Imagine if you were crossing a street and a car speeds through a red light, headed straight towards you. A bystander quickly pushes you out of the way to safety. Would you be angry that she caused you a bit of discomfort in the process?
What if, on a foggy day, you were walking towards a scenic outlook unaware that you are on the edge of a cliff that drops suddenly into an abyss below? Someone vehemently shouts out to get your attention and, in so doing, stops you from taking that fatal step. Would you get angry at him for spoiling your enjoyment of the view?
Then how come when the Holy Spirit convicts us to not say or do certain things, we so readily rebuke Him?
We are each uniquely and purposefully created. We also have a purpose in this world. Our life is meant to be serving and glorifying God in some way already deigned by Him. In doing so, we bring harmony to all of creation. True fulfillment of our happiness is only found in following God’s will and living in accord with the natural law He has written on our hearts. Failing to do so not only keeps us from true happiness, it risks putting us on a trajectory that ends far from God—eternal damnation.
Yet, we ignore the poke of our guardian angel warning us not to engage in certain entertainment. Our conscience may tell us not to make that post on social media, yet we do so anyway. The Holy Spirit works in these ways as well as directly, warning us not to indulge ourselves in that which is unnecessary for our purpose of serving God whether it be media, food, alcohol, Internet and tabloid news, ideologies, visionaries, or anything else that has become an attachment.
The Holy Spirit’s pokes and nudges are intended to save our life. Yet our response is to ignore or reject Him, thinking we are just fine indulging in our choices. St. Ignatius of Loyola believed that ingratitude was the greatest sin, underlying all other sin. How ungrateful we are to the Holy Spirit who, by His convicting us in our thoughts, words, and deeds, is our lifesaver. If you were drowning and someone tossed you a blue lifesaver ring, would you toss it away because you wanted green?
Our reaction to those pokes and nudges should be relief and thanksgiving coupled with a shocking awareness of our vulnerability and mortality even with small infractions. The Holy Spirit is attempting to help us grow in self-denial so God can fill us with His Divine Life. The alternative is shown to us in Luke’s Gospel, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The objects that lead a well-intended Christian to sin are typically good in themselves; it is the attachment that causes disorder in their soul and subsequently their life. Hence, neither wealth nor poverty are evil. After all, if Joseph of Arimathea had not been a wealthy nobleman, how would he have been able to bury Jesus?
St. Ignatius captures our benchmark for Holy indifference in his First Principle and Foundation for life:
We do not, on our part, wish for health rather than sickness, for riches rather than poverty, for honor rather than dishonor, for a long life rather than a short one; and so in all other things, desiring and choosing only those which better lead us to the end for which we were created.
This is the Holy indifference of humility which is formed by giving up not just venial sin but also the habits (vices) that lead us to it. In the Gospel parable, we can surmise from the end of the rich man that his attachments made him blind to even Jesus Himself and could not see Him in the poor man Lazarus. Jesus has taught us:
“Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).
“When you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Lk 14:13-14)
“For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.” (Mt 16:27)
In order to give up the things we love, we must find a greater love with which to replace them. The Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son; there is no greater love. When we accept Him, even and especially His convictions, we possess the very true happiness that was sought in all the earthly attachments. And this is accomplished in the small choices and actions of our daily life. It is in these that virtue is built, and God will reward us by activating the gifts of the Holy Spirit already in our souls.
We become what we worship. Ultimately, each choice forms us accordingly. Our gospel parable provides us with the opportunity to scrutinize our life, then find and be rid of our hidden idols. What will we choose?
September 29 is the Feast of the Archangels, and October 2 is the Feast of our Holy Guardian Angels. There is no better time than the present to seek a relationship with the very angels God has already deigned to be an active part of your life. Our guardian angels do more than ‘guard’, they also light, rule and guide. Place yourself under their rule, listen for their pokes and nudges, and follow the lighted path as they guide you to God who is Love itself (1 Jn 4:8).
O holy angel, whom God, by the effect of His goodness and His tender regard for my welfare, is charged with the care of my conduct, and who assists me in all my wants, and comforts me in all my afflictions; who supports me when I am discouraged and continually obtains for me new favors, I return thee profound thanks and I earnestly beseech thee, O most amiable protector, to continue thy charitable care and defense of me against the malignant attacks of all my enemies.
Keep me away from all occasions of sin. Obtain for me the grace of listening attentively to Thy Holy inspirations and of faithfully putting them into practice.
Protect me in all the temptations and trials of this life, but more especially at the hour of my death, and do not leave me until thou has delivered me into the presence of my Creator in the mansions of everlasting happiness. Amen.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
This post was originally published on The Face of Grace Project and is reprinted here with permission.
Image courtesy of Unsplsah.