The Heavenly Attitudes

The mystery of receiving God’s love is to fully experience … the infinite love God has for each one of us, along with an equally experiential awareness of our uniqueness, and smallness.

 

St. Faustina and St. Catherine of Siena

The human desire for everything that is positive is planted by God in our souls. The deepest desires of the human heart are for truth, justice, love, goodness, and beauty. When we are alone in a moment of silence, we can reflect on the key questions which confront us about the meaning of life: Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? Why is there suffering? What will happen when I die? To confront these questions, throughout our lifetime, is to fulfill what it means to be human. To avoid thinking at all about these questions, is to fill up our day with every possible distraction. These distractions may become our attachments, where we have replaced any thoughts about the existence of God, with other “gods.” We are what we think. If we invest all our thoughts into money, power, sex, and fashion, then these will become our “gods.”

The desire to seek the truth, and an answer to the questions of good and evil, is a natural human reaction to the obvious injustices in the world that stare us in the face. For instance, there is the problem of the inordinate wealth of the rich, and how these very few could feed the vast millions who live in poverty around the world. Our quest for the answers to how people commit the most horrendous acts of evil, and the apparent meaninglessness of suffering, is to search for the truth in Jesus Christ, discovering that Our Saviour is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Our search for what is right and truthful in life, is the beginning of our search for the truth in Jesus Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that: “Happy are those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied” (Mt 5:6).

In discovering the truth in Jesus Christ, we will no longer thirst as “anyone who drinks the water I shall give, will never be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14). In discovering this truth in Christ, we will also discover the law of love. This law is born from the inexhaustible fruits of his passion, where the depth of suffering he endured enables us to discover the immensity of his Father’s love for each one of us. The fruits of Our Lord’s passion are available to us all if we remain united to him in grace. We will no longer ever thirst for the truth as we will “share in the divine nature” (Pet 2:4). This is to follow the law of love.

The law of fear was the Old Law that I gave to Moses. It was built on fear alone: Whoever sinned suffered the penalty. The law of love is the New Law given by the Word, my only-be-gotten Son. It is built on love. The old Law was not dissolved by the New, but fulfilled. This is what my Truth said: “I have come not to destroy the Law but to fulfill it”. He thus joined the law of fear with that of love. The imperfectness of the fear of suffering was taken away by love, and what remained was the perfection of holy fear, that is, fear simply of sinning, not because of personal damnation but because sin is an insult to me, supreme Goodness. So the imperfect law was made perfect by the law of love. 1

To discover the goodness and love of God is to begin to not want to offend him, because of these very qualities. It is to fear sinning “because it is an insult to” him. If God has an infinite care and concern for the salvation of each soul, then to fully discover this truth is to return his love to us with love. However, it is not possible to love God with the same love that he loves us. He loves us gratuitously. Because he created us out of his excess of love, we owe him love, having a duty to love him. We cannot love him with this same excessive love.  So, for this reason, we have been placed in the world with our neighbors so that the unconditional love we have for them is proof of our love for God.

I ask you to love me with the same love with which I love you. But for me you cannot do this, for I loved you without being loved. Whatever love you have for me you owe me, so you love me not gratuitously but out of duty, while I love you not out of duty but gratuitously. So you cannot give me the kind of love I ask of you. This is why I have put you among your neighbours: so that you can do for them what you cannot do for me-that is, love them without any concern for thanks and without looking for any profit for yourself. And whatever you do for them I will consider done for me.2

To love in an unconditional manner, is to love our neighbor “without any concern for thanks and without looking for any profit for yourself.” We never know in our lifetime how our actions are seen through the eyes of our eternal Father. He knows, and sees, all our efforts, desires, and intentions. The purity of intention that we strive for is a purity that is divine and heavenly. Just as we cannot create this purity of intention, so it is that the instigator and inspiration of all prayer is also God.

To pray is God’s inspiration, where his grace works secretly in our souls. We instinctively think on a human level that prayer is what we do, but it is what God does in us. To pray for ourselves, and for others, humanly speaking, makes little sense. God initiates this relationship where we are invited to cooperate, and respond, to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. To pray is to receive God’s love, where our souls can be continually expanded by an increase in receptiveness to his love. The mystery of receiving God’s love is to fully experience, in a living and experiential manner, the infinite love God has for each one of us, along with an equally experiential awareness of our uniqueness, and smallness. Then, when we are ready; we are shown our nothingness as God sees us, an experience both too painful, and well beyond what the majority of us could take in, on this journey to God.

We can read and digest in a logical and reasoned fashion the following: God created us in his own image and likeness to be transformed, through grace, to become one with him, gazing on him for all eternity. His great love for us is infinite, beyond all comprehension. If every person that was ever born loved us, this total love would amount to a drop in the infinite ocean of God’s love. If we were the only person who ever existed, Jesus would have suffered his passion just for us: “the Son of God who loved me and who sacrificed himself for my sake” (Gal 2:20).

O my Jesus, my only hope, thank you for the book which you have opened before my soul’s eyes. That book is your passion which you underwent for love of me. It is from this book, that I have learned how to love God, and souls. In this book, there are found for us inexhaustible treasures. O Jesus, how few souls understand you in your martyrdom of love! Oh, how great is the fire of purest love which burns in your most Sacred Heart! Happy the soul that has come to understand the love of the heart of Jesus! 3

Happy the soul that has come to understand the love of the heart of Jesus! To discover this love, is to begin to burn with the love of the angels and saints in heaven, who continually praise God, and plead to him for the salvation of mankind. This is the love that we are called to imitate. All the saints at some stage in their journey to heaven, whatever their vocational path, shared in the growing thirst of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the salvation of souls. The beginning of this journey is to grow in love of God, where we do not want to offend him. It is to begin to be sorrowful for having offended him, with true contrition and desire to do better. To truly be comforted in our mourning and sorrow, we are called to also grieve when we see others sinning, for: “Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted” (Mt 5:5).

The infinite sorrow God wills is two-fold: for the offense you yourself have committed against your Creator, and for the offense you see on your neighbor’s part. Because, those who have such sorrow, have infinite desire, and are one with me in loving affection (which is why they grieve when they sin or see others sinning), every suffering they bear from any source at all, in spirit or in body, is of infinite worth, and so satisfies for the offense that deserved an infinite penalty. True, these are finite deeds in finite time. But because their virtue is practiced, and their suffering borne with infinite desire and contrition and sorrow for sin, it has value. 4

The sorrow for the sins of others, and the harm they do to their own souls, and the offense it causes God, can create a burning hunger in us for the love of God being known by all mankind. Those who have this sorrow, as God the Father tells St. Catherine, “have infinite desire and are one with me in loving affection.” The living and experiential knowledge of knowing how precious the love of God is, can lead to the burning desire that souls be converted and saved,  so as to avoid eternal death through deadly sin. This desire and thirst for the salvation of souls is solely the work of grace, where the thirst of Christ on the cross for souls, is perpetually lived out until the last soul is safely home. The words of the Father to St. Catherine, speak of the intensity of her own desire, pointing to the power of her desire in calming his wrath.

But I have one remedy to calm my wrath: my servants who care enough to press me with their tears, and bind me with the chain of their desire. You see, you have bound me with that chain—and I myself gave you that chain, because I wanted to be merciful to the world. I put into my servants a hunger and longing for my honor, and the salvation of souls, so that I might be forced by their tears to soften the fury of my divine justice. 5

The sort of influence and power to so move God shown by St. Catherine is a power that is not known to the world. It is an otherworldly power born of true humility, where the gift of life and free will are moulded by the precious gift of faith and grace, so that St. Catherine, in her “hunger and longing” for God’s honor “and the salvation of souls,” truly lived and breathed the fact that: “For cut off from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). With all the grace that God could fill her soul with, she could calm the wrath of this same God, who gave her his own power; “and I myself gave you that chain.” To be full of grace is to reach the depths of humility, where, by being completely self-emptied and filled with the power of heaven, the soul imitates Mary, being full of grace, is the Queen of peace, reigning over the whole world. She continually appeals to the infinite mercy of God, and, therefore, appeases his wrath. True humility is to see, live, and breathe the entirety of our life as a precious and gratuitous gift from God. It is also to see all of God’s creation as a reflection of the heavenly kingdom. To truly inherit the earth in our exile is to hold it in our hands through the power of humility. “Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth as their heritage” (Mt 5:4). Of course, it is not our hands, but the hand of God through his grace, that holds it. Grace is truly the borrowed treasure from heaven. The power of one soul, full of this borrowed treasure, is enough to influence the destiny of the whole world.

O humility, love flower, I see how few souls possess you. Is it because you are so beautiful and at the same time so difficult to attain? O yes, it is both the one and the other. Even God takes great pleasure in her. The floodgates of heaven are open to a humble soul, and a sea of graces flows upon her. O how beautiful is a humble soul! From her heart, as from a censer, rises a varied, and most pleasing, fragrance which breaks through the skies, and reaches God himself, filling his most Sacred Heart with joy. God refuses nothing to such a soul; she is all-powerful and influences the destiny of the whole world. God raises such a soul up to his very throne, and the more she humbles herself, the more God stoops down to her, pursuing her with his graces and accompanying her at every moment with his omnipotence. Such a soul is most deeply united with God. O humility, strike deep roots in my whole being. O Virginh most pure, but also most humble, help me to attain deep humility. Now, I understand why there are so few saints; it is because so few souls are deeply humble. 6

To be deeply humble is to hold the power of heaven in one’s soul where “God refuses nothing,” where he “raises such a soul up to his very throne.” It is also to find enough of God for every living moment. To be possessed of God is to hold nothing of the earth, or of ourselves. To be poor in spirit is to be filled with heaven, emptied of all that is not God. “How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven”  (Mt 5:3). It is to live on him alone, and to will only what he wills. It is to see his hand in consolation, as well as adversity, in complete abandonment to his loving providence.

They serve me courageously, with no concern for themselves. In whatever they use in their lifetime for my honor, they are happy and find spiritual peace and quiet. Why? Because they chose to serve me, not in their own way, but in mine. So the time of consolation is worth as much to them as the time of trial; prosperity as much as adversity. The one is worth as much as the other because they find my will in everything, and they think of nothing but conforming themselves to that will, wherever they find it. 7

Just as virtue is tested by vice, so God permits evil in the world, to both provide greater opportunities for holiness, and virtue in his servants, who through their sufferings and persecutions also bring about the salvation of their persecutors. God only permits evil to draw a greater good, so in permitting evil he, in his infinite divine providence, brings about the salvation of mankind.

For I am your just God, and I give to all as they deserve. But ridicule and persecution and ingratitude do not make my servants slacken their pace; in fact, their concern and desire grow. What makes them knock with such hunger at the door of my mercy? My providence, for at one and the same time, I procure the salvation of these wretched, and increase my servants’ virtue and reward for their loving charity. 8

The reward for their loving charity will be fully revealed in the kingdom of heaven, for our Savior, in his Sermon on the Mount, taught: “Happy are those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10). The deep mystery of how God permits evil to draw a greater good is dimly seen here, where he permits his servants to be persecuted, as they slowly reflect the interior life of the Savior. As their persecutions intensify, so does their loving charity and desire for the salvation of those who are persecuting them also increase. They have the whole of heaven in their souls, living out the sigh of relief, and rejoicing, of the saints when they see a lost soul returning home. As they become more and more transformed into Our Lord, who suffered the deepest humiliations and persecutions possible, they bear a living witness to Jesus’words: “Happy are you when people abuse you, and persecute you, and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you” (Mt 5:11).

The beatitudes are truly the attitudes born from heaven. They are the ultimate paradoxes of living in this exile on earth. The living out of one of the beatitudes reflects, to a certain degree, the living out of all the others. Just as in heaven, all the saints are “all only one, all living and revelling in a life of joy, all interpenetrating and reflecting one another,” 9 the beatitudes also point to this living in one, and reflecting one another. To be living in union with God, is to be full of the peace and love of his heavenly kingdom. This is the essence of what it means to bring peace and love to others. If we are filled with the peace and love of heaven through our loving relationship with God, we will bring the heavenly peace, which will transform the face of the earth. As true adopted children of God, we will have within our souls the peace to bring relief to those in distress and sorrow: “Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5:9).

To reach down into someone else’s suffering, and transform it through an act of kindness, enriched with compassion and love, is to be merciful. God reached down into our own misery, and in giving his only begotten Son, transformed our misery through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, enabling us to “share in the divine nature” (Pet 2:4). We are called to imitate faintly the merciful love of our compassionate God. For “Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them” (Mt 5:7).

To have lived fully the attitudes of heaven while in exile is to share in the jubilation and gladness of the saints in heaven.  It is to rejoice amidst the sufferings and humiliations in union with Jesus, knowing experientially, that one day, we will rejoice over the souls, who were once our persecutors, but are now entering heaven. The continual desire to praise God— crying out to him for the salvation of all mankind—is a foretaste of our life in heaven. To have reached the heights of sanctity is to be one with God, a foretaste of seeing him in all his glory and majesty. It is to have truly become in our exile “holy and spotless” (Eph 1:4), fully prepared “to live through love in his presence” (Eph 1:4). The pure in heart live with Jesus, echoing the every heartbeat of the Father, in a continual cry for his glory, and the salvation of the entire human race, for “Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God” (Mt 5:8).The pure in heart contemplate the face of God.  In finishing their lives, they bring the bond of love with them—‘that bond is their forever and lasts eternally.”

For when a soul reaches eternal life, all share in her good, and she in theirs. Not that anyone’s vessel can get any larger, or have need of filling. They are all full, and can grow no larger. But they experience a new freshness in their exultation—a mirthfulness, a jubilation, a gladness—in knowing this soul. They see that by my mercy, she has been lifted up from the earth in the fullness of grace, and so they are exultant in me over the good that soul has received from my goodness. And that soul finds joy in me, and in all these souls and blessed spirits, seeing and tasting the sweetness of my love. Their desires are a continual cry to me for the salvation of others, for they finished their lives loving their neighbours, and they did not leave that love behind, but brought it with them when they passed through that gate which is my only-begotten Son. So, you see that, in whatever bond of love they finish their lives, that bond is there forever, and lasts eternally. 10

  1. Catherine of Siena The Dialogue: The Classics of Western Spirituality. Translated by Suzanne Noffke, O.P. Paulist Press New York, 1980, p112
  2. Ibid: p.121
  3. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My soul. Marian Press, Stockbridge MA Entry 1121 p141
  4. Catherine of Siena The Dialogue: The Classics of Western Spirituality. Translated by Suzanne Noffke, O.P. Paulist Press New York, 1980, p28
  5. Ibid: p54
  6. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My soul. Marian Press, Stockbridge MA Entry1306 p 469
  7. Catherine of Siena The Dialogue: The Classics of Western Spirituality. Translated by Suzanne Noffke, O.P. Paulist Press New York,p142
  8. Ibid: 298
  9. Very Rev. K. E. Schmoger, C.SS.R. The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich Volume 2, Tan Books and Publishers Inc 1976, p201
  10. Catherine of Siena The Dialogue: The Classics of Western Spirituality. Translated by Suzanne Noffke, O.P. Paulist Press New York, p83-84
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avatar About Brent Withers

Brent Withers is originally from New Zealand. He is now living in Farnborough, England, with his wife and two young children. He returned to the Catholic Church about seven years ago after being away for about twenty or so years. He has an MSc in Psychology. Presently, he is employed as a commissioning manager for mental health services in an inner London City borough.

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  2. [...] The Heavenly AttitudesThe human desire for everything that is positive is planted by God in our souls. The deepest desires of the human heart are for truth, justice, love, goodness, and beauty. When we are alone in a moment of silence, we can reflect on the key questions which confront us about the meaning of life: Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? Why is there suffering? What will happen when I die? To confront these questions, throughout our lifetime, is to fulfill what it means to be human. To avoid thinking at all about these questions, is to fill up our day with every possible distraction. These distractions may become our attachments, where we have replaced any thoughts about the existence of God, with other “gods.” We are what we think. If we invest all our thoughts into money, power, sex, and fashion, then these will become our “gods.”…more [...]

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