Pope Benedict Says Our Savior Died to Bring Men Back 'Into God's World'
The experience of God consists in an unceasing attentiveness to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit
"If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (Jn 14:22-23). In that moment we live in "God's world." It is the heaven of "now but not yet." It is a real, true and knowable experience in which we "feel," with the senses of the soul., the touch of infinite love.
We experience God's touch with the senses of the soul: a mysterious, life-giving and life-changing encounter with the Other whose boundless and uncontainable fount of love is always transformative.
God "entered man's world" in order to "bring man back into God's world." What does it mean to enter into "God's world?" That is precisely what the sacred season of repentance and penance we call Lent is all about. Lent, a time of spiritual renewal, growth and regeneration in the love of Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit, is a period in which we are called to enter deeply into the experience of God. But what does that mean? Also, how is God experienced?
Ask a thousand Christians what it means to experience God and we will hear just as many answers. Yet it must be admitted that the experience of God is something often misunderstood today, even altogether forgotten. Consequently, it can be helpful to think about what can harm our experience of God. That is, what blocks our experience of the unsurpassed divine love of the Holy Spirit? What prevents us from living in an intimate and infinite relationship of attentiveness and love with the indwelling Spirit of Love? It is important to ponder these questions, for in exploring insufficiencies and errors in our life, we contrast those important actions and attitudes that bring us nearer to God with those which can limit or even destroy our ability to enter into "God's world."
The terrible and horrifyingly damaging effects of sin is a given. But let us put that aside for a moment and mention the psyche of contemporary society: heavily engrained in today's culture is a pragmatic view of life in which can be found a type of nearly continuous preoccupation with the attainment of physical and material goods, which is laced with various distractions and exaggerated concerns, most of which have as their object not God but fleeting, created objects. In such an infertile environment, spiritual fruitfulness and growth often wither in the heat of blighted ambitions.
Other troubling elements which perhaps affect us all to some degree are often referred to as "noise." In this category is the inordinate use of technology, media and movies, created objects and even other creatures: included is an improper attachment to people, conversation, dinning out, and otherwise filling every moment with "things" and so forth. If not careful, we may find we prefer the evanescent pleasures of the visible over the infinite depth and love of the Divine Other who, invisible, transcends beyond the limits of the human senses. As a result of filling our life to the brim with "clutter," experienced is a fear of that silence and interior reflection so crucial to living in God.
The spiritual man clings to God and his will, living in the spirit of God, while the worldly man follows human passions (cf. 1 Pet. 4:2 ff.).
Further, we must recognize the need to do battle with self: this is primarily an interior struggle in which we strive to gain self-knowledge through prayer and reflection. This war is waged against that disordered view of self known as the capitol sin of pride. Here we must combat that nearly irrepressible desire for self-importance and self-acknowledgement, including that wrongful self-love in which we attempt to assert ourselves above others, even over and above the divine will of God. Pride quells the desire to walk in the light, thus we are left to stumble in the darkness (cf. Prov 4:18; Lk 1:79; Jn 3:19-21, to name a few). We must not forget our human limitations and the dangers of sin: "Sometimes a way seems right to a man, but the end of it leads to death!" (Prov. 14:12).
Also, it is often presumed that we have a relationship with God without taking concrete steps to cultivate the proper interior disposition, prayer, self-mastery and virtue so necessary to the spiritual life. Thus we suffer a type of spiritual depression. Here the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes note of acedia: "The spiritual writers understand by this a form of depression due to lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, carelessness of heart. 'The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak'" (2733).
Ora et Labora: "Pray and Work"
Remember that we are creatures of habit. Unfortunately, it is quite easy, due to the inclination toward sin we call concupiscence, to form bad habits called vices. Thus the need for self-discipline and the cultivation of those habitual perfections of the soul that are acquired through practice called virtues, in order to achieve self-mastery. Just as an athlete habitually trains his legs in order to win a race, so too we must habitually train our soul in virtue in order to ...
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