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Thursday, February 18, 2010

O Happy Fault

I think I fully realized this morning one of my biggest struggles in the spiritual life:   it's backwards. I have it COMPLETELY backwards.

Every morning I wake up with a sense of regret that I cannot shake. I'm repentent of my sin and as I rise, I know I need to do better and resolve, that day, to overcome this or that sin (or at least make SOME kind of effort to avoid it!). 

But then I slip again, maybe several times, and by the time I reach the end of the day, I've actually come to the point of "giving up."  I maybe give in to the sin completely, maybe even set myself up for failure. I quite literally go from "I'm not doing that again!" to a sense of apathy toward it.  Maybe even if it was not deliberately done earlier in the day, but the end I may be actually CHOOSING deliberate sin!

Then I remember the grace of the Sacrament of Confession and wonder...should I even go? I must not be truly repentent! And I feel guilty for my presumption upon God's mercy.  Thankfully, that's when I recall the words of St. Catherine of Siena, in the revelation of God to her; that while presumption is a grave sin, it keeps the door open to His mercy! 

God's generosity is absolutely scandalous!

Already it is the day after Ash Wednesday and I have failed in one of my resolves. Yet, this new and interesting revelation of my backwards spiritual life maybe means I need to change or adapt my resolves a little bit. It's a new perspective, and maybe something I can actually change over these 40 days. 

As I pondered this morning, I realized that perhaps THIS is why we begin this season with a day of fasting. In the emptiness of our stomachs we are assailed by the temptations of the flesh, the very things we need to overcome. It is a spiritual battle, but also a battle with our own deformed wills that reveals the way we've trained our own intellects to choose things over the God who loves us so much.  In recognizing what we desire to fill our emptiness, we enter the season with more clarity, perhaps learning more about what GOD desires us to work on.

It is a time of suffering, something we have the freedom to choose, but not for the sake of suffering itself. Rather, it is a chance to recognize our own weaknesses so that we can invite Christ into them and allow Him to transform us.  Only HE can break the chains that bind us....and only if we give Him permission to do so. Our Lenten penances are in and of themselves acts of sacrifice love, a giving of ourselves to the Lord, seeking to be free from an earthly attachment that may keep us from growing closer to him.

I am grateful for the generosity of God, for without it, I would have been lost long ago. Although I'm starting this season of Lent with an early failure, there is hope, even if my hope comes at the cost of presumption, it is better than giving up and closing the door to the sacrificial love that begets mercy.

O happy fault....

Helpful advice to all from St. Francis de Sales as we begin Lent:

"Have patience with all things,
but chiefly have patience with yourself.
Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections,
but instantly set about remedying them
- every day begin the task anew."


nazareth priest said...

God knows...He let us "slip" so we can return to Him with greater love and gratitude.
Just keep on "keepin' on"...I know; sometimes our pride and self-love wants us to feel "guilty"...but God only wants our love and abandonment.
St. Francis de Sales is a great guild. We should listen to him.

Paul in the GNW said...

Thanks for posting this. I can't tell you how often I've shared this struggle. Lately I've been having a good stretch spiritually. Like riding a bike on a sunny day with the wind at my back. Don't know how long it will last.

It started shortly after I wrote my post about St. Therese of L. and her advice to novice re: purgatory: Love - just love God and you'll never have to worry about purgatory. She said that worrying about purgatory was offensive to God. Also Thomas Kempis says similar in the "Imitation of Christ" - "How would you act if you knew your salvation was assured?" "Then just act that way and it will be so"

Anyway - that's not the secret to my current stretch - or at least the start of it. In the past I've prayed for Faith - and received it in abundance. It never before occurred to me to pray for LOVE.

So I've been praying God help me to Love you more! I haven't even been praying to love others more just Jesus and God. And asking Mary to teach me to Love Jesus more.

And wow! It's been the best few weeks I've had spiritually in a long time. Please remind me of this in a month or so when I'm cranky and complaining again.