HIS GAZES FILLED US WITH PARADISE /// GOOD FRIDAY

HIS GAZES FILLED US WITH PARADISE

Sorrowful Mama, I see You kiss the lifeless eyes of Jesus,
and I feel pierced in seeing that Jesus no longer looks at You.
How many times His Gazes filled You with Paradise,
and made You rise again from death to Life;
and now, not seeing Yourself gazed upon, You feel You are dying!
– Luisa Piccarreta

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Above All: For God’s Pleasure… (this really challenges us) /// The Spiritual Combat, 10.

The Spiritual Combat

The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 10: Of the Exercise of the Will and the end to which all our actions, whether Interior or Exterior, should tend
(text below) (click for full book)
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GOAL OF LIFE: TO DO WHAT PLEASES GOD! (This book is awesome!)

In our teacher’s words: ‘to regulate the will so that in all things it is conformed to the Divine pleasure’.  How often do we think about what pleases God? And this is to be the intention of all of our choices.

Dom Scupoli goes on to clarify that this is much more than simply saying that I want to live for God, but it must be much more intentional:
– To will His pleasure
– To do His pleasure
– To be moved by His pleasure
For His pleasure alone

Then our teacher cuts again.  (This is the wisdom of Dom Scupoli: he recognizes that it is not enough to present the good, but that we must also identify those things which get in the way, and root them out.)  We must be very careful not to do the will of God for our own pleasure.  He warns that many people begin to do the will of God “for the sake of the satisfaction and benefit to be derived.”  How true!
– I love going to church because I feel so good afterwards.  My empty tank is filled.
– I like to pray because it is consoling to know that God is with me.
– I try to fast every once in a while; who doesn’t want to lose some weight?
– I read the Bible everyday; and it’s so nice to be able to quote Scripture to people.
– and on and on and on…

Going to church, praying, fasting, reading the Bible… all good things.  The purity of the intention is what our teacher is getting at.  The purified list:
– I go to church because I desire His pleasure.
– I pray because it is His pleasure.
– I fast because it is His pleasure.
– I read the Bible everyday because it is His pleasure.

It may appear slavish in written form, but this is a purification of our intention.  This teaching is to protect from us selfishly doing God’s will.

The way to practice this purity of intention is to slow down and talk to God before we act and ask these 3 questions to HIM:
1: Do You will this for me? (to find out what I am to do)
2: Am I going to do this because You will this for me? (to purify my desire)
3: Am I going to do this to please You? (to purify my intention)

We should also use this technique to refuse things that are contrary to God’s will, by the same process.
– Do You will this for me? (presuming the answer is no)
– Am I refusing this because You will me to refuse this? (or because I simply don’t like it)
– Am I refusing this to pleases You? (again, purification of my intention)

An old principle of motivation is found lacking in comparison to this chapter.  Many people choose things because of two possible realities: I do this because I want to go to Heaven, or, I do this because I don’t want to go to Hell.  Dom Scupoli challenges us to raise our intentions above even these things, even if they be noble in themselves and helpful for our training.  More than for a fear of Hell or a desire of Heaven, act to please God!

Chapter 10 text:

Besides this necessary exercise of the understanding, you must so regulate your will that it may not be left to follow its own desires, but may be in all things conformed to the Divine pleasure.

And remember, that it is not enough only to strive after those things which are most pleasing to God; but you must so will them, and so do them, as moved thereto by Him, and with a view to please Him alone.

In this exercise of the will, even more than in that of the understanding, we shall meet with strong opposition from nature, which seeks itself and its own ease and pleasure in all things; but especially in such as are holy and spiritual. It delights itself in these, feeding greedily upon them as upon wholesome food.

As soon, therefore, as they are presented to us we look wistfully upon them, and desire them, not because such is the will of God, nor with the sole view to please Him, but for the sake of the satisfaction and benefit to be derived from willing those things which God wills.

This delusion is the more subtle from the very excellence of the thing desired. Hence, even in the desire after God Himself, we are exposed to the delusions of self-love, which often leads us to look more to our own interests, and to the benefits we expect from God, than to His will, which is, that we should love, and desire and obey Him for His own glory alone.

I will now show you a way to avoid this way, which would impede you in the path of perfection, and to accustom yourself to will and to do all things as moved by the Spirit of God, and with the pure intention of honoring and pleasing Him alone, Who desires to be the one End and Principle of our every word and action. When any thing presents itself to you as if willed by God, do not permit yourself to will it till you have first raised your thoughts to Him to discover whether He wills you to will it, and because He so wills it, and to please Him alone.

Let your will, then, being thus moved and attracted by His, be impelled to will it because He wills it, and solely to please and honor Him.

In like manner, if you would refuse things which are contrary to God’s will, refuse them not till you have first fixed the eye of your mind upon His divine will, Who wills that you should refuse them solely to please Him.

Know, however that the frauds and deceits of wily nature are but little suspected; for, ever secretly seeking self, it often leads us to fancy that our end and motive is to please God when in reality it is far otherwise.

Thus, when we choose or refuse any thing for our own interest and satisfaction, we often imagine that we are choosing or refusing it in the hope of pleasing, or in the fear of displeasing, God.

The true and effectual remedy for this delusion is purity of heart, which consists in this – which is indeed the aim and object of all this spiritual warfare – the putting off the old man, and the putting on the new.

And to this end, seeing you are full of self, take care in the beginning of every action to free yourself as much as possible from all admixture of any thing which seems to be your own. Choose nothing, do nothing, refuse nothing, unless you first feel yourself moved and drawn thereto by the pure and simple will of God.

If you do not always feel thus actuated in the inward workings of the mind, and in outward actions, which are but transient, you must be content to have this motive ever virtually present, always maintaining a pure intention to please your God alone in all things. But in actions of longer duration it is well not only to excite this motive within yourself at the beginning, but also to renew it frequently, and to keep it alive till the end. Otherwise you will be in danger of falling into another snare of our natural self-love, which, as it is always inclined to yield rather to self than to God, often causes us unconsciously, in the course of time to change our objects and our aims.

The servant of God who is not on his guard against this danger, often begins a work with the single thought of pleasing his Lord alone; but soon, gradually and almost imperceptibly, he begins to take such pleasure in his work, that he loses sight of the Divine Will and follows his own. He dwells so much on the satisfaction he feels in what he is doing, and on the honor and benefit to be derived therefrom, that should God Himself place any impediment in the way, either by sickness or accident or through the agency of man, he is immediately troubled and disquieted, and often falls to murmuring against the impediment, whatever it may be, or rather, against God Himself. A clear proof that his intention was not wholly from God, but sprang from an evil root and a corrupted source.

For he who acts only as moved by God, and with a view to please Him alone, desires not one thing above another. He wishes only to have what it pleases God he should have, and at the time and in the way which may be most agreeable to Him; and whether he have it or not, he is equally tranquil and content; because in either case he obtains his wish, and fulfills his intention, which is nothing else but simply to please God.

Therefore recollect yourself seriously, and be careful always to direct every action to this perfect end.

And although the bent of your natural disposition should move you to do good through fear of the pains of hell or hope of the joys of paradise, you may even here set before you, as your ultimate end, the will and pleasure of God, Who is pleased that you should enter into His kingdom and not into hell. It is not in man fully to apprehend the force and virtue of this motive; for the most insignificant action, done with a view to please God alone, and for His sole glory, is (if we may so speak) of infinitely greater value than many others of the greatest dignity and importance done without this motive. Hence a single penny given to a poor man with the sole desire to please His Divine Majesty, is more acceptable to God than the entire renunciation of all earthly goods for any other end, even for the attainment of the bliss of heaven; an end in itself not only good, but supremely to be desired.

This exercise of doing all things with the single aim to please God alone seems hard at first, but will become plain and easy by practice, if, with the warmest affections of the heart, we desire God alone, and long for Him as our only and most perfect good; Who deserves that all creatures should seek Him for Himself, and serve Him and love Him above all things.

The deeper and more continual our meditations are upon His infinite excellence, the more fervent and the more frequent will be these exercises of the will; and we shall thus acquire more easily and more speedily the habit of performing every action from pure love to that gracious Lord, Who alone is worthy of our reverence and love.

Lastly, in order to the attainment of this divine motive, I advise you to seek it of God by importunate prayer, and to meditate frequently upon the innumerable benefits which He, of His pure and disinterested love, has bestowed upon us.

NEXT:

Chapter 11: Of some considerations which may incline the Will to seek to please God in all things

I Will Return to God

This very unconventional song is a powerful expression of the Father’s strong and jealous desire for each individual soul which He has created and redeemed in the Blood of His Son.
Our response to this great love is expressed:
“I will return to my first love.”

20 minutes of an increasingly intense connection of the Heart of God with the human heart.

I will return to God. This is a video companion to the recent post: THE OPEN HEART OF OUR FATHER GOD.

IN THE REAR VIEW (reflections): THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 9.

The Spiritual Combat

Chapter 9: Of another danger from which the Understanding must be guarded in order that it may exercise a True Discernment
(text below) (click for full book)

In a world that loves sound bites of information, random facts, Wikipedia answers and “Google it” results, this teaching seems ridiculous!!!  Our teacher cuts again.  Don’t strive to know everything – strive to know ONE THING: CHRIST CRUCIFIED!  Strive to know His life, His death, and His will for your life.
If we can answer this question, we will be on the right road: Why did God make me?
Answer: God made me to KNOW Him, LOVE Him, and SERVE Him.

When we live and learn as though we are our own master, our own teacher, we are easily given over to pride.  And how can we be taught?  If I think that I am the judge of what I should or should not learn, I am stuck with only one real option in life: to trust myself.  This concept is promoted in society, but is contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 3:5-6: “Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways rely on the Lord your God.”

I must learn to look to Jesus and His teaching for the rule of my life.  It is then that I will be fulfilling the principles laid down in this helpful teaching: Distrust myself, Trust in God. The one who is my savior must also be my lord.  If I am my own savior, then I have the right to be my own master.  But if Jesus is my Saviour, then He must also become my Lord.  He gives me access to Heaven (Saviour), He shows me the way I must follow to get there (Lord).

Chapter 9 text:

The second thing from which the understanding must be guarded is curiosity; for by filling it with hurtful, vain, and impertinent thoughts we incapacitate and disable it from apprehending that which most nearly affects our true mortification and perfection.

To this end, you must be as one dead to all needless investigation of even lawful earthly things.

Always restrain your intellect as much as possible, and love to keep it low.

Let the news and the changes of the world, whether great or small, be to you as though, they were not; and should they intrude themselves, reject and drive them from you.

Be sober and humble even in the desire to understand heavenly things, wishing to know nothing but Christ crucified, His life, His death, and what He requires of thee. Cast all other things far from you, and so shall you be very pleasing unto God. For He loves and delights in those who desire and seek of Him such things alone as serve to the love of His divine goodness and the fulfillment of His will. All other petitions and inquiries belong to self-love, pride, and the snares of the devil.

By following these instructions you will avoid many dangers; for when the wily serpent sees the will of those who are aiming at the spiritual life to be strong and resolute, he attacks their understanding, that so he may master both the one and the other.

He often, therefore, infuses lofty and curious speculations into their minds, especially if they be of an acute and intellectual order, and easily inflated with pride; and he does this in order that they may busy themselves in the enjoyment and discussion of such subjects, wherein, as they falsely persuade themselves, they enjoy God, and meanwhile neglect to purify their hearts and to apply themselves to self-knowledge and true mortification. So, falling into the snare of pride, they make an idol of their own understanding.

Hence, being already accustomed to have recourse in all circumstances to their own judgment, they come gradually and imperceptibly to believe that they have no need of advice or control from others.

This is a most perilous case, and very hard to cure, the pride of the understanding being more dangerous than that of the will; for when the pride of the will is once perceived by the understanding, it may in course of time be easily remedied by submission to those to whom it owes obedience. But how, or by whom, can he be cured, who obstinately believes his own opinion to be worth more than that of others? How shall he submit to other men’s judgment, which he accounts to be far inferior to his own !

The understanding is the eye of the soul, by which the wound of the proud will should be discovered and cleansed; if that eye, then, itself be weak and blind and swollen with pride, by whom shall it be healed?

And if the light become darkness, and the rule faulty, what will become of the rest?

Therefore resist this dangerous pride betimes, before it penetrate into the marrow of your bones.

Blunt the acuteness of your intellect, willingly submit your own opinion to that of others, become a fool for the love of God, and you shall be wiser than Solomon.

NEXT:

Chapter 10: Of the exercise of the Will, and the end to which all our actions, whether Interior or Exterior, should tend

The Open Heart of Our Father God

“His father saw him and was moved with compassion, and ran to him…” (Lk 15:20)

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God’s incomprehensible love of penitent sinners*.  Though the sinner has offended Him so grievously and so often, yet He reproaches him not, but forgives him everything, and restores him to his former rights and dignity of sonship.

– He re-clothes him with the robe of innocence, i.e. sanctifying grace (ROBE) (Lk 15:22).

– He adorns him again with the supernatural virtues befitting the state of divine sonship (RING) (Lk 15:22).

– He enables him to walk justly before God (SHOES) (Lk 15:22).

– He prepares a feast for the converted sinner, giving him the Lamb of God, for the nourishment of his soul, in Holy Communion (FATTENED CALF) (Lk 15:23).

God alone can love this in this way, and to us this sort of love is inconceivable.  Our Lord portrays this narrow-mindedness of ours in the conclusion of the parable.  The elder son cannot understand his father’s joy; he murmurs at it, and refuses to take part in it; and even professes to believe that his father prefers the returned prodigal to himself, the faithful, obedient and industrious son.  By this behavior of the elder son our Lord signifies the jealousy of the Pharisees, who considered themselves to be just, and murmured at the deep interest Jesus took in sinners.  By the father’s answer in the parable our Lord shows how very unjustifiable any such jealousy would be.  The just man ought to think of the great happiness which he has had of being always in the love and grace of God: and if he will try to realize what the infinite love of God is for every soul which He has made, he will rejoice with God as often as a soul which had been lost is found or saved.  As the angels rejoice (Lk 15:10) over the return of the prodigal, so ought we to rejoice over the conversion of sinners!

 

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*Thanks to F. Knecht for his sublime work from which this post is drawn.  None of this post is original.  Its entirety is drawn from “A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture” by Frederick Justus Knecht, which is currently out of print.

IN THE REAR VIEW (reflections): THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 8.

The Spiritual Combat

Chapter 8: Of the hindrances to a Right Discernment of Things, and of the method to be adopted in order to understand them properly
(text below) (click for full book)

The famous expression “If it feels good, do it.”  This chapter cuts that down, fast.  Our guide teaches us that if we are ruled by our inclinations we will surely be led astray.  This chapter cuts prophetically into the culture of today, which elevates the following of inclinations and shies away from evaluating things in the light of known truths.  The good of sensed or felt pleasure is placed above the good of truth.

The example of a child is helpful in this regard.  A child is a slave of inclination and will cry out to be satisfied.  The role of the parent is not to satisfy the child simply to satisfy the child, but to lead the child to that which is actually good for the child.  This takes a long time, and experience has shown that many parents give up the fight over time, tired of trying over and over to train the child.

And so it is with our inclinations.  They will cry out and cry out, but our guide encourages us to train them according to that which is actually good, rather than that which is seemingly good.

Again, human resources are put in their proper place, and Scupoli gives us the true tools for this endeavor, grace and prayer.    The light of the Holy Spirit will assist us to look into the truth of things presented to us.  The word of the Lord to Samuel, when Samuel was to find David as the anointed one, assists our understanding of this chapeter: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).  This prophetic word is regarding the outward appearance of man, but it is also helpful for the evaluation of all things.  We need to see all things in the way that God wants them to be seen, the way that He sees them.  And so, we are to stop evaluating things according to their appearance, their first impression upon us, but we must come to see them as they truly are, with a purified understanding of their true worth.

Chapter 8 text:

The cause of our not rightly discerning all these things and many others is, that we conceive a love or hatred of them at first sight. Our understanding is thus darkened, so that it cannot judge of them correctly.

Lest you fall into this delusion, take all possible care to keep your will pure and free from inordinate affection for any thing whatsoever.

When any object, then, is presented to you, view it with your understanding; and consider it maturely before you are moved by hatred to reject it, if it be a thing contrary to your inclinations, or by love to desire it, if it be pleasing to them.

For thus the understanding, being unclouded by passion, will be free and clear, and able to perceive the truth, and to discern the evil which lurks behind delusive pleasure and the good which is veiled under the appearance of evil.

But if the will be first inclined to love or hate any thing, the understanding will be unable to exercise a right judgment upon it. For the affection which has thus intruded itself so obscures the understanding, that it views the object as other than it is, and by thus representing it to the will, influences that faculty, in contradiction to every law and rule of reason, to love or hate it inordinately. The understanding is gradually darkened more and more, and in this deepening obscurity the object appears more and more hateful or lovely to the will.

Hence, if this most important rule be not observed, these two faculties, the understanding and the will, noble and excellent as they are, will soon sink in a miserable descent from darkness into thicker darkness, and from error into deeper error.

Guard yourself most vigilantly, then, from all inordinate affection for anything whatever, until you have first tested it by the light of the understanding, and chiefly by that of grace and prayer, and by the judgment of your spiritual father.

And this is to be observed most carefully with regard to such outward works as are good and holy, because the danger is greatest here of delusion and indiscretion.

Hence you may here receive serious injury from some circumstance of time, or place, or degree, or regarding obedience; as has been proved by many, who have incurred great danger in the performance of commendable and holy exercises.

NEXT:

Chapter 9: Of another danger from which the Understanding must be guarded…

Magnifying God

One night in worship, a song’s lyrics went like this:

We will magnify, We will magnify the Lord enthroned in Zion.

I was completely distracted by the word magnify.  I don’t know what it means!  I mean, I know what it means, but I couldn’t think of a tight definition at the time.  What does it mean to magnify God?  It led to a beautiful reflection.

After Mary greeted Elizabeth, she sang a song.  For centuries that song’s name has been called the Magnificat:  My soul MAGNIFIES the Lord.  What does it mean?

Think of the tool named for the word: a magnifying glass.  It makes things appear bigger.  It allows the viewer to see the object with more detail.

Think of a telescope.  It brings things that are barely recognizable into easy viewing.

Think of a microscope, and the tiny little object on the viewing glass.

We see the object as a whole.  As we zoom in, the object takes up more of the lens.  We are able to see the details of the object so much more clearly.  As we zoom in further, we can’t even see the whole object anymore, but we are able to see so many intricacies and aspects of the object.  The object is now too much for us to see all at once and has filled our entire vision.

So with God.  We can understand God as God.  And from a distance, God is God.  But what does that mean?  As we begin to zoom in on God in prayer, He comes into view and we begin to see Him as He is, a much bigger reality than how it may have seemed at first glance.  As we zoom in on Him, we begin to see so many of His attributes and qualities – His grace – His goodness – His mercy – His providing – His love – His patience.

All of these qualities begin to fill our vision and our lives. The thoughts we have used to think of other things we now use to think of Him and He is magnified.  The words we have used to speak of other things we now can use to speak of Him and He is magnified.    The actions we have used to do other things we now use for Him and He is magnified.  The praise that we have given to other people or things we now give to Him and He is magnified.

God doesn’t get bigger (magnified) over time; He is already infinite.  However, He does get bigger (magnified) over time, by becoming bigger (magnified) in our lives – our thoughts, words, actions, and praise.

God’s Desire for Our Desire / 3 Songs to Help

The typical young adult is not thinking about eternity all that often.  The question of the individual human’s ultimate destiny is not usually at the foreground of the mind.  Lots of important questions are there, and even more not-at-all important questions are there.  Precisely because we are busy, active, bombarded, and in a hurry, we need to keep an eternal perspective.  What is God’s desire for us?  What is our response to look like?

Three songs, three movements.  God wants our decision for Him.  We must recognize our need.  We must offer ourselves to Him.

Forever – Ben Harper

This song shows us the eternal perspective we must keep in view: God wants our forever, and we wants God’s forever.

Lord, I Need You – Matt Maher

This song is our response to the forever that we recognize our need for.  God is the only One who can give it.

Here is My Heart – Kim Walker

Having recognized the forever we are meant for, and acknowledging our need for God to give it to us, this is our response, our life!

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