Monday, March 13, 2006

Second Week of Lent. "Divine Intimacy" by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen OCD.
On 'Conversion' - fragments
PRESENCE OF GOD - O Lord, You have created me for Yourself; grant that, with all my strength, I may tend toward You, my last end.
In the Epistle of the Mass (First Week of Lent - Monday) (Ez 34, 11-16), we read: For thus saith the Lord God: Behold I Myself will seek My sheep, and will visit them...and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day....I will bring them to their own land, and I will feed them in the mountains of Israel....There shall they rest on the green grass.". This is the program which the Lord wishes to accomplish in our souls during the holy season of Lent, in order to lead us by means of it to a life of higher perfection and in closer intimacy with Him. He streches out His hand to us, not only to save us from dangers, but also to help us climb to those higher places where He Himself will nourish us.
The point of departure which will make the realisation of this divine plan possible is a new conversion on our part: we must collect our powers, desires, and affections, which have been scattered and are lingering in the valley of the purely human: putting them all together, we must make them converge on God, our last end. In this sense, our Lenten conversion should consists in a generous determination to put ourselves more resolutely in the way of perfection. It means a new determination to become a saint. The desire for sanctity is the mainspring of the spiritual life; the more intense and real this desire is in us, the more it will urge us to pledge ourselves totally.....we must try to arouse and strengthen our resolution to become a saint. If other efforts in the past have been unsuccessful or have not entirely reached the goal, this is no reason for discouragement. Nunc coepi -"now have I began," or rather: "now I begin"; let us repeat it humbly, and may the experience of our past failures make us place our trust in God alone.....Sanctity is the end of spiritual life; that is why we must propose it to ourselves, not in a reduced, restricted manner, but in all its fullness - which speaks to us of intimate union with God, of the complete invasion of grace, and of entire conformity to the divine will, to the extent that it becomes the only motif of all our actions; for when the soul becomes totally purified of everything contrary to God's will, "then the Lord will communicate His supernatural Being to it, in such a way that it will seem to be God Himself and to have what God possess" (AS II, 5,7). Sanctity is the plenitude of love and grace: it is transformation in God by love, it is deification by grace. What measure of love and grace must we attain? That depends primarily on God's designs on our soul and then on our cooperation. Now on our part, the secret of reaching the goal is never to stop: first, because even if we were to grow in love indefinitely, we would never be able to love God as much as He is to be loved; secondly because we do not know to what degree of sanctity God is calling us. Furthermore, God does not let Himself be outdone in generosity, and the more we give ourselves to Him in the exercise of intense love, the more He will give Himself to us by grace. The measure of loving God is to love Him "without measure"; if we should not set a limit to love, neither should we set one to our conversion. The Lord said, "Be converted to Me with all your heart"(Jl 2,12). This is the indispensable condition for loving God with our whole heart. The cases where total conversion is reached in an instant by a very special grace are rare; ordinarily, we do not at it except by a daily progressive conversion. And if, in this conversion - as in the whole work of sanctification - the initiative is always from God, who prevents us with His grace, our cooperation is nevertheless required; hence we must strive every day with renewed diligence to "be converted to God with our all our heart." Let this be our program for Lent.
.......Grant, O Lord, by the infinite merits of Your passion, that I may be converted to You with all my heart. Do not permit me to be discouraged by the continual return of my egoistical tendencies, or by the incessant struggle which I must maintain against them. Make me clearly understand that, if I wish to be completely converted to You, I can never make peace with my weaknesses, my faults, my self-love, my pride. Make me understand that I must sacrifice everything to Your love, and even when I have sacrificed everything I must still say: "I am an unprofitable servant," O Lord, because everything is as nothing, compared with the love which You deserve, O infinitely lovable One!