That an Excellent Means and a Very Great Preparation to Receive Favors from the Lord Is to Keep Up a Great Desire of Spiritual Improvement

by admin on February 6, 2011

IT is very important to keep up this desire and this hun­ger and thirst after our spiritual improvement, since it is one of the chief means and best dispositions that we can have on our part for the Lord to give us the virtue and per­fection that we desire. So St. Ambrose says that when a man has a great desire of his improvement and growth in virtue and perfection, God is so pleased therewith that He enriches and fills him with bounties and rewards; and he applies to this effect that which the most holy Virgin said in her canticle: He hath filled the hungry with good things (Luke i. 53); and the prophet in the psalm had said the same: He hath satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul he hath sated with good things (Psalm cvi. 9). Those that have such a strong desire of virtue and perfection as to hunger and thirst after the same, the Lord enriches with spiritual gifts because He takes great pleasure in the good desire of our heart. The angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel and told him that his prayers had been heard from the beginning, because thou art a man of desires (Dan. ix. 23). And to King David God confirmed the promise of the king­dom to go down to his descendants for the will and desire he had to build a house and temple unto the Lord—although He would not have him do so, but left it to his son Solomon. Nevertheless, He was well pleased with this desire and rewarded it as if he had put it in execution. And of Zach-eus the holy Gospel says that he desired to see Jesus, and was seen first by Jesus, and He invited Himself and entered in by the gates of his house (Luke xix. 5).

Solomon in the sixth chapter of Wisdom enlarges on this point further. Speaking of Wisdom, which is God Himself, he says: / easily let myself be seen by those who love me, and am found by those who seek me. Do you know how easily? She (Wisdom) herself goes before and an­ticipates them that desire her in earnest, to show herself first to them. You have no sooner begun to desire than she is with you. Fie that riseth early in the morning to seek her shall not have much labor in finding her, going here and there, for on opening the door of his house he shall find her sitting at his door in expectation of his opening it (Wis­dom vi. 13-15). The first object that he shall come across ift opening will be this divine Wisdom, which is God Him-aelf. Oh, bounty and infinite mercy of God! Not content with going to seek us and knocking at our door time after time for us to open—See I stand at the door and knock. He says in the Apocalypse (iii. 20), and in the Canticles, Open to   me  my   sister (v.   2)—not   content  with  that,   as though weary of knocking, God sits at our door, giving us to understand that He would have come in long ago had He not found the door locked.   Nevertheless He goes not away, but sits down there, so that on opening you may come upon Him at once.   Though you have been slow in opening your heart to God and answering His good inspiration, He, notwithstanding, has not gone away, but is much more eager to come in than that: there He is, sitting at the door, looking for you to open to Him.   The Lord waiteth to have mercy on you (Isaias xxx. 18).   Never does friend desire to enter into the house of his friend as God desires to enter into your heart.   He is more eager to impart Himself to us and do us favors than we can be to receive them.   He is waiting for us to desire it and have this hunger and thirst for it.   Let him that thirsteth come to me and drink (John vii. 37).   To him that thirsteth., I will give of the water of the fountain of life gratis (Apoc. xxi. 6).   The Lord wishes us to have a great desire of virtue and perfection, so that, when He gives us any of it, we may know how to esteem and preserve it as something very precious; for what is but little desired is commonly made little account of when it is attained.   One of the chief reasons why we thrive so little in virtue and lag so far behind in perfection, is that we have no hunger and thirst after it; we desire it so feebly and languidly that the desires we have seem rather dead than alive.

St. Bonaventure says that there are persons who have good purposes and desires and never succeed in overcoming themselves or doing any violence to themselves to put them in execution, according to that word of the Apostle: To will attends upon me, but to fulfil I do not see my way (Romans vii. 18). These in many cases are not true purposes or desires, but velleities; you fain would will, but will you do not. The sluggard willeth and ivilleth not, says the Wise Man. Desires are the death of the sluggard: his hands refuse to do any ivork: all day long he is yearning and desiring: it all goes in desires (Prov. xiii. 4; xxi. 25). Father Master Avila compares such people to those who fancy in their dreams that they are doing great exploits, and when they awake from sleep find they do just the oppo­site, according to Isaias (xxix. 8) : The hungry man dream-eth and eateth, but when he awaketh his soul is empty. So these people at prayer fancy that they desire to suffer and be despised and made small account of; but when they go out from a prayer, and the occasion offers, their behavior is all to the contrary; the fact is, they were dreaming all the while and those were no true desires. Others liken them to figures of soldiers worked on embroidery that are always holding their swords over the enemy and never come to deliver the blow, according to that saying of the prophet: Yea, a man passeth away like a shadow and apparition (Psalm xxxviii. 7). So some pass all their lives in threaten­ing without ever dealing a blow. The prophet Isaias lik­ens them to the woman that is in the pains of childbirth and never succeeds in bringing the babe to light: The chil­dren are come to the point of bringing forth, and there is no strength to bear them (Isaias xxxvii. 3). St. Gregory on those words of St. Matthew: Woe to them that are with child and are giving suck in those days (xxxiv. 19), says: “Woe to them that have not brought to light the good desires that they have conceived,” but have stifled within themselves the desires they had conceived, since never to bring our desires to the light of deeds is to stifle and slay them within the womb. Woe to them, for they pass all their life in desires, and death finds them without works; because hereafter not only shall the desires they had avail them naught, but they shall be chastised for not having carried into effect the good inspirations which the Lord gave them: their own children must turn against them, as they would have stood for them had they brought them to light.

Absalom was hung up by his golden and handsome tresses; so death shall come to many, and they shall be left hung up with their good and golden purposes.   The Apostle and Evangelist St. John in his Apocalypse (xii. 2) says that he saw a woman that was near her bringing forth, and hard by a huge dragon ready to devour the child new-born. That is what the devil aims at to the utmost of his power when the soul conceives some good purpose; and so it is neces­sary that we should try to the utmost of our power to make our desires such, and so effectual, that we may come to put them in practice.    This, says St. Bernard, is what the Prophet Isaias meant to say in these words so pithy and short: // ye seek, seek (Isaias xxi. 12).   He means: Be not slack, since true desires and purposes ought to be effectual and persevered in, and such as to make us endeavor, with solicitude and care, more and more to please God, according to that saying of the Prophet Micheas (vi. 8): / will show thee, 0 man, what is good, and what the Lord requireth of thee: truly it is to do judgment and love mercy, and to walk careful with thy God. These fervent desires are what the Lord asks of us, to reward us and fill us with good things. Blessed are they who have this hunger and thirst after vir­tue and perfection, for they shall have their fill (Matt. v. 6); God will accomplish their desires.   We read of St. Ger­trude that the Lord said to her: “I have given to everyone of my faithful a tube and duct of gold wherewith to suck and draw from My deified heart as much as he shall desire”; the said tube and duct He explained as being a good will and desire.

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