Friday, March 17, 2006

Second Week of Lent. "Divine Intimacy" by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen OCD

On 'Imperfections'
PRESENCE OF GOD - O my God, make me understand how necessary it is for the soul to be pure in order to be united to You who are infinite Perfection!
1. While venial sin always consists in a more or less slight transgression of one of God's laws, imperfection is the omission of some good act to which we are not obliged by any law, but one which charity invites us to do. To illustrate: when I am aware of the possibility of performing a better act suited to my state, in accord with my actual capabilities, in harmony with my duties, and for the accomplishment of which I may reasonably believe that I am inspired by the Holy Spirit, I cannot deliberately refuse to do it without real actual imperfection. In this case, refusal to perform a better act cannot be judged to be good, nor can it be justified by the thought that I am free to omit this better action since no law or commandment obliges me. This would be an abuse of that liberty which was given me my God for the sole purpose of making me capable of adhering to the good, uninfluenced by my passions. In fact, in the last analysis, my refusal to perform the better act always implies a lack of generosity, motivated by a little selfishness, laziness, meanness, or fondness for my own comfort, all of which are evidently contrary to perfection. Viewed from this angle, it is clear that voluntary imperfection can never be conformable to the will of God, and that consequently, like sin, it is contrary to charity which tends to full conformity with the divine will. Hence, it is important for a soul striving for union with God to eliminate from its conduct every voluntary imperfection. In this sense, St. John of the Cross admonishes us: "For the soul to come to unite itself perfectly with God through love and must not intentionally and knowingly consent with the will to imperfections." Furthermore, he teaches that attachment to even one habitual voluntary imperfection suffices to impede the soul" not only from divine union, but also from progress in perfection" (AS I, 11,3).

2. If we wish to go into further detail, we can think of other types of imperfection. Let us consider, first of all, the breaking of a law which of itself does not bind us under pain of sin, as is generally the case with the Constitutions or Statutes of the various Religious Orders and Institutes. In this respect we must note that if there is no reasonable motive - proportionate and sufficient - exempt us from one of these laws, these transgressions may very easily become venial sins through the absence of a morally good end. Indeed, St. Thomas teaches that man is always bound to act through a reasonable motive and for a good end. If the end is vitiated - as would be the case, for example, in breaking the rule of silence, of solitude, or of religious modesty, through curiosity, through regarding one's own convenience, or similar motives - the act becomes sinful; and in general there will be a question of "sin, at least slight ones, such as spiritual sloth, inconstancy, ingratitude, and a certain hardness of heart which does not sufficiently esteem the help God gives us to do better" (Salamanticenses). Another form of imperfection is found in a certain lack of completeness in an act which is substantially good, but which is done, for example, with some reluctance, or without putting into it all the good will and fervour of spirit of which we are capable.
Every kind of imperfection in fact always comes from a want of effort, energy, and fervour in the spiritual life. It is always selfishness which, in one way or another, takes something away from God to satisfy the ego. We are too calculating, afraid of giving too much, and so selfishness clips our wings and keeps us from reaching full union with God.
Grant me , I beg You, O my God, a strong, generous charity, capable of destroying my selfishness down to its very roots. Oh! How well I understand that this self-love is the cause of so many of my little infidelities, of so many imperfections into which I habitually fall and which I do not take care to correct, under the pretext that they are not sins!
These faults, however, are not without importance to a soul consecrated to You and bound to strive for perfection, to a soul called by You to sanctity and one whom You invite to complete union with Yourself. How can I pretend to be united to You, infinite Perfection, if I voluntarily commit so many and such great imperfections in my life? How can my will be entirely conformed to Yours, when I desire and love things that You do not desire and absolutely cannot love? O Lord, I feel the weight of my egoism which drags me down.....You who are infinite charity, consuming fire, kindle in my soul a spark of Your love that will destroy and consume my selfishness. If self-love is the weight which slows my progress toward You, grant that Your love will be a weight still heavier to draw me incessantly to You through a total gift of self, without reserve or limit.