Several years back, a friend and I were talking about making a certain purchase. I made the comment that I wait to buy things until I first earn the money to spend it. An honest conversation ensued as my friend was unable to envision that. It was completely foreign to them. I explained that we may possess something, but it isn’t ours until we pay the price for it.
Jesus paid the price for us so that God could possess us by us possessing more of Him within us.
In the desert, tiny fires will ignite as a dry bush or plant spontaneously combusts from the heat. As the bush is consumed, it dies out due to a lack of fuel. To the human eye, these appear unrelated incidents, but they are not. Each plant is part of that area’s ecosystem, affecting the life around it. They share the same conditions necessary to cause the spontaneous combustion.
We are seeing this in our world today. The depraved spiritual condition has dried up many human hearts. Murder by abortion and euthanasia, narcissistic self-‘medication’ through materialism, destruction of human identity through gender politics, numbing pain through legalized marijuana, Catholics being martyred for their faith…the conditions for combustion are shared worldwide, permeating every culture. Sensationalism and hype in the media provide the channel to deliver ‘fuel’ to keep the fires going and to start ones anew. What are pronounced as isolated incidents due to their unrelated human causes are, in fact, spiritually related.
Of course, we are in the season of reaping rewards from Jesus’ paying the price for us. He explained that He must leave in order to send His Spirit down to us. This Sunday, it comes to fruition. In the time of Moses, 3000 souls were lost to worshipping idols on the Jewish Feast of Harvest (Pentecost) (Exod 23:14). While Moses was with God on Mount Sinai receiving the tablets in which God Himself wrote the commandments of our Covenant with Him, the people below were worshiping idols. Moses instructed the Levites to find and kill the idol worshippers, which totaled 3000 (Ex. 32:28). They determined this by having the people drink of the water from which the golden calf had come; the bellies swelled of those who had worshipped (Num 5:21-23). For the Jews, Pentecost was both a joy of receiving the covenant while also a sad memorial of this infidelity and death. Through the power of the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus, God redeems anew 3000 souls who choose to turn away from their idols and respond to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Rather than tablets, the new covenant is written upon the hearts of those who accept it (Jer 31:31-33).
They still have much to learn of God, and far to go in developing that relationship, but they have taken the first step.
We too are graced with these Gifts of the Holy Spirit being infused into our soul at Baptism and enlivened in confirmation. But they lie dormant, waiting for us to respond to the Spirit within us. It is this Spirit that gives us the desire to virtuous thinking and acting. With each better-good choice, and denial of the lesser-good choice, that virtue is engrained just a bit more into the soul. Once willing to make this our habit, God builds upon that with his 7 Gifts: Wisdom, Understanding Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear/Awe of the Lord.
We must choose to honestly imitate Him and not just go through the motions. Therein lies precisely the difference between Judas Iscariot and the other 11. After all, Judas wasn’t born in denial of God’s mercy. He would have grown into that depraved state one choice at a time.
Fast forward to the others, now at Pentecost, they didn’t just speak what they thought was right and necessary based on their knowledge. After all, Jesus had taught what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart and this defiles a man (Mt 15:18).
‘Among those who have become My trusted servants there are some who serve Me with faith, without servile fear, it is not the mere fear of punishment, but love which attaches them to My service (thus Peter before the Passion). But this love is still imperfect, because what they seek in My service (at any rate to a great extent) is their own profit, their own satisfaction, or the pleasure that they find in Me. The same imperfection is found in the love which they bear towards their neighbour.’ (Our Lord to St. Catherine of Siena)
In the Three Ways of the Spiritual Life, Fr. Garrigou Lagrange explains how the apostles grew in the spiritual life, using St. John of the Cross’ explanation of it, St. Augustine’s teaching of the Apostle’s conversions, and revelations of the Lord to St. Catherine of Siena, all doctors of the church[i]. The apostles had already experienced the purgation needed to prepare them for this paradigm shift (Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius week 1). Yet people remain very imperfect, seeking God for their own benefit. They continue making the lesser-good choices (Sp. Ex. 142 vs. 146); St. Ignatius would deem them the 2nd class of men (Sp. Ex. 154). And while they may have achieved strength on their own part to avoid mortal sin (Sp. Ex. 165) and so look ‘holy’, they have much farther to go in true virtue. It is living with Jesus in adoration of Him, allowing Him to teach them, observing and following His manner of thinking and doing, that they grow in virtue. They permit themselves to be transformed, including the dark night of the senses that this entails. They begin interior union with God, that is having more of His presence within them (the illuminative way; Sp. Ex. Weeks 2 & 3). He “opened their minds to understand” (the 2nd highest gift of the Spirit; Lk 24:45) Once Jesus ascends, they are sensibly withdrawn from Him completely, and still without a full understanding of His kingdom (Acts 1:6) they are “correspondingly anxious, says St. Augustine”. Garrigou Lagrange summarizes saints teaching this as their Dark Night of the Spirit, leading to their more habitual union with God received at Pentecost.
One choice at a time, they disposed themselves to God’s transforming grace. By His grace, their souls were purified and healed. They didn’t just listen to Jesus for three years, deciding what ‘resonates’ and what they can ‘buy into’. They literally lived with Grace Himself, in Grace Himself, and allowed Him to transform them. This is precisely what He seeks of us.
We think of peace as an adjective. Peace is a noun. It is a person, God. By our Baptism, we are daughters and sons of Peace.
Mary, Mother of Peace, teach us to be receptive of Him so that, through us, Peace may reside in this world once again.
Please continue to pray for Pope Francis, all clergy and religious, and the worldwide Church especially those receiving the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation! May we all experience the true interior freedom of Peace Himself:
“When He, the seven-fold Spirit, and the soul of an order more elevated and really divine informs us, His possession is in no way an intrusion nor is His motion and direction in an external and violent imposition. In reality these influences of the Spirit are intimate, vivifying, and autonomous, so that He who is the reason of our reason and the life of our soul is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves. So it is that under His action we feel more free and active than ever.” (Servant of God Rev. John Arintero OP[ii])