On Perseverance

LENTEN RETREAT
Day 19

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BLESSED is the one who perseveres.

Why are you discouraged, my dear brother or sister? It is in perseverance that love is proven, not in perfection, which is the fruit of perseverance.

The saint is not the person who never falls, but rather the one who never fails to get up again, humbly and with a holy stubbornness. —St. Josemaria Escriva, Friends of God, 131

This past summer, I was teaching one of my younger boys to swing a hammer in one of our corrals. With wobbly hands under the weight of the tool, the lad started to swing, missed several times, hit occasionally, until the nail was bent over so far that it had to be straightened out. But I wasn’t angry; what I saw, rather, was my son’s determination and desire—and I loved him all the more for it. Straightening the nail, I encouraged him, corrected his swing, and let him begin again.

So too, the Lord is not counting your transgressions, missteps and faults. But He is looking to see whether you have a heart for Him, rather than for the world; whether you turn back to Him from your distractions, or simply turn away; whether, like Jesus, you get up when falling beneath your cross, or throw it to the side and choose the wide and easy road. God is the most loving of fathers, and for Him, your failures are an opportunity to correct and teach you so that you may grow in maturity. Satan wants you to perceive your omissions and faults as a setback; but God wants you to see them as a stepping stone:

This firm resolution to become a saint is extremely pleasing to Me. I bless your efforts and will give you opportunities to sanctify yourself. Be watchful that you lose no opportunity that My providence offers you for sanctification. If you do not succeed in taking advantage of an opportunity, do not lose your peace, but humble yourself profoundly before Me and, with great trust, immerse yourself completely in My mercy. In this way, you gain more than you have lost, because more favor is granted to a humble soul than the soul itself asks for…  —Jesus to St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1361

The Lord is ready to help you with a thousand graces. And so, as St. Faustina’s confessor said,

Be as faithful as you can to the grace of God. —St. Faustina’s confessor, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 1432

For some reason today, the Lord wants me to shout, “Don’t give up! Don’t let the devil discourage you!” Listen again to the Word of God:

…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)

Did you notice the first word in the list is “death”? What is sin but the death of the soul? So not even your sin can separate you from the love of God. Now, deadly sin, or what we call “mortal sin” can cut you off from God’s grace. But not His love. He will never stop loving you.

If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. (2 Tim 2:13)

But what of your daily faults and failures to grow in holiness, or what we call “venial sin”? In what is one of the most encouraging passages in the Catechism, the Church teaches:

Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not break the covenant with God. With God’s grace it is humanly reparable. “Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness.”Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1863

That is to say, bending the nail isn’t the same as intentionally breaking it. So do not let the devil accuse you if you stumble from time to time; tell him that you are loved, then ignore him, ask God’s forgiveness, and begin again.

Going back to my original announcement of this Lenten Retreat, [1] I said that this would be ‘for the poor; it is for the weak; it is for the addicted; it is for those who feel as though this world is closing in on them and their cries for freedom are being lost. But it is precisely in this weakness that the Lord will become strong. What is needed, then, is your “yes”, your fiat.’ That is, your perseverance.

And that is also why I invited Our Blessed Mother to be our Retreat Master, because no other creature is more concerned about your salvation than her. That—and this entire retreat is setting the stage for you to enter into the decisive battle of our times.

How soon and how completely will we defeat the evil in the whole world? When we allow ourselves to be guided by [Mary] most completely. This is our most important and our only business. —St. Maximilian Kolbe, Aim Higher, p. 30, 31

 

SUMMARY AND SCRIPTURE

Love is proven to God through perseverance, determination, and desire… and He will do the rest.

…as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance… (Luke 8:15)

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References:

  1. cf. A Lenten Retreat with Mark[]
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