To know oneself to be nothing before God

It is a great thing to know oneself to be nothing before God, because that is how things are. – St Josemaria, Furrow

St John tells us that the other enemy is the lust of the eyes, a deep‑seated avariciousness that leads us to appreciate only what we can touch. Such eyes are glued to earthly things and, consequently, they are blind to supernatural realities. We can, then, use this expression of sacred Scripture to indicate that disordered desire for material things, as well as that deformation which views everything around us — other people, the circumstances of our life and of our age — with just human vision.

Then the eyes of our soul grow dull. Reason proclaims itself sufficient to understand everything, without the aid of God. This is a subtle temptation, which hides behind the power of our intellect, given by our Father God to man so that he might know and love him freely. Seduced by this temptation, the human mind appoints itself the centre of the universe, being thrilled with the prospect that “you shall be like gods” (Gen 3:5). So filled with love for itself, it turns its back on the love of God…

The fight against pride has to be a constant battle, to such an extent that someone once said that pride only disappears twenty‑four hours after each of us has died. It is the arrogance of the Pharisee whom God cannot transform because he finds in him the obstacle of self-sufficiency. It is the haughtiness which leads to despising other men, to lording it over them, to mistreating them. For “when pride comes, then comes disgrace” (Prov 11:2).

– St Josemaria, Christ is Passing

 

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Meditation on today’s Gospel

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 9:38-43.45.47-48

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe (in me) to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenaa, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fir is not quenched.'”

Meditations

Do you rejoice in the good that others do? Jesus reprimands his disciples for their jealousy and suspicion. They were upset that someone who was not of their company was performing good work in the name of Jesus. They even “forbade” the man “because he was not following us.” Jesus’ reply is filled with wisdom: “No one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.” Are we not like the disciples when we get upset at the good deeds of others who seem to shine more than us? Paul says that “love is not jealous… but rejoices in the right” (1 Corinthians 12:4,6).

Envy and jealousy must be rooted out of our hearts

Envy and jealousy, its counterpart, are sinful because they lead us to sorrow over what should make us rejoice namely, our neighbour’s good. The reason we may grieve over our another’s good is that somehow we see that good as lessening or own value or excellence. Envy forms when we believe that the other person’s advantage or possession diminishes or brings disgrace on us. Envy is contrary to love. Both the object of love and the object of envy is our neighbour’s good, but by contrary movements, since love rejoices in our neighbour’s good, while envy grieves over it.

How can we overcome envy? Witht he love that God has put into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). THe Holy Spirit purifies our heart and frees us from our disordered passions, such as envy, jealousy, greed, and bitterness. God’s love is a generous and selfless love which is wholly oriented towards our good and the good of all his creatures. The love that God places in our hearts seeks the highest good of our neighbour. God’s love purifies and frees us from all envy and jealousy – and it compels us to give generously, especially to those who lack what they need.

God rewards those who do good to others

Every one in need has a claim on us because they are dear to God who created them in his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). God created us in love for love. We are most free and happy when we love as he loves. The love and charitable help we show to our neighbour also expresses the gratitude we have for the abundant mercy and kindness of God towards us. Jesus declared that any kindness shown and any help given to those in need would not lose its reward. Jesus never refused to give to anyone in need who asked for his help. As his disciples we are called to be kind and generous as he is. Are you grateful for God’s mercy and kindness towards you and are you ready to show that same kindness and generosity towards your neighbour?

Gregory of Nyssa, an early church father (330-395 AD), comments on this passage: God never asks his servants to do what is impossible. The love and goodness of his Godhead is revealed as richly available. It is poured out like water upon all. God furnished to each person according to his will the ability to do something good. None of those seeking to be saved will be lacking in this ability, given by the one who said: whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means loses his reward (Mark 9:41). Do you allow the love of Christ to transform your heart that you may treat your neighbour with kindness and mercy?

Avoiding evil and the near occasion of sin

Was Jesus exaggerating when he urges his followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences (Mark 9:42-48)? Jesus set before his disciples the one supreme goal in life that is worth any sacrifice, and that goal is God himself and his will for our lives which leads to everlasting peace and happiness. Just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to sin and which leads to spiritual death.

Jesus warns his disciples of the terrible responsibility that they must set no stumbling block in the way of another, that is, not give offense or bad example that might lead another to sin. The Greek work for temptation (scandalon) is exactly the same at the English word scandal. THe original meaning of scandal is a trap or a stumbling block which causes one to trip and fall. The Jews held that it was an unforgivable sin to teach another to sin. If we teach another to sin, he or she in turn may teach still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foresseable end. The young in faith are especially vulnerable to the bad example of those who should be passing on the faith. Do you set a good example for others to follow, especially the young?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, free my heart from envy and jealousy, and every disordered thought and wrong desire, that I may always treat each person with respect and goodness for the glory of you name.

Love God with all your strength

We can learn to love God with all our strength. We can choose to follow Christ and travel the path of spiritual maturity. We can resist temptation and grow in virtue. We can make a difference in the world, building Christ’s kingdom and encouraging others to do the same. If we couldn’t, none of the New Testament letters would have been written, since they all contain passionate encouragement to make practical, daily choices worthy of our Christian calling. If knowing the truth were sufficient for our spiritual growth, and if we were not free to choose to live according to that truth, St Paul, for example, would never have written this: “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry…Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection…And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:5, 12–14, 17). Then our hearts desire God above all things, and our emotions are joyfully subject to an intellect enlightened by faith and a will strengthened and aligned by grace, we can truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, just as Jesus commands.

The temptation of weariness

I want to warn you against a difficulty that may arise: it is the temptation of weariness and discouragement. Isn’t it still fresh in your memory what life — your old life — used to be like, with no aim to it, no purpose, no sparkle, and then, with God’s light and your own dedication, a new direction was given to it and you were filled with joy? Don’t be so silly as to exchange your new life for that other one.

If you feel for whatever reason that you cannot manage to go on, abandon yourself in God, telling him: Lord, I trust in you, I abandon myself in you, but do help me in my weakness! And filled with confidence, repeat: See Jesus what a filthy rag I am. My life seems to me so miserable. I am not worthy to be a son of yours. Tell him all this ‑‑ and tell him so over and over again. It will not be long before you hear him say, Ne timeas! ‑‑do not be afraid; and also: Surge et ambula! ‑‑ rise up and walk!

You were still rather hesitant when you were telling me: “I am deeply aware of the occasions when the Lord is asking more of me.” All I could think of was to remind you how you used to assure me that the only thing you wanted was to identify yourself with him. What’s keeping you back?

If only you could manage to fulfill that resolution you made: “to die a little to myself each day.”

– St Josemaria, The Forge