DO not waste time thinking about the heroics of the saints, their miracles, extraordinary penances, or ecstasies if it only brings you discouragement in your present state (“I’ll never be one of them,” we mumble, and then promptly return to the status quo beneath the heel of Satan). Rather, then, occupy yourself with simply walking on the The Little Path, which leads no less, to the beatitude of the saints.
THE LITTLE PATH
Jesus set forth The Little Path when He said to His followers:
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. (Matt 16:24)
I would like to restate this another way: Deny, Apply, and Deify.
What does it mean to deny oneself? Jesus did so every single moment of His earthly life.
I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me… Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing. (John 6:38, 5:19)
The first stepping stone of The Little Path in each moment is to deny one’s own will that is in opposition to God’s laws, the law of love—to reject “the glamour of sin,” as we say in our Baptismal promises.
For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever. (1 John 2:16-17)
Moreover, it is to put God and my neighbour ahead of myself: “I am third”.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve. (Mark 10:45)
Thus, the first step in each moment is a kenosis, an emptying of oneself of “self” in order to be filled with the bread of heaven, which is the Will of the Father.
My food is to do the will of the one who sent me. (John 4:34)
Once we recognize the will of God, we must make the decision to apply it in our lives. As I wrote in On Becoming Holy, the Father’s will is ordinarily expressed in our lives through the “duty of the moment”: dishes, homework, prayer, etc. To “take up one’s cross”, then, is to carry out the will of God. Otherwise, the first step of “Deny” is meaningless introspection. As Pope Francis said recently,
…how beautiful it is to be with Him and how wrong it is to dither between ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ to say ‘yes,’ but to be satisfied merely with being a nominal Christian. —Vatican Radio, November 5th, 2013
Indeed, how many Christians know what the will of God is, but don’t do it!
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does. (James 1:23-25)
Jesus rightly calls this second step in The Little Path a “cross”, because it is here we meet the resistance of the flesh, the tug of the world, the interior battle between the “yes” or “no” to God. Thus, it is here where we take a step by grace.
For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. (Phil 2:13)
If Jesus Christ needed Simon of Cyrene to help Him carry His cross, then be assured, we need “Simons” as well: the Sacraments, the Word of God, the intercession of Mary and the saints, and a life of prayer.
Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2010
This is why Jesus said, “pray always without becoming weary” Luke 18:1 because the duty of the moment is every moment. We need His grace always, especially in order to deify our works….
We need to deny ourselves and then apply ourselves to God’s will. But as St. Paul reminds us:
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor 13:3)
Plainly said, our “good works” are not good unless they contain something of God who is the source of all goodness, who is love itself. This means doing little things with great care, as if we were doing them for ourselves.
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31)
Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love…. The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love. —Mother Teresa’s Instructions to the M.C. Sisters, October 30th, 1981; from Come Be My Light, p. 34, Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C.
Jesus said, “follow me.” Then He stretched His arms upon a cross and died. This means that I don’t leave that crumb beneath the table that I know is there, but feel too tired to take out the broom again to sweep. It means I change the baby’s diaper when he cries rather than leaving it for my wife to do. It means taking not only from my surplus, but from my means to provide for someone who is in need. It means being last when I could very well be first. In summary, it means, as Catherine Doherty used to say, that I lie down upon the “other side of Christ’s cross”—that I “follow” him by dying to my self.
In this way, God begins to reign on earth as it is in heaven little by little, because when we act in love, God “who is love” occupies our acts. This is what makes the salt good and light shine. Therefore, not only will these acts of love transform me more and more into Love Himself, but they will also impact those whom I am loving with His love.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matt 5:16)
Love is what gives light to our works, not only in our obedience in doing them, but also in how we carry them out:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick- tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:4-8)
Love, then, is what deifies our works, infusing them with the power of God who is love, to transform hearts and creation itself.
Deny, Apply, and Deify. They form the acronym D.A.D. The Little Path is not an end in itself, but a path to union with the Father. Dad, in english, is “abba” in Hebrew. Jesus came to reconcile us with our Father, our Daddy, our Abba. We cannot be reconciled with the Heavenly Father unless we follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him. (Matt 17:5)
And in listening to, in following Jesus, we will find the Father.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him. (John 14:21)
But Our Father also knows that this Path is a narrow road. There are twists and turns, steep hills and rocks; there are dark nights, anxieties, and frightening moments. And thus, He has sent us the Consoler, the Holy Spirit to help us cry out in those moments, “Abba, Father!” cf. Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6 No, even though The Little Path is simple, it is still difficult. But here then is where we must have childlike faith so that when we stumble and fall, when we completely mess up and even sin, we turn to His mercy to begin again.
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
We must be preoccupied with His mercy and will, not with our failure and sinfulness!
Try your best, without excessive anxiety, my daughters, to do with perfection what you ought and what you would like to do. Once you have done something, however, do not think about it anymore. Instead, think only about what you still must do, or would like to do, or are doing right then. Walk in the ways of the Lord with simplicity, and do not torment yourselves. You should despise your shortcomings but with calm rather than with anxiety and restlessness. For that reason, be patient about them and learn to benefit from them in holy self-abasement…. —St. Pio, Letter to the Ventrella sisters, March 8th, 1918; Padre Pio’s Spiritual Direction for Every Day, Gianluigi Pasquale, p. 232
We must Deny ourselves, Apply ourselves, and Deify our works by doing the will of God with love. This is indeed an ordinary, unglamorous, Little Path. But it will lead not only you, but others, into the life of God, both here and in eternity.
Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make
our dwelling with him. (John 14:23)
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