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 live as a member of the divine family. If we thirst to share in God's divine life, we need walk, with the aid of the Spirit, to the well and draw up the water. That is, we need take positive, concrete steps toward God in order to cultivate and nurture the spiritual life.
Here we arrive at the lenten discipline of fasting: it would be very difficult to find a saint whose life lacked fasting. Of course, certain Catholics are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday of The Passion of The Lord, but these two days are the minimum. Aside from its penitential qualities and aiding in achieving self-mastery, fasting is a form of voluntary and innocent suffering in which we, through the grace of the Spirit, conform our lives to the suffering Christ who, out of infinite love for humankind, voluntarily and innocently sacrificed his own life for our sake.
Further, if we want to experience God, as truly and as fully as is possible, it is vital to live the Catholic life in toto, always and everywhere. Doing so involves a metanoia, a profound spiritual transformation in which we, in union with our sweet Virgin Mother, freely give our fiat -- a loving "yes" -- forever, with totality, completeness, and eternal conviction.
Therefore it is impossible to over-stress the importance of living the Catholic sacramental life in its entirety: this includes repentance and the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, full and active participation in the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist and so forth. It is crucial to remember that the Church is our mother who, as the sacrament of salvation, leads her children along the path of eternal life by conferring upon them the sacraments of life. The Catholic who is careless in his attitude toward the Church is careless in his desire for God, for in a real way the Church is Christ, since she is his Bride and his Mystical Body for which he lovingly sacrificed his sacred humanity.
As we can see, tasting of the indwelling Spirit, living in "God's world," involves a new way of life. It is foreign to the world. But it is the way to God. And it is a way highly infused with prayer and with work. It is not easy. It is, however, crucial. The experience of God is the goal of our life in which we, assisted by grace, attain to the incomparable divine and salvific plans that dwell at the heart of the Father's love for humankind. Thus everything hinges on our awareness of God's personal and loving, immanent yet transcendent presence.
Awaken To God's Presence
St. Paul admonishes the Corinthians with these words: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own" (1 Cor. 6:19).
God is not some external "power" that directs our lives from afar. In a real way, he is at the very heart and core of our being: he is behind and within us, before and above us, supporting us yet transcending us. This is a great mystery. Yet it is true to say that God sustains us each moment, infusing us with life and, if we are open to it, the favor of his incomparable and sweet grace.
When we speak of God's presence, we can say that he is present by his knowledge, power and essence. Also, provided we are in a state of grace -- i.e., our soul is infused with sanctifying grace -- God's presence is an indwelling presence: in this astonishing way in which God dwells within us, we are a temple of the Holy Spirit, as indicated by St. Paul's theology above.
Further, God's presence is an immanent presence. This means that God is more present to you and to me than we are to others. That is, God's presence within, the manner in which he resides within those who are in a state of grace, is of an infinitely greater intimacy than that which we can experience with other people. Further, God is more present to his creatures than they are to themselves. This means that God is more present to you than you are to yourself. God's presence is of an infinite depth, omnipotent and omniscient, whereas our own self-awareness is of itself finite.
When we become aware of God's presence within our soul, and unite ourselves to him in freedom and love, commending our spirit unto Christ, we become "one spirit with him" (1 Cor. 6:17). This is accomplished through prayer and preparation, by journeying in truth into the desert in search of Christ, by responding to the loving and life-giving grace of the Holy Spirit who leads us into self-mastery, and by living the Catholic life of voluntary and innocent suffering. "Be not afraid!" as Blessed John Paul II so often said, for this journey is nothing but a journey into Love Itself.
Above we asked, what does it mean to experience God? The experience of God is all about an awareness of the manifestation of God within our soul. Constant recollection is required: we must unceasingly strive to give ourselves over entirely to the indwelling Spirit of Love who seeks to embrace us. We must not forget: we are not our own.
When Judas the son of James asked Jesus: "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" Jesus answered, "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 given by the Other who, so mysteriously yet so wondrously, desires in his compassion to kiss the soul with fiery, supernaturally infused bliss for all of eternity. Praise God!
F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at catholicpathways.com
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2015
General Intention: That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Missionary Intention: That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- 4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross
- 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns
- Good Friday Reflection on the Nature of Sin
- Lent is almost over, but have YOU kept this Commandment?
- 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion
- Holy Thursday: Take Up the Basin and Towel. Love is a Verb.
- Holy Thursday: He Loves to the End
- 2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
- The Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
This Sorrowful pilgrimage now brings me here to this lonely hill. All the agony, the beatings and the bleeding have led me somewhere I do not want to go; somewhere I resist going with all my ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
I wonder if perhaps it was tempting for Jesus to just lie down on the dirt road and die right there. Completely sapped of strength and in agonizing pain, I wonder if He was tempted by the ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
Humiliation, in one form or another, is part of the package. It is only avoidable if we decide to deny Christ. WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning ...Continue Reading
Michael Terheyden - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
The Passion of Christ represents the most atrocious miscarriage of justice in all of human history. So when we come face to face with the crucified Christ on Good Friday, it is only natural for us to ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »