Sunday, January 17, 2010
"[T]he most important thing in our lives is not so much what we can do as leaving room for what God can do. The great secret of all spiritual fruitfulness and growth is learning to let God act. ‘Apart from me, you can do nothing,’ Jesus tells us. God’s love is infinitely more powerful than anything we can do by our own wisdom or our own strength. Yet one of the most essential conditions for God’s grace to act in our lives is saying yes to what we are and to the situations in which we ding ourselves.
That is because God is ‘realistic.’ His grace does not operate on our imaginings, ideals, or dreams. It works on reality, the specific, concrete elements of our lives. Even if the fabric of our everyday lives doesn’t look very glorious to us, only there can we be touched by God’s grace. The person he wants to touch and to transform with his love, is not the person we’d have liked to be or ought to be. It’s the person we are. God doesn’t love ‘ideal persons’ or ‘virtual beings.’ He loves actual, real people. He is not interested in saintly figures in stained glass windows, but in us sinners. A great deal of time can be wasted in the spiritual life complaining that we are not like this or not like that, lamenting this defect or that limitation, imagining all the good we could do if, instead of being the way we are, we were less defective, more gifted with this or that quality or virtue, and so on. Here is a waste of time and energy that merely impedes the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
What often blocks the action of God’s grace in our lives is less our sins or failings, than it is our failure to accept our own weaknesses – all those rejections, conscious or not, of what we really are or of our real situation. To ‘set grace free’ in our lives, and paving the way for deep and spectacular changes, it sometimes would be enough to say simply ‘yes’ – a ‘yes’ inspired by trust in God to aspects of our lives we’ve been rejecting. We refuse to admit that we have this defect, that weak point, were marked by this event, fell into that sin. And so we block the Holy Spirit’s action, since he can only affect our reality to the extent we accept it ourselves. The Holy Spirit never acts unless we freely cooperate. We must accept ourselves just as we are, if the Holy Spirit is to change us for the better.
We need to accept our limitations, but without ever resigning ourselves to mediocrity. We need to desire to change, but without ever refusing, even subconsciously, to recognize our limitations or accept ourselves.
The secret actually is very simple. It is to understand that we can only transform reality fruitfully if we accept it first. This also means having the humility to recognize that we cannot change ourselves by our own efforts, but that all progress in the spiritual life, every victory over ourselves, is a gift of God’s grace. We will not receive the grace to change unless we desire to; but to receive the grace that will transform us, we must ‘receive’ ourselves – to accept ourselves as we really are."
-- Interior Freedom by Fr Jacques Philippe