Writing you this morning from a Wal-Mart parking lot. The baby decided to wake up and play, so since I cannot sleep I will take this rare moment to write.
SEEDS OF REBELLION
As much as we pray, as much as we go to Mass, do good works, and seek the Lord, there remains in us yet a seed of rebellion. This seed lies within the "flesh" as Paul calls it, and is opposed to the "Spirit." While our own spirit is often willing, the flesh is not. We want to serve God, but the flesh wants to serve itself. We know the right thing to do, but the flesh wants to do the opposite.
And the battle rages.
This seed of rebellion will be with you until you are liberated from this earthen vessel, this earthly tent, when you draw your last breath. However, as we persevere in the spiritual life, daily picking up our cross, the Holy Spirit will begin to temper this rebellion, gradually putting its tendencies to death. But even the saints were tempted to rebel. So we must always be cautious.
Often when one is quite rebellious, the Tempter comes along and says, "Ah, you have a fighting spirit! Good! This is good! You’re a free spirit, a wild stallion. Yes, you like to live…. so live a little. You can always ask God’s forgiveness." Or else he’ll say, "You have already fallen a little, why not go the whole way."
For others, the battle is more subtle. It comes in the form of more reasonable and tempered offerings. The mind becomes cluttered, confused, but bites the lure. And slowly, thoughts drift from prayer into dwelling on earthly trivialities and concerns.
Then there is the soul who butts against any authority, whether it is human or divine.
In any case, the result is the same: the heart begins to harden, and charity weakens.
First, we must recognize that temptation is not a sin. In fact, strong and intense temptation is not a sin. However, when one encounters these strong temptations, they are often accompanied with shame… "How could I be inclined like that!" But even great saints were intensely tempted. Christ himself was tempted. And He is our proof that to have strong feelings of temptation is not a sin, for we know that Jesus was without sin.
So let this fact, this truth, even now begin to liberate you. Enduring this temptation then becomes a crown of victory, a moment of growth on earth, and an eternal reward in Heaven. Satan will convince you that you have already sinned when you’re tempted, which in some cases causes many to actually enter into the sin just when they were about to conquer it ("…you have already fallen a little, why not go the whole way.") But you have not fallen. Rebuke the tempting spirit, and fix your eyes firmly on Jesus through praying His name, by getting away from the temptation physically, and by having recourse to the Sacraments.
WHEN YOU FAIL—THE ANTIDOTE
But because we are human and not yet tempered and transformed entirely by the Holy Spirit, we fall. We sin. In fact, the rebellious soul will sometimes sin with a certain deliberateness, a stubbornness like that of a toddler refusing to come when asked. Other times, the soul sins, but feels dragged into it through utter weakness, as the rebellious flesh overcomes the tired soul.
In any case, the antidote is always the same: humble yourself before God. Again, the tempter will approach you and whisper that you have "used up" God’s mercy. But this is a lie! You cannot exhaust the Mercy of God. It is for sinners, especially the rebellious ones, that Jesus came. No, the antidote is to become even smaller. To recognize that you truly have little if any virtue, and that you are completely dependent upon Jesus for your salvation. To your ears, such an admission is painful and digusting. To Christ’s ears, it is a sweet song, for Truth is always attracted to truth, the Healer to the wound, the Physician to the sickness, the Savior to the sinner.
If you have not wept for your sins, pray for this gift. Pray for the gift to fall on your face and weep for your lack of charity and generosity. But do not despair. Rather, let those tears begin to wash you. For where you lack in charity, He who is Love will pour it into your soul. Where you lack in generosity, He who is infinitely Generous will bestow mercy upon mercies.
But do not think you are suddenly holy. No, at that moment, you are now like a leaf, raised up in the wind, soaring in the heavens. But as soon as the wind ceases, you will fall back again to the earth.
What must you do then? Two things: your ego must remain as thin as that leaf so that the sheer weight of pride does not pull you to the ground. That is, you must continually humble yourself through the course of the day as your habitual faults continually reappear. And second, you must pray, for prayer draws upon that Wind of the Holy Spirit which lifts you up; it is prayer—a continual reaching upward for God with a childlike heart—which will continue to keep you aloft. Yes, when we begin to forget God, do we not fall rather quickly?
O, rebellious soul, Jesus awaits your honest confession that He may in turn breath upon you, lifting you to His Sacred Heart.
My own (admittedly limited) experience with people who have become great friends of God is that their spiritual capacity is matched by a strong tendency toward rebellion and riot. Their fidelity is all the greater for being persistently tested. What matters is arriving at the destination, and the only way to accomplish it is to keep moving, undeterred by mistakes and mishaps—whether these come from one’s own will, from powerful forces within, or from outside. It is to be expected that our journey will veer away from the theoretically correct course. Instead of denying that we have gone wrong, or continually backtracking to the point where we went astray, we must set a new course determined by the real situation and its relation to our destination. Prayer is our means of taking a sighting of re-orienting ourselves by re-establishing contact with our goal. In the presence of God many components of our life fall into perspective and our journey begins to make more sense. —Michael Casey, The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer