GROWTH IN SPIRITUAL LIFE.
“Love for God is acquired through spiritual toil (St. John Paul II).”
Dear brethren in Christ, I have come across these passages from “In Conversation with God, vol 3., n. 22.2” by Francis Fernandez Carvajal which I recommend to you to meditate upon as they explain the reasons why scant progress is made in one’s spiritual life and their corresponding opposite to advance in one’s love for God and others.
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There are various reasons that cause us to make scant progress in the interior life, and even to lose ground and give way to discouragement. However, these reasons can be reduced to just a few: carelessness, negligence in little things connected with service to God and friendship with him; drawing back from the sacrifices He asks of us (cf R. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life).
- All we have to offer to God each day are little acts of faith and love. Petitions. Acts of thanksgiving during Holy Mass. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and being aware that we are going to meet Jesus Christ himself who is waiting for us… Our customary prayers throughout the day. Overcoming our shortcomings at work, answering people pleasantly, asking for things politely…
- Many little things done with love and for love comprise our treasure for this or that day, which we will carry with us into eternity. Our interior life is normally nourished by little things carried out with love and attention.
- To claim anything else would be to mistake our way, to find nothing or very little to offer to God. It is good for us to remember, Monsignor Escrivá points out, the story of that character imagined by a French author, who set out to hunt lions in the corridors of his home, and naturally did not find any. Our life is quite ordinary; trying to serve God in big things would be like trying to hunt lions in the corridor. Just like the huntsman in the story, we would end up empty-handed (J. Escrivá, Letter, 24 March 1930), with nothing to offer. We have the ordinary everyday things.
- Just as drops of water added to one another give life to the thirsty earth, so do our little deeds: a glance at an image of Our Lady, a word of encouragement for a friend, a reverent genuflection before the tabernacle, rejecting a distraction during our prayer, overcoming our laziness.
- All create good habits, virtues which enable the life of our soul to flourish. If we are faithful to these little acts, if we frequently renew our desire to please God, when something bigger arises for us to offer him such as an illness which is hard to bear or some failure at work, then, too, we will be able to gather fruit from what God has wanted or permitted. Then the words of Christ will be fulfilled: He who is faithful in very little is faithful also in much (cf Luke 16:10).
Another thing that causes us to regress in the life of the soul is refusing to accept the sacrifices that God asks of us (R. Garrigou-Lagrange, loc cit). Such sacrifices provide an opportunity for us to go against our own selfishness – always a sign of love. They show our determination to seek Christ throughout the day instead of seeking ourselves.
- Love for God is acquired through spiritual toil (John Paul II, Homily, 3 February 1980), through the effort and interest that is born, with the help of grace, in the depths of our soul. There can be no love, either human or divine, without this willing sacrifice.
- Love grows within us, and develops in the midst of our setbacks and the resistance each of us puts up to that love on the inside, and also grows and develops in the face of resistance from ‘the outside’, that is, despite the many external forces that are foreign and even hostile to it (ibidem). As Our Lord has promised us that the help of his grace will never fail us, it all depends on our correspondence with it, on our determination, on our willing to start time and again without getting discouraged. The more faithful we are to grace, the more help He gives us, the easier we will find it to follow the way. We will also find that more is being demanded of us: an even greater finesse in our soul. Love always calls for more love.