God Invites All Souls
Presence of God — O Lord, I answer Your invitation, I run to Your fountain: quench my thirst!
Commenting on the invitation of Jesus: “If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink” (John 7:37), St. Teresa of Avila says, “Consider that the Lord calls everyone. Now, He is Truth itself, we cannot doubt His word. If His invitation were not addressed to all, He would not call all of us…. But, as He puts no restriction on it … I am certain that all who do not stop on the way will drink this living water” (Way of Perfection, 19). Therefore, it is not amiss for an interior soul to aspire to contemplation; in fact, it would be logical, since the Lord offers it to everyone, and since contemplation is a great means of introducing us into divine intimacy, of making us understand and enjoy the infinite greatness of God, of filling us with love for Him, and of quenching all thirst for earthly things. If Jesus has offered this living water to all souls, and if it is so precious, why should we not desire it?
However, the Saint instructs us to desire it without pretension, in humility and full abandonment to the divine will. God alone is Master of His gifts, and it is His privilege to distribute them to souls in the form and amount and at the time He wishes. “God gives them as He wishes, when He wishes, and to whom He wishes, without prejudice to anyone” (Thomas à Kempis, Imitation of Christ C IV, 1). St. Teresa clarifies any mistaken ideas we may have in this regard. To demand the favor of contemplation from God, would be exposing ourselves to illusions and deceptions. Besides, it would be a true sin of pride to interfere with the divine plans. Nevertheless, when a soul gives itself generously to God, He, who never lets Himself be outdone in generosity, will not refuse it at least a few sips of the living water which He offers to everyone.
“O compassionate and tender Sovereign of my soul! You also say: ‘If anyone thirst, let him come to Me, and I will give him to drink.’
“Oh! how our souls need this water! I know, O my God, that out of Your bounty You will give it to us. You Yourself have promised it, and Your words cannot fail. Knowing our weakness, You, in Your mercy, have increased Your help. But You have not said, ‘Let some come this way and others that way.’ On the contrary, Your bounty is so great that You have not forbidden anyone to drink from this fountain of life. Be forever blessed for this! How justly could You have forbidden me! But if, far from bidding me to go away from this fountain, when I had begun to slake my thirst there, You did not cast me into the abyss, You certainly will not drive anyone away from it. You call all souls with a loud voice.
“O Lord, You told the Samaritan woman that he who drinks of this water will not thirst forever. Oh! How true are these words spoken by You, Truth itself! The soul who drinks this water never thirsts for the things of this life, but it does thirst more and more with the desire to possess You and a desire for eternal things. How it thirsts to have this thirst which brings with it a sweetness which softens its difficulties, for as it quenches the desire for the things of earth, it fills the soul with celestial goods. When, O God, You condescend to quench our thirst with this water, one of the greatest graces You can give the soul is to still leave it thirsting. Every time it drinks this water, it always ardently desires to drink still more of it.
“This water is so potent that it always increases the fire of Your love. O great God! how marvelous is the fire which is enkindled more and more by water, a water which activates the fire of love in souls!
“O Lord, give me to drink of this water, and I shall never thirst again! O my Lord! How good it is for me to be engulfed in this living water, and to lose my life in it! O You who have promised it to us, give us the grace to seek it as we should” (cf. Teresa of Jesus, Exclamations of the Soul to God, 9 – Way of Perfection, 20 —19).
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Art: Beet mit Tulpen und Stiefmütterchen (fotografiert aus der Vogelperspektive), 3268Zauber, own work undated, CCA-SA; Teresa of Avila, Peter Paul Rubens, 1615, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported; Mirror of Thomas von Kempen (Thomas à Kempis), 1380-1431, author unknown, date unknown, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less; all Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.