Monday, March 5, 2012

On Lack of Devotion: Stick It Out!

More from The Imitation of Christ, St. Thomas a Kempis:

"Christ: ... Do not depend too much on such feelings of devotion which can quickly change into the opposite. When you have this great gift, think how wretched and poor you are without it. Progress in the spiritual life does not consist in having this grace of devotion, but rather in bearing the withdrawal and the absence of it humbly and patiently, without ceasing to pray or leaving your accustomed good works undone.

Do the best you can according to your ability; attend to your soul and do not be negligent in your duties because of dryness or any mental anxiety you may feel.  (3.7.1.)
Some imprudent people, through an indiscreet desire to have the grace of devotion, have damaged themselves, for they wished to do more than they were able. Not taking into account the limit of their gift or their own weakness, they chose to follow their own inclinations rather than good judgment; and because they presumed to undertake more than was pleasing to God, they soon lost the grace they already had.  (3.7.2.)"

          Such wisdom is very important for us to remember, as we journey not only through this season of Lent, but also through the rest of our lives, as struggling followers of Christ.  We must not rely on the "feeling" of success that we may feel when we are following the Commandments of the Lord, and walking in His way; if all that spurs us on is this fleeting feeling, then we are not truly in a place where we love God for His sake, and desire to follow Him for Himself.  Rather, we may still be in the bondage to ourselves, slaves to our passions and needing to feel affirmation or else give up on the endeavor entirely simply because we depend so much on feeling good, such as little children often do.  The remedy is to plow on, in spite of our confusion, doubt, and trials.

         Oftentimes, we overestimate our abilities in our fervor, and this drive ourselves to spiritual ruin upon the rocks.  We do all have our purposes in life, but we must strive to find what they are, and not attempt to attain things which are beyond our power:  Some are called to be like Mother Theresa or Fulton Sheen; but most are called to live out the Gospel in much smaller ways.  To us the ordinary life may seem insignificant, and thus we desire to become more like such examples, but to strive for that to which we are not called is folly, and it is no wonder that we shall fail!

          For myself, though, the most convicting passage of today was:  "They are far from being virtuous, who, in time of trouble or adversity, give themselves up to despondency and do not place their confidence in Me as they ought. (3.7.3.)"  Most of the time, it is a blessing to live in the present as much as I do.  The past is over, and most people don't remember it anyway, and the future is basically unknown, so why bother trying to make plans?  The downside to living so much in the present is my inability, at times, to see that things will change; oftentimes I find myself in a rut, thinking that this perceived misery I'm in will never end - just go on and on, and I don't know how I will ever make it through.  

          So much work ahead of me, Lord, and my blind eyes can so no path to walk.  I wish to desire, I do desire to follow You and trust in You, but my will is weak, and I falter and despair of ever attaining the End.  Jesus, help me to trust in You, for everything else leads to failure without You. 

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