Pope Benedict Says Our Savior Died to Bring Men Back 'Into God's World'
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
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Lent, fasting, self-discipline, self-mastery, master your instincts, experience God, awareness of God, indwelling Spirit, temple of the Holy Spirit, F. K. Bartels
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