Lent: For Love of God
Often, after someone’s death, friends of the deceased will express their hope that the departed is now joyfully reunited with his loved ones who have gone before. This is no doubt a great joy of Heaven, and one to eagerly anticipate. But, we are told, it is an ancillary, or subsidiary joy --- a bonus of sorts. The surpassing joy is mystical union with God who is love, the Beatific Vision, seeing God “face to face.” (1 Cor 13:12)
Jesus, in Matthew 22:37-38, says that the “greatest and first commandment” is to “…love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind.” St. John wrote “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) Fr. J.P. Arendzen (1873-1954) wrote “…Heaven is the romance, the never ending love story of the soul and God.”
St. Teresa of Avila briefly experienced this mystical union while alive. This is portrayed in the photo, below, of a sculpture by Bernini called "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa.”
St. Teresa wrote: “I saw in his (the angel’s) hand a long spear of gold and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to be thrusting it at times into my heart…
when he drew it out, he seemed… to leave me all on fire with a great love of God… The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God.”
This prompts the question: How does one grow in love of God?
St. Francis de Sales, in Introduction to the Devout Life (chap. IX), says we should be thankful that God created us --- “out of nothing --- out of His own pure goodness --- capable of eternal life and of being perfectly united with His divine majesty.” The late Fr. Mark Dosh recommended meditating on the passion of Christ (Mat:26-27, Mark:14-15, Luke:22-23 and John:18-19). Father Tilmann Pesch, S.J. (1836-1899) in his book The Catholic’s Manual, wrote: “Always bear in mind that you are God’s own... You were created, redeemed and sanctified by God; you are, therefore, thrice the property of the Holy Trinity --- is it asking too much that you should live for Christ, when He died for you?” (Emphasis added)
The purpose of Lent is to help us grow in love of God, by meditating on the love He has shown us, thanking Him, and loving Him in return: to live for Christ. Jesus has told us how to do this: “If you love me, keep my commandments… Deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow me.” (John:14-15 and Mat 16:24)
During Lent, we can pray to God, asking Him to show us how to love Him more, to make us vividly aware of our sins, so that we might repent and amend our lives. We can fast, as a way of “taking up the cross” and making satisfaction for our personal sins or the sins of others, and as a means of strengthening the will, or self-mastery. We can practice almsgiving and fight against our tendency to selfishness by freely giving of our time and money to others. There are still other things we can do: manage our time well; practice custody of the eyes and custody of the tongue; forgive what others may have done to us. Practice patience, offer up sufferings and remain cheerful. Don’t complain: instead, find positive things to say. “A pure heart and a cheerful temper are nowhere out of place.”
St. Augustine wrote: “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.” God is infinitely beautiful, infinitely interesting, and infinitely lovable. Lent, well spent, will help us fulfill the purpose for which we were created.
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Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam