Of Other Benefits and Advantages That There Are in This Conformity to the Will of God

by admin on January 2, 2012

ANOTHER great benefit and advantage that there is in this practice is that this entire conformity and resigna­tion to the will of God is one of the best and principal dispositions that we can bring on our part for the Lord to do us favors and fill us with good things. Thus, when God our Lord chose to make of St. Paul, who had been a persecutor of Christians, a preacher of the Gospel, he first disposed him and brought him over to this disposition. He sent a great light from heaven, which threw him from his horse, and opened the eyes of his soul and made him say: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? (Acts ix. 6). See me, O Lord, like a little clay in Thy hands, that Thou may make of me what Thou wilt. And so God made of him a chosen vessel, to carry and spread His name all the world over.

Of the holy virgin Gertrude we read that God told her: “Whoever desires that I should come to dwell in him with­out reserve, must hand over to Me the key of his own will and never ask it back again.” For this our Father sets down this resignation and indifference as the principal dis­position to receive great favors from God, and wishes everyone to have it who enters on the Exercises; and this is the foundation which he lays at the commencement of them, that we should be indifferent and detached from all things of the world, not desiring rather this than that, but desir­ing in all that the will of God may be accomplished arid done in us. And in the rules and annotations which he puts to help as well him who gives the Exercises as him who makes them, he says: “It will be a very great help for him who makes the Exercises to entrust and offer himself freely and in all to the hands of God, that God may make of him and his whatsoever shall please Him.” And the reason of this being such a great disposition and means for the Lord to do us favors, is that on the one hand our way is thereby made clear of the lets and hindrances that may arise out of our evil affections and desires; and on the other hand the more a man trusts in God, putting himself entirely in His hands and not seeking anything except what He wills, the more God is obliged to look after him and all that concerns him.

In another way also this conformity to the will of God is a very effectual means for acquiring and gaining all vir­tues, since these are acquired by the exercise of their acts. This is the natural way to acquire habits, and in this man­ner God wills to give us virtue, for He wishes works of grace to be done in accordance with works of nature. Exercise yourself, then, in this resignation and conformity to the will of God, and in this manner you will exercise yourself in all virtues and so you will come to gain them all. Some­times you will be offered occasions of humility, at other times of obedience, at others of poverty, at others of patience, and so of the rest of the virtues. And the more you exercise yourself in this resignation and conformity to the will of God and the more you grow and perfect yourself in it, the more will you grow and become perfect in all vir­tues. Unite thyself with God and endure, that as time goeth on thou mayest grow and thrive in thy life (Ecclus. ii. 3). Unite thyself to God, conform thyself in all to His will. Fasten thyself upon God (conglutinare Deo), says another version, and in this way you will grow and improve much. To this end the masters of spiritual life advise us—and it is marvelous good advice—to fix our eyes on some higher virtue which includes in itself the rest, and aim at that chiefly in meditation, and direct our examen and all our exercises thereto; for by fixing our eyes on one thing, it is easier to compass it; and, that gained, all is gained. Now one of the chief things upon which we can fix our eyes for this purpose is this entire resignation and conformity to the will of God. Thus meditation and examen will be employed upon it even though we spend on it many years, aye, and our whole life. On those words of the Apostle St. Paul, Lord, what will thou have me to do? (Acts ix. 6), St. Bernard cries: “O short speech, but full; it embraces all, it leaves nothing out: Lord, what will thou have me to do? Brief speech, but compendious; living, effectual, and wor­thy of all admiration.” If, then, you are seeking a brief and compendious lesson in the gaining of perfection, here it is: Lord, what will thou have me to do? And with the prophet: My heart is ready, 0 Lord, my heart is ready, dis­posed and prepared for all that thou requires of me (Psalm Ivi. 8). Keep this ever in your mouth and in your heart; and in proportion as you grow in it, you will grow in per­fection.

There is also another good point and advantage in this exercise; it is that we may draw from it an excellent remedy against a certain sort and manner of temptations which often occur. The devil contrives at times to disturb us with temptations of conditional suppositions and questions. “If the other fellow said this, what would you reply?” “If that were to happen, what would you do?” “How would you behave in such and such a case?” And, being the sub­tle opponent that he is, he puts things in such a way that, whichever side we take, we seem to find ourselves in a hole, and we cannot hit upon a way out, finding a snare set wherever we turn. Nor does the devil care whether the allegation he uses to catch us be true or mere camouflage and fiction. His trick being to draw a man into some evil consent, it is all one to him what instrument he uses. In these temptations they commonly say that one is not obliged to answer either Yes or No; rather it is better not to answer at all. This advice is especially suitable for scrupulous people, since once they begin to bandy words with the devil and go into question and answer with him, they are doing just what he wants, for he will be never at a loss for something to answer back; and the best to be expected for men coming out of the skirmish is that they shall come out with a broken head.

But there is an answer that I find good and profitable for these temptations, and I think it is better to give this answer than not to answer at all. It is what we have just been saying. To any one of these posers one may answer with eyes shut: “If that is the will of God, I want it;” “I should wish in that case to do what God might wish;” “I refer myself in all to the will of God;” “I would do therein whatever might be my duty;” “The Lord would give me grace not to offend Him in that matter, but that I might do what was His will.” This is a general answer, meeting every requirement; and there is no difficulty, but much facility, in thus sticking to generalities. “If it is the will of God, it is good;” “If it is the will of God, it is the better thing;” “If it is the will of God, it is that which better suits me.” I may in all security plant my feet on the will of God and say all these things; and thereby the devil will be handsomely made game of and put to shame, and we shall be well satisfied and encouraged by the victory. As in temptations against faith we are advised—scrupulous peo­ple in particular—not to answer in detail, but to say in gen­eral : “I hold and believe all that Holy Mother Church holds and believes,” so in these temptations it is a good remedy not to answer in detail, but to betake ourselves to the will of God, which is sovereignly just and perfect.

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