Presence of God – O Jesus, who, for love of me, accepted the disgrace of death on the Cross, teach me what true glory is, and grant that for love of You I may learn how to overcome my desire for honor.
St. Teresa of Jesus declares, “However slight may be our concern for our reputation,” if we “wish to make progress in spiritual matters,” we must “put this attachment right behind us,” for “if questions of honor” prevail, we “will never make great progress or come to enjoy the real fruit of prayer,” which is intimacy with God. The Saint also says that the reason why many people who have devoted themselves to the spiritual life, and are deserving on account of so many good works, “are still down on earth” and never succeed in reaching “the summit of perfection,” is “punctiliousness about their reputation. And the worst of it is that this sort of person will not realize that he is guilty of such a thing, the reason being that the devil tells him that punctiliousness is incumbent upon him” (Life, 31 – Way of Perfection, 12).
Attachment to our honor is expressed in all those susceptibilities, large or small, arising from our attitude of soul that wishes to affirm our personality, hold on to the esteem we receive from others and make our own point of view prevail. This shows up concretely in various schemes–more or less conscious and petty–to obtain or to keep certain privileged and honorable positions where our own views, which we always think are good, will prevail. By this means, we hope to make manifest our capabilities, our works, and our personal merits–so great and worthy of consideration in our own eyes. All this remains more or less disguised by the fact that we have–or think we have–the intention of acting with an eye to good. We decide, therefore, that what we do is legitimate. Yet we are not aware that this way of acting, though apparently done to defend the good, prevent scandals, and further good works, is only a defense of our own pride. This truth is made evident, for on similar occasions, when like circumstances have been resolved, we do not take as much trouble to defend the honor and the works of others as we would have done if these had been our own. A soul that allows itself to be preoccupied with such things is, as St. Teresa of Jesus says, bound to earth by “a chain which no file can sever. Only God can break it, with the aid of prayer and great effort on our part” (Life, 31).
“O Lord, art Thou our example and our Master? Thou art, indeed. And wherein did Thy honor consist, O Lord, who hast honored us? Didst Thou perchance lose it when Thou wert humbled even to death? No, Lord, rather didst Thou gain it for all…. God grant that no soul be lost through its attention to these wretched niceties about honor, when it has no idea wherein honor consists…. O Lord, all our trouble comes from not having our eyes fixed upon Thee, we stumble and fall a thousand times and stray from the way” (Life, 36 – 16).
“We are trying to attain to union with God. We want to follow the counsels of Christ on whom were showered insults and false witness. Are we, then, really so anxious to keep intact our own reputation and credit? We cannot do so and yet attain to union, for the two ways diverge. When we exert our utmost efforts and try in various ways to forego our rights, the Lord comes to the soul” (Teresa of Jesus, Life, 31).
O Jesus, grant that my honor may consist solely in intimate union with You, in the effort to become more and more like You. Although You were God and had the right to be treated and honored as God, You willed to be treated like the lowest of men! You wished no other right than to fulfill the will of the Father, to die on the Cross for His glory and our salvation. In the light of Your example, I have a better understanding of the meanness of my pride which, in order to defend foolish rights, loses itself in so much confusion and so many fruitless discussions. O Lord, why should I confine myself to crawling on the ground among the thorny roots of my passions, when You have created me to soar in the heavens? Oh! help me to free myself from the vain pretenses of my ego which, like a heavy weight, continually try to drag me down; help me to get rid of this great load, and to rise toward You, my God, in a sure flight!
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Art: Teresa of Avila, Peter Paul Rubens, 1615, PD-US copyright expired Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.