seems here that St. Paul is remembering this young man in the bosom of his family, his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice –both faith-filled. A son raised in faith in such a home has such promise, and St. Paul is confident that Timothy shares in the faith of his family.

Most of us are fortunate to have been born into such families, even as babies. We are born into the faith of our families, and in being baptized as infants, we are actually baptized into their faith of our parents or families. An infant does not have faith personally.

But recognizing, and confident, that “sincere faith lives in you,” as he tells Timothy, notice what he does next: “For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.” It is not enough to be born into the faith. The “imposition of hands” is the sign of Confirmation, or the gift of the Holy Spirit which makes us soldiers for Christ—no longer passively receiving the faith of our fathers, but taking up the faith for ourselves. Timothy has already been confirmed in the faith, but St. Paul reminds him to stir into flame the gift of God [that is, the Holy Spirit].

The spark of the faith is not enough. And we cannot expect others to set us on fire for God. We, ourselves, must actively seek that fire within, stirring, gathering the fuel through reading, praying, working, then piling on the fuel that will engulf us in the blaze of the Holy Spirit, transforming us into a very hearth consumed with love for God. We cannot expect anyone to do this for us; we must actively seek it for ourselves.