Saturday, December 26, 2009

Measuring Our Holiness

A priest friend helped me set up this blog. Before I followed his clear instructions, I prayed for wisdom on how to go about it, on how to decide what words to write and which to not write. I didn’t want it to be about me, and my many mistakes in life – unless that might somehow benefit others. I prayed my usual morning prayer, “to be an instrument of Thy peace.”

I noted that many other websites and blogs contained “visit” counters, and a God-child helped me set up one for this site. I went from watching it go up by ones, then by tens, then by thirties, then by fifties each day. It was one of the things I looked at, a measure of how interesting or valuable my site was. MY site; MY words. If I could figure it out, I would delete that counter. It truly matters not whether one or fifty or a million view the written words, if they ARE an instrument of His peace. Even if it were none, perhaps the writing of the words would benefit me, and that would be enough. It should be, if I truly have faith.

My morning readings these days includes a book published by Ignatius Press titled: Parochial and Plain Sermons of John Henry Newman. It has over 200 of his sermons, short 15-minute readings on a variety of topics. I find John Henry to be very clear in his sermons, sticking to the point to make sure you understand it, reminding me of JPII’s letters. This morning I read about intellectual vs spiritual knowledge.

“We gain spiritual light at the price of intellectual perplexity.” He notes that grace is given to us that we might know more of the spiritual truths, but many get led astray by trying to measure everything by reason. He notes that spiritual truths ARE mysteries, given to us to understand only to the measure of revealed to us. “At another time our Lord says, ‘I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent (those who trust reason rather than Scripture and conscience), and hast revealed them unto babes (those who humbly walk by faith).’”

Let no man deceive himself: If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness (1Cor 3:18-19). “What are those (opinions and feelings) of which he is likely to be proud? Those which he obtains, not by nature, but by his own industry, ability, and research; those which he possesses and others not. Every one is in danger of valuing himself for what he does; and hence truths (or fancied truths) which a man has obtained for himself after much thought and labour, such he is apt to make much of, and to rely upon; and this is the source of that vain wisdom of which the Apostle speaks in the text.”

“And all these inducements to live by sight and not by faith are greatly increased, when men are engaged in any pursuit which properly BELONGS to the intellect. Hence sciences conversant with experiments on the material creation, tend to make men forge the existence of spirit and the Lord of spirits.”

“They place a value upon all truths exactly in proportion to the possibility of proving them by means of that mere reason; Hence, moral and religious truths are thought little of by them, because they fall under the province of Conscience far more than of the intellect.” “Thinking much of intellectual advancement, they are much bent on improving the world by making all men intellectual; and they labour to convince themselves that as men grow in knowledge they will grow in virtue.”

“May we ever bear in mind, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; that obedience to our conscience, in all things, great and small, is the way to know the Truth; that pride hardens the heart, and sensuality debases it; and that all those who live in pride and sensual indulgence, can no more comprehend the way of the Holy Spirit, or know the voice of Christ, than the devils who believe with a dead faith and tremble!”

Yes, John Henry gives me much to think on. My incessant reading, wanting to know more, to reason out His truths that I may swallow them and gain nourishment, only to be driven for ever more knowledge to be closer to Him can be a good thing, or a bad. If I only seek knowledge of him in words and not the conscience or gift of the Holy Spirit, then I am a fool. If I seek to measure my progress in growing closer to him, counting as MY holiness how much others follow me, then I am an even greater fool.

We gain nothing if we only read words, and not mull them over in our hearts, letting the God within us and the God who comes to us meld them into our being. We cannot measure our holiness by our understanding of God and His ways, we can only live out what we have learned in our hearts, and let Him be the judge of our progress. If we grow in truth, we shall grow in Love, and we shall truly be “instruments of His peace”. Like good music, these fruits of these instruments are beyond our measure.

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