1. When I entered the convent over 40 years ago, I was required to bring two books with me: Sacred Scripture and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. I soon became enamoured of the Bible, but though I used the Imitation for a couple of years, I soon put it down as too archaic. I could not identify with much of the book.
2. I have been moved by the Spirit to locate many of the texts that I used long ago, among them the Imitation of Christ. Though the text is still archaic, the content is right on the beam. In chapter XX tonight I “Wonderfully small sometimes is the matter whence a grievous temptation cometh, and whilst I imagine myself safe for a little space; when I am not considering, I find myself often almost overcome by a little puff of wind. Behold, therefore, O Lord, my humility and my frailty, which is altogether known to Thee.”
3. That “little puff of wind” is what caught my attention. Let me paraphrase for you: “A grievous temptation sometimes comes in a tiny matter, and while I am thinking myself safe for a little while, when I am not paying attention, I find myself often almost overcome by a little puff of wind. My humility and my frailty, O Lord, is obviously known to You. My weakness You know utterly.”
4. The emphasis is on how the least little thing throws me off my goal of purifying my heart and seeking perfect Union–not even a sin necessarily, but a fault, a flaw, a weakness which shows the frailty of our flawed natures which we just cannot keep straight without copious grace and strength from Christ and his pure mother, Mary. When Adam fell, he skewed all of nature, wreaking havoc in the order of the whole universe. We did not obey God, our bodies do not obey us, Mother Nature goes off on its own tangents, etc. The harmony between heaven and earth was grievously damaged by original sin. We find war has broken out between the “angels of our better nature” (as Abraham Lincoln put it) with our desires, our thoughts, our inclinations, our appetites, etc. Who can rescue us from this quagmire of dissolution and distress? Only Jesus Christ! Help me, Lord, for I cannot help myself.
5. What I have pondered much in the last few years is the effect of original sin on individuals, the society of man, and on creation itself. Not one element of our world is free. Of course, with baptism, we enter sanctifying grace—the presence of the Holy Spirit—and enjoy the freedom of the children of God. But realize that we will never be totally free of the effects of original sin: “There are three debilitating effects of Original Sin: a darkening of the intellect, a weakening of the will, and a diminished unity of body and soul.” [http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2012/the-flesh-and-the-spirit.html].
6. Provided we cooperate with grace and remain free of mortal sin, we will have the opportunity to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling!” [Philippians 2, 12] Emphasis is on the “cooperate with grace” and “work out”. Here it is explained to us:
7. “The sense in which we are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling is twofold. First, the Greek verb rendered “work out” means “to continually work to bring something to completion or fruition.” We do this by actively pursuing obedience in the process of sanctification, which Paul explains further in the next chapter of Philippians. He describes himself as “straining” and “pressing on” toward the goal of Christlikeness (Philippians 3:13-14). The “trembling” he experiences is the attitude Christians are to have in pursuing this goal—a healthy fear of offending God through disobedience and an awe and respect for His majesty and holiness. “Trembling” can also refer to a shaking due to weakness, but this is a weakness of higher purpose, one which brings us to a state of dependency on God. Obedience and submission to the God we revere and respect is our “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1-2) and brings great joy. Psalm 2:11 sums it up perfectly: “Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.” We work out our salvation by going to the very source of our salvation—the Word of God—wherein we renew our hearts and minds (Romans 12:1-2), coming into His presence with a spirit of reverence and awe.”
8. Now, with all this in mind, consider our world today. Considering the flaws in human nature effected by original sin, “a darkening of the intellect, a weakening of the will, and a diminished unity of body and soul, ” how many people are actually cooperating with grace and working out their salvation with fear and trembling? A remnant. How many actually seek to be holy? A remnant of the remnant. Is it any wonder the world is in meltdown? Beginning with flawed and weakened natures, denying the effects of grace, human nature can do one thing only, deteriorate into deeper and deeper evil. This includes individuals, communities, whole societies, and governments. And man is not alone in these effects; remember this line: “When Adam fell, he skewed all of nature, wreaking havoc in the order of the whole universe. We did not obey God, our bodies do not obey us, Mother Nature goes off on its own tangents, etc.”
9. Remember that these effects describe the world into which each human child is born. [http://www.theologynetwork.org/the-fall-and-sin/an-introduction-to-the-fall-and-sin.htm]
10. “So sin results in our living under condemnation. This is both the greatest effect of sin but also the one most hidden from us. While God’s wrath against us is revealed now (Romans 1:18ff), the full expression of that wrath and condemnation is reserved until the Day of Judgment (Romans 2:5-6).
11. “Second there is the effect on the relationship between human beings. Rather than being characterized by loving community our relationships now involve discord, hatred, lies, jealousy and so on. It is salient to note that in the first chapter after the fall comes the first murder. In addition descriptions of sin are commonly characterized by ways in which our horizontal relationships have become disordered as well as how the vertical relationship with God has been shattered (e.g. Mark 7:21-22; Galatians 5:19-21).
12. “Third there is the effect on the creation itself which no longer cooperates with human endeavour to rule and subdue it. The harmonious picture of Genesis 1:28 (reflected in Psalm 8) is not seen, but rather the thorns and thistles of Genesis 3:18 and the groaning of creation of Romans 8:22. [Romans 8: 19-22 “For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now….]
13. “Lastly there is the effect of sin on us as individuals. Jesus can describe us as ‘evil’ (Matthew 7:11). He can say that our hearts now produce such things as evil thoughts, sexual immorality, murder, theft, adultery, greed, malice, arrogance, etc (Mark 7:21-23). We think we are free but actually we are only free to sin – we are slaves to sin (John 8:34) and are unable to obey God (Romans 8:7-8).
14. We can very well say that we have all, all, been born into a dysfunctional family! How grateful we should be to be born Catholic, baptized and encouraged to participate and cooperate with grace, with the Holy Spirit! St. Paul tells us we are predestined for salvation—Read and meditate on Ephesians 1:2-14
15. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,* 4 as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love 5 he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, 6 for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.
16. 7 “ In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery* of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him 10 as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.
17. “ In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, 12 so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped* in Christ. 13 In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed* with the promised holy Spirit, 14 which is the first installment* of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.”
18. We know quite well that we are born into Christ. But in the order of nature, what is it that we are actually born into? A world in which the effects of unredeemed original sin are complicated by repeated, serious, unrepented personal sin. I recently read a chapter of a book, Learning the Virtues, by the famous theologian, ROMANO GUARDINI—who, by the way, has had a tremendous impact on the last three popes. “Acceptance” is one of the virtues which he explains so well. What is it that we should accept? “It is the acceptance of what is, the acceptance of reality, your own and that of the people around you and of the time in which you live.” An animal accepts his reality, himself. He is naturally adapted to his environment and is absorbed in it. He suffers no inner conflict the way that man does. We, on the other hand, can think about ourselves and our circumstances. We compare, imagine, and lift ourselves to other circumstances. Thus arises a tension between what is and what we seek, our actual being and our desires. This conflict may lead to growth; but it may also lead to a harmful split, a flight from reality.
19. Health means acceptance. First of all, acceptance of myself. Guardini explains: “I am not a man in general, but this particular person. I have a certain character and no other, a certain temperament among all of the various ones that exist, certain strong and weak points, definite possibilities and limitations. All this I should accept and build upon as the fundamental basis of my life.”
20. “This is by no means self-evident. For there is—and this throws a glaring light on the finiteness of our existence—a disgust with our own being, a protest against ourself….This does not mean that we should approve of everything and leave everything unchanged. Certainly not….First, however, I must admit the existing facts; otherwise everything becomes false.” [Guardini, pp. 27-28]
21. So I must accept, first of all, myself, then the situation and circumstances of life as they have been allotted to us—in this broken, unrepentant world. Another step is the acceptance of our destiny. Here is where our thoughts get most interesting—“Destiny is not an accident. It possesses a logical consistency which is determined externally by the connection of events but also internally by the nature and character of the person involved .” Finally, acceptance of self means that I consent simply to be. Here is the rub: “I did not confront the possibility of my own existence and decide that I wished to be, but I was cast into being. I came forth from the lives of my parents, of my ancestors, out of the conditions of the age,” an age which, we have seen, is filled with the effects of unredeemed original sin…complicated by repeated, serious, unrepented personal sin.”
22. We cannot construct our own existence, but have to accept it. If we receive it, then from whom? Not from fate or some intermediary, or from our parents or the age in which we live, or from the evil one—but from God. Now Guardini asks, but did God know what He was doing—just casting me forth like that, with no choice of my circumstances, parentage, ancestors, or the age or times? How can He call that “fair”? What follows is what most blew me away—
23. “Through the Incarnation, He stepped into the space which forms a single chain of destiny for him who lives in it. God stepped into history. When the eternal Son became man, He did so in reality, without protection or exception, vulnerable by word and act; woven, like us, into the stifling web of effects that proceed from the confused hearts of men….He does this prepared for all that would happen to Him, without reservation, without evasion, without resorting to resistance or craft. Men, who have really no power over Him to whom is given ‘all power in Heaven and on earth,’ inflict a bitter destiny upon Him. But this is the form of His Father’s will for Him. This will is His own will; to accomplish it is the ‘food’ of His life.”
24. At the point we “step into history” wherever it happens to be on the “grid,” we step like Him, “without protection or exception, vulnerable by word and act; woven…into the stifling web of effects that proceed from the confused hearts of men.” Like Christ, we step into or are born into a fallen world of fallen men and nature, and like Him, we step into a unique, sometimes bitter, destiny. Because we live in this fallen world, our destiny is inevitably one of suffering, to lesser or greater degrees; and it is a lesser or greater destiny according to the level of suffering we accept.
25. How does Jesus cope with His situation? “Men… inflict a bitter destiny upon Him. But this is the form of His Father’s will for Him. This will is His own will; to accomplish it is the ‘food’ of His life.” One’s destiny is simply the will of God. To accomplish it is the “food” of our life. We are fed at every moment from the hand of God.
26. Remember what we learned about ABANDONMENT TO DIVINE PROVIDENCE, by Father de Caussade? “Embrace the present moment as an ever-flowing source of holiness.” [p. 36]
27. “From where does holiness come? He explains that the mysterious growth of Christ in our souls is the fruit of his grace and his holy will, and that this fruit is produced, grows and is fed by the stream of duties put before us by God.  Actually, His Will is this stream of duties given us one moment at a time. “What makes us holy is the Blessed Trinity in the depths of our hearts when we give them up to God’s Will.” [p. 30]
28. “The love of God comes to us through all creatures but hidden as it is in the Blessed Sacrament. So every moment of our lives can be a kind of communion with his love.” [p. 48] If we can begin to think of each moment as “the sacrament of the moment” we will not waste one precious moment of time. “If we open our mouths they will be filled…. [Our bread] is the ready acceptance of all that comes to us at each moment of our lives.” [p. 25]
29. One day 2000 years ago, when Jesus and his disciples reached a Samaritan town, they were hungry and thirsty. His followers went off in search of food while Jesus began talking at Jacob’s well, to a Samaritan woman who was living in sin. He asked her for water and, thus began His famous teaching of “living water.” Shortly thereafter his disciples returned and urged him, “’Rabbi, eat.’ 32 But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat of which you do not know.’ 33 So the disciples said to one another, ‘Could someone have brought him something to eat?’ 34 Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work.’” [John 4:31-34]
30. As I reflected on Guardini’s words and the teachings of de Caussade, I wrote in my prayer journal, “To have a destiny means to suffer. To have a great destiny means to suffer greatly. “One heart, one will, one Victim—I too have food for my life. This food is for me as Jesus’ food was for Him, my destiny. It is there before me, my communion, my sacrament of the moment. The only food that can satisfy; yet as I eat it, I hunger more. Lord, give us this food always—our daily bread.” We “eat” our destiny one bite at a time.
31. Now, perhaps, we can understand the hunger of Jesus’ soul as He cried out, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! 50 There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” [Luke 12:49-50] He was longing for the Father’s bread, the food of His soul, the Will of His Father. Not only is this our “daily bread”—it is our sacrament of the moment.
Prayer of Consecration to the Holy Divine Will [Luisa Picarretta]
O adorable and Divine Will, here I am, before the immensity of Your Light, that Your eternal Goodness may open to me the doors, and make me enter into It, to form my life all in You, Divine Will.
Therefore, prostrate before Your Light, I, the littlest among all creatures, come, O adorable Will, into the little group of the first children of Your Supreme Fiat. Prostrate in my nothingness, I beseech and implore Your endless Light, that It may want to invest me and eclipse everything that does not belong to You, in such a way that I may do nothing other than look, comprehend, and live in You, Divine Will.
It will be my life, the center of my intelligence, the enrapturer of my heart and of my whole being. In this heart the human will will no longer have life; I will banish it forever, and will form the new Eden of peace, of happiness, and of love. With It I shall always be happy; I shall have a unique strength, and a sanctity that sanctifies everything and brings everything to God.
Here prostrate, I invoke the help of the Sacrosanct Trinity, that They admit me to live in the cloister of the Divine Will, so as to restore in me the original order of Creation, just as the creature was created.
Celestial Mother, Sovereign Queen of the Divine Fiat, take me by the hand and enclose me in the Light of the Divine Will. You will be my guide, my tender Mother; you will guard your child, and will teach me to live and to maintain myself in the order and in the bounds of the Divine Will. Celestial Sovereign, to your Heart I entrust my whole being; I will be the tiny little child of the Divine Will. You will teach me the Divine Will, and I will be attentive in listening to you. You will lay your blue mantle over me, so that the infernal serpent may not dare to penetrate into this Sacred Eden to entice me and make me fall into the maze of the human will.
Heart of my highest Good, Jesus, You will give me Your flames, that they may burn me, consume me, and nourish me, to form in me the Life of the Supreme Will.
Saint Joseph, You will be my Protector, the Custodian of my heart, and will keep the keys of my will in your hands. You will keep my heart jealously, and will never give it to me again, that I may be sure never to go out of the Will of God.
Guardian Angel, guard me, defend me, help me in everything, so that my Eden may grow flourishing and be the call of the whole world into the Will of God.
Celestial Court, come to my help, and I promise You to live always in the Divine Will. Amen.