Sunday, July 12, 2009

When Shall I see Him Face to Face? Conclusion Spiritual Desolation

Finally, we should be united to God’s will in regard to the time and
manner of our death. One day St. Gertrude, while climbing up a small
hill, lost her footing and fell into a ravine below. After her
companions had come to her assistance, they asked her if while falling
she had any fear of dying without the sacraments. “I earnestly hope and
desire to have the benefit of the sacraments when death is at hand;
still, to my way of thinking, the will of God is more important. I
believe that the best disposition I could have to die a happy death
would be to submit myself to whatever God would wish in my regard. For
this reason I desire whatever kind of death God will be pleased to send

In his “Dialogues”, St. Gregory [73] tells of a certain priest, Santolo
by name, who was captured by the Vandals and condemned to death. The
barbarians told him to choose the manner of his death. He refused,
saying: “I am in God’s hands and I gladly accept whatever kind of death
he wishes me to suffer at your hands; I wish no other.” This reply was
so pleasing to God that he miraculously stayed the hand of the
executioner ready to behead him. The barbarians were so impressed by
the miracle that they freed their prisoner. As regards the manner of
our death, therefore, we should esteem that the best kind of death for
us which God has designed for us. When therefore we think of our death,
let our prayer be: “O Lord, only let me save my soul and I leave the
manner of my death to thee!”

We should likewise unite ourselves to God’s will when the moment of
death is near. What else is this earth but a prison where we suffer and
where we are in constant danger of losing God? Hence David prayed:
“Bring my soul out of prison [74] .” St. Teresa too feared to lose God
and when she would hear the striking of the clock, she would find
consolation in the thought that the passing of the hour was an hour
less of the danger of losing God.

St. John of Avila was convinced that every right-minded person should
desire death on account of living in peril of losing divine grace. What
can be more pleasant or desirable than by dying a good death, to have
the assurance of no longer being able to lose the grace of God? Perhaps
you will answer that you have as yet done nothing to deserve this
reward. If it were God’s will that your life should end now, what would
you be doing, living on here against his will? Who knows, you might
fall into sin and be lost! Even if you escaped mortal sin, you could
not live free from all sin. “Why are we so tenacious of life,” exclaims
St. Bernard, “when the longer we live, the more we sin [75] ?” A single
venial sin is more displeasing to God than all the good works we can

Moreover, the person who has little desire for heaven shows he has
little love for God. The true lover desires to be with his beloved. We
cannot see God while we remain here on earth; hence the saints have
yearned for death so that they might go and behold their beloved Lord,
face to face. “Oh, that I might die and behold thy beautiful face!”
sighed St. Augustine. And St. Paul: “Having a desire to be dissolved
and to be with Christ [76] .” “When shall I come and appear before the
face of God [77] ?”exclaimed the psalmist.

A hunter one day heard the voice of a man singing most sweetly in the
forest. Following the sound, he came upon a leper horribly disfigured
by the ravages of his disease. Addressing him he said: “How can you
sing when you are so terribly afflicted and your death is so near at
hand?” And the leper: “Friend, my poor body is a crumbling wall and it
is the only thing that separates me from my God. When it falls I shall
go forth to God. Time for me is indeed fast running out, so every day I
show my happiness by lifting my voice in song.”

Lastly, we should unite ourselves to the will of God as regards our
degree of grace and glory. True, we should esteem the things that make
for the glory of God, but we should show the greatest esteem for those
that concern the will of God. We should desire to love God more than
the seraphs, but not to a degree higher than God has destined for us.
St. John of Avila [78] says: “I believe every saint has had the desire
to be higher in grace than he actually was. However, despite this,
their serenity of soul always remained unruffled. Their desire for a
greater degree of grace sprang not from a consideration of their own
good, but of God’s. They were content with the degree of grace God had
meted out for them, though actually God had given them less. They
considered it a greater sign of true love of God to be content with
what God had given them, than to desire to have received more.”

This means, as Rodriguez explains it, we should be diligent in striving
to become perfect, so that tepidity and laziness may not serve as
excuses for some to say: “God must help me; I can do only so much for
myself.” Nevertheless, when we do fall into some fault, we should not
lose our peace of soul and union with the will of God, which permits
our fall; nor should we lose our courage. Let us rise at once from this
fall, penitently humbling ourselves and by seeking greater help from
God, let us continue to march resolutely on the highway of the
spiritual life. Likewise, we may well desire to be among the seraphs in
heaven, not for our own glory, but for God’s, and to love him more;
still we should be resigned to his will and be content with that degree
of glory which in his mercy he has set for us.

It would be a serious defect to desire the gifts of supernatural
prayer—specifically, ecstasies, visions and revelations. The masters of
the spiritual life say that souls thus favored by God, should ask him
to take them away so that they may love him out of pure faith—a way of
greater security. Many have come to perfection without these
supernatural gifts; the only virtues worth-while are those that draw
the soul to holiness of life, namely, the virtue of uniformity with
God’s holy will. If God does not wish to raise us to the heights of
perfection and glory, let us unite ourselves in all things to his holy
will, asking him in his mercy, to grant us our soul’s salvation. If we
act in this manner, the reward will not be slight which we shall
receive from the hands of God who loves above all others, souls
resigned to his holy will.

Uniformity With God's Will
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori