STEP 2: HOPE
“How I thirst for Heaven-that blessed habitation where our love for Jesus will have no limit!” St. Therese
What is my purpose in life? When I open my eyes at the break of dawn (or before) what is it that motivates, inspires, inclines me to rise out of bed and begin a new day? Well, one universal purpose for our rising is the hope of satisfying our thirst for love and deriving joy from this attainment. If we are headed to work, we hope to be acknowledged with a greeting because this signals someone’s delight in our presence. Or if we go to school, we hope to find loving and inviting friends because it brings us joy. If we are stopping by our parents house we more than hope, we expect to enter into a powerhouse of loving warmth. All this hoping, impels us to consciously make the effort of responding or behaving in a way that will keep the inflow of love coming; our actions aim at pleasing those who please us.
Consider this, if we walk into a Church and kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, what do we seek? Is it not the very thing we have sought from others; a loving encounter? If Jesus can respond to this ardent desire for love we have in our heart but promises a more perfect and lasting fulfillment of it, would we be out of our mind to pursue it? If in other cases we act so as to please those who love us, would we not do the same for Jesus? In fact we would eagerly and zealously hasten to Him and do all that he desires knowing that he could surely satisfy our thirst. But to hasten with an understanding of where we are hastening to, seems to me, more plausible, than to run blindly in any direction. Our compass therefore is Jesus and if we should obey him then we first need to know what it is he commands, otherwise how can we advance?
“Love!…I know but one thing now – to love Thee, O Jesus!…” to satisfy our thirst for love we must give love, says St. Therese. “How shall I show my love is proved by deeds?” (St. Therese) Deeds which can be perfected in Charity. “O my God, Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to labor for the glory of holy Church by saving souls still on earth..to accomplish Thy Will perfectly, and to attain to the degree of glory which Thou hast prepared for me in Thy Kingdom; in one word, I desire to be a saint, but I know that I am powerless, and I implore Thee, O my God, to be Thyself my sanctity.”
The purpose of life, then, is love! it is our means and our end. Our motive and our hope. And life becomes totally given over to this singular cause which is attained in Jesus Christ. “My beloved is mine, and I am His.” (SOS 2:16).
Three stepping-stones toward Heaven are given to us by St. Alphonsus:
- Pardon of our sins:We know that the gift of reconciliation brings comfort to the soul. Most notably because it is the sacrament of second chances. It also gives the heart freedom to remain receptive to grace. And still it serves an even higher purpose, that of preparing the repentant soul for restoration of life. It would be in vain to merely take His Mercy as a means of habitual cleansing. By that I mean a penciled in block of time in our weekly schedule for a spiritual bath from our habitual wrong doings. Given consideration, I’m sure that we could come to a consensus as to why we seek this purity of the heart. It is our hope that leads us back, time and time again, to the fount of mercy. Our hope in God’s promise.“but this promise should not simply move us to repentance, it should be what injects a zealous desire in our heart for righteousness. “Mercy forgives but Justice restores” said a priest in a recent homily.
- Victory over temptation:“When the Lord commanded His people to love their neighbors as themselves, He had not as yet come upon the earth. Knowing the extent to which each one loved himself, He was not able to ask of His creatures a greater love than this for one’s neighbor. But when Jesus gave his Apostles a new commandment, HIS OWN COMMANDMENT, as He calls it later on, it is no longer a question of loving one’s neighbor as oneself but of loving him as He, Jesus, has loved him, and will love him to the consummation of the ages.” Using this genuine quote from St. Therese we can see that to our victory over temptation is simply to not give in to an act, thought, word or intention that is beneath our dignity as Children of God and as such our Charity should resound in the interactions we have with our neighbor.
- A holy death:“The crown of all graces! Should the devil therefore assail us in life or at death, bringing before us the sins of our youth, we must say to him with St. Bernard: “ What I need to enter Heaven, I appropriate from the merits of Jesus Christ who suffered and died in order to procure or me that glory of which I was unworthy.’” (St. Alphonsus) HOPE, HOPE, HOPE until our last breath we must ask for the grace of dying with the sure hope of His promise, brushing away the devils attempts of discouraging our faith and making us fall into the temptations we fought against so ardently.
FINALLY, the antidote to life! Let us run together, then, toward the fount of our desires, and say to Him: “draw us after you; let us make haste!” (SOS 1:4)