by Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P.
Our Blessed Lord has given us the Command: Be Perfect, as your Heavenly
Father is Perfect (Matthew 5:48). Obviously we can never attain the Infinite
(∞) Perfection, the Infinite
(∞) Sanctity and Holiness
that is Gods; but, with the Help of Gods Grace, each Person
can Attain (and is Commanded to Attain Mark 12:23ff) the Degree of Sanctity in keeping with the
Graces and Gifts received. God has
His Plan for each of us and He has given each of us all the
Graces and Opportunities, all the Qualifications and Capacities needed, to Fulfill what
He calls us to Accomplish. Yet His Plan will be Fulfilled in us only in the Measure
that His Will is Fulfilled in us, i.e. only in the Measure that we can bring our
Will to Surrender to His. Only in that Measure will we attain the
Perfection, the Sanctity, to which we are Called.
Because, however, of the Damage that Original Sin has done to
our Nature, with the Obscuring of our Judgment, the
Weakening of our Will, and our Inclination
to Evil (i.e. Our Inclination to Choose what Pleases us, rather than what Pleases God),
the Accomplishment of Gods Will in all-circumstances is Impossible for us without
Gods Help. Add to that the Ability of the Evil One to
Distract us from our Divine Goal, by Holding-up before us the
Enticements of the World, and we can see that Becoming Perfect, as our Heavenly Father is Perfect,
will be an Uphill Battle and a Lifelong Struggle.
God's Will is our Sanctification
Saint Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: This is the Will of God, your Sanctification
(1Thesalonians 4:3). These words of Saint Paul are true not only in the sense that God
Wishes or Intends our
Sanctification, but also in the sense that our Sanctification will come about only
in the Measure that His Will is Fulfilled in us . . . only in the Measure that we
Humbly and Faithfully Fulfill His
Commandments and the God-given Duties of our State-in-Life, and accept Freely with a
YES, FATHER the Crosses and
Hardships, the Setbacks, Disappointments and
Sorrows that He allows to come our way.
of the Holy Spirit
Fear of the Lord
Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit reside within the Essence of Man's Natural Soul, giving its
Facilities/Powers of Intellect and Will the Capacity for Supernatural Acts.
The Divine Grace that was Infused into our
Soul at Baptism by the Holy
Spirit has made us Adopted Children of the Father.
Just as the Holy Spirit came down upon Mary and Wrought in her the Birth of Christ, so may He Descend upon
the Church, and bring about in Her Maternal Womb (the Baptismal Font), the Rebirth of God's Children.
We are His Children in a very Real Sense, sharing in His Own Divine
Life. In a very Real Sense He is our Father,
Who Loves us with an Infinite (∞)
Love, Who understands our Needs and
Weaknesses, and Who is an Infinitely
(∞) Wise and Loving
Provider, looking after the Needs of His Children.
Some may seem to think that God is not a Loving Father,
that He has not Provided for the Needs of all, when they
see the Hunger and Starvation of so many, the
Wars and Displacement of Peoples, etc. yet God Provides
Sufficiently for the Needs of Mankind, but the Greed and Hatred
of Some is Responsible for the Want and Suffering of Others. And this,
God cannot Prevent without taking-away Mans Free-Will, i.e. his Ability
to Choose between Good and Evil; and this
God will not do.
When we read some Books on the Spiritual Life with the Long Lists of
Exercises and Mortifications, it can be Discouraging
to the Fainthearted, and Causes one to Focus more Attention on Self, than on God. Yet our
Blessed Lord said: But one thing is necessary . . .
(Luke 10:42) ... He who does the Will of My Father in Heaven shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven
(Matthew 7:21). The Road to Sanctity, then, is not
Complicated, even though at times not Easy.
If the Work of Sanctification were so Complicated,
Our Blessed Lord would not have Demanded it in such Clear Terms: Be
Perfect, as your Father in Heaven is Perfect. All have been Called-to Holiness (whether
they receive Ten (10) Talents, or Five (5), or
One (1)), therefore the Way must be simple enough for all to attain it, not by themselves,
but by the Aid of Divine Grace, and of Gods Guiding and Purifying
The expression YES, FATHER is not just a Prayerful Formula. It expresses the Basis of the
Spiritual Life. It is the Heart of our Prayer. It keeps us
ever Mindful of Gods Guiding and Healing Hand in our Lives, both as to
Joys and Pleasures or Sufferings and
Sorrows. It is the Royal Highway, of Carrying the Cross behind
Jesus. However, following Him in this manner requires a Constant Alertness to the
Hand of God Guiding all the Events of our Life. At times He even
uses our Mistakes and the Opposition of others to bring out the Exercise of the
Christian Virtues, to afford us the Opportunity of making Reparation, and to Undermine the
Attachments that Stand-in-the-Way of our Surrender to
Pope Benedict XV decreed, in giving the Guidelines to the Sacred Congregation of Rites as to the Norm of
Holiness required that one be Eligible for Beatification:
Sanctity properly consists in the Conformity to Gods Will, expressed in a Constant and Exact Fulfillment of
the Duties of our State in Life.
Sanctity, therefore, does not consist in doing Extraordinary Things, but is
Essentially Reduced to the Fulfillment of our Duties toward God and Neighbor by Reason of our
State-in-Life. Consequently, it is something Possible for all of us. For this Reason, one should Strive to see the Expression of
Gods Will in each of his Duties. Then each Task will be seen as an Opportunity of Offering a
YES, FATHER to a God of Infinite
(∞) Love and
Mercy, thereby Loving Him in Return. Persevering Faithfully
in the Fulfillment of ones Duties, not merely when they come Easily and with Satisfaction, but when
Tired, or Sad, or Disappointed, etc., calls for
Uncommon Generosity of Spirit. It takes Uncommon Virtue,
said Pope Pius Xl, to Fulfill with Exactitude, that is, without Carelessness, Negligence or Indolence,
but with Attention, Piety and Spiritual Fervor, the Whole Combination of Ordinary Duties which make up our Daily Life.
This Constant Fidelity to our God-given Duties does not come Easily, as we all know from
experience. Yet one should not be Discouraged at Failures, but
see Each Day as a New Beginning to Start Again, knowing that God can make
Fruitful our Efforts and Desires.
The Divine Physician
Various persons may visit a Medical Doctor for Help, each having a Different Problem or
Illness. For each he will Prescribe a Special Remedy to get at the Root of the
Illnesses. Whether we know it or not, each of us has
Spiritual Illnesses Weaknesses
and Attachments that Tend in some Measure to
Enslave our Will, making it Difficult
for us to Surrender our Will to
Our Heavenly Father, the Divine Physician, knows our
Weaknesses and Attachments that Interfere with our Total
Surrender to Him. And in His Loving Concern
for us, He not only Offers Strengthening and
Healing Graces, but He uses Human
Instruments as part of the Healing Process. For example,
He lets People Touch the Sensitive
Areas of our Ego (Inordinate Self-Love), with Incidents that
Upset, Irritate, Frustrate etc.
He does this not only to make us Aware of Hidden
Attachments that often make us Respond Impatiently, or
Angrily, or Uncharitably; but in Hope that we will see
His Hand allowing it, and Surrender to
His Action. Because of the Wounds of our
Fallen Nature referred to above, that Surrender will not be without
Pain. Yet each time we can manage to do so with a YES, FATHER, . . .
His Action Chips Away ever so slightly at that Attachment,
and our Action has both a Meritorious and Satisfactory
Value. That is, it not only Merits an Increase of Grace,
but in some Measure Pays the Debt of
Temporal Punishment due to Sin.
Jesus performs the easy task of Healing the Blind Man. The
difficult task of Healing his Soul remains.
There are certain Basic Weaknesses and Faults
in our makeup that we will never Overcome by ourselves alone. We need God's Help, not only
to overcome Them, but even to be Clearly Aware of Them.
But God will not do it alone. He Demands our Cooperation,
our Surrender to His Action. He
Supplies the Opportunities that Test our Patience,
our Charity, our Humility, our
Trust, etc. But those Opportunities will be Lost if we Fail to Recognize
His Hand in them, and Respond in our Heart with a
We all need to Undertake a Certain Amount of Mortification of our Own Initiative in
Overcoming our Weaknesses; but those Opportunities for
Mortification which God provides, where
He takes the Initiative, are far more Important and Efficacious in getting at the Root of our
Spiritual Problems and
Healing the Wounds of our Fallen
Nature, if only we see His Hand and Submit to
His Action. With every Cross He
sends, there is an Accompanying Grace to Help
us to bear it.
What we have been saying does not mean that we should not defend ourselves or others against some Unjust
Action, or remind another of something that is Out of Line. It refers more
to those cases where Emotion takes over and Blinds us to the
Hand of God providing an Opportunity of Self-Discipline, and our
Hurt Pride causes us to Respond in an
Uncharitable, or Impatient, or
One with Deep Faith sees the
Providence of God in all that is beyond his own Power to Control, and Trusts that
God can bring Good out of every Situation.
He follows that Straight and Narrow Way where God is his
Guide, his Provider, his Physician.
It is a Road that he could never find of himself, nor would he of himself Choose, for it is Rough Going in places. Yet the more he gives
God a Free Hand in Guiding him, the Richer
will be his Inheritance when he arrives at that Final Destination.
God's Way Makes Us More Human
Supernatural Order/Divine Grace
(Resides in the Essence of the Soul)
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)
Sanctifying Grace/Infused Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit
In Surrendering oneself to the Guidance of God, we need never
give up anything of our Normal or Natural self. God's Action will never Stunt our Human Nature, for
Sanctity Completes, not Lessens, our Humanity. There is a most Intimate Connection between
Nature and Grace. Grace builds on Nature and
Perfects it. The Human Person will attain the Perfection of his Humanity only in
the Measure of his Growth in Holiness, for only with the Help of Divine
Grace can we Hope to Rid ourselves of all Faults. When we speak of the
Perfection of our Humanity, we are not referring to Bodily or
Physical Well-Being, but the Subjection of our Lower Nature to the
Higher, so that one more Perfectly Fulfills the Purpose for which he was Created.
We will get Rid of our Faults and Weaknesses, not so much by
the Negative Process of Suppression (though a certain Self-Denial is Essential), but more through the Positive Effort to Exercise the
Virtues which we are Weak in, and through Surrender to
Gods Touch His Pruning Hand, which is always Accompanied-by
His Healing Grace.
If there is this Spiritual Alertness to See and Accept the Demands of Gods Will, it will Bring
into Action all of the Theological and Moral Virtues. And the Law of
Charity can never be Perfectly Fulfilled without them. It will bring about, too, a Greater Activity of the
Gifts of the Holy Spirit received at Baptism.
A Marvelous Exchange
In the Liturgy
for the Feast of Mary, the Mother of
God (January 1st), Reference is made to the Marvelous
Exchange brought about by the Incarnation of the Son of God.
In that Mystery, God took on our Human Nature, in order to share
with us His Divine Nature. A similar Marvelous Exchange takes
place at Mass. We offer the 'Gift of our Self' at the Offertory
(in our Promise or Resolve to Surrender to His Will), and
He gives Himself in Holy Communion,
not merely coming Bodily under the Species of Bread and Wine, but by giving us an Increase
of His Divine Life through Grace.
Yet, that same Marvelous Exchange also takes place every time we say YES,
FATHER, Renouncing our Will in Favor-of His, and
especially when it is not easy. What happens when we Renounce our Will in order to Embrace
Gods? We give up what we Want (some Temporal Satisfaction),
in favor of what God Wants to Give (some Gift of Grace) which is
of Infinitely (∞) Greater Value. Every time this
happens, God gives us something Eternal in Exchange for something
only Temporary, something Divine in Exchange for something merely Human. Each day will bring Frequent
Occasions of Surrendering to His Will (in
Sacrifices needed to keep His Commandments, in the Fulfillment of our
God-given Duties, or in the Acceptance of the Crosses He
sends our Way) . . . in order to Receive His Gifts . . . in order to Return
We should Pray for a Strong Faith that Helps us to Recognize
the Little Crosses of each day, to Recognize the Hand of God
behind the Ups-and-Downs, the Trials and Disappointments, the
little Irritations and Frustrations. We cannot Accept what we
dont See; and if we do not See Gods Hand behind these Little Trials
which He Allows for our Spiritual Growth, our Nature will
Shrink-back, or Rebel against them. In doing so, we will have Rejected that
Our Blessed Lord expressed this is another way: He that shall Lose his
Life for My Sake, shall find it (Matthew 16:25). He says in effect:
He that will give up his Own Will (in spite of the Hardship,
Inconvenience, Sacrifice) for My Sake,
i.e. in order to Conform it to Mine, will allow Me to Live My Divine Life more Fully in him. Such a one will attain a
Fulfillment, that having his own Way could never bring.
None of us knows what lies ahead, but God does. His Will
(Springing from Infinite (∞)
Love and Wisdom) has Prepared a Path for us. Every Detail of Our Life is seen in the
Divine Mind. One should Pray for the
Grace to Embrace with Courage and Readiness all that God Wishes and Permits, Confident
that in His Will we shall Find our Peace and
The Will of
God is the Beginning and the End of all things
(Apocolypse 1:8). It is the Source of every Good, both on Earth and in
Heaven. And yet how many Reject it in Favor of their own Personal Wants. How often one Chooses the
Creature in Preference to the Creator.
Transformation in Christ
There is an Axiom in Theology according to which God gives
Grace in the Measure that we do not place Obstacles in the Way . . . in the Measure that we
do not Reject His Advances . . . His Pruning
Hand. Each time we Surrender to His Action, that
Marvelous Exchange takes place of which we spoke.
Love of God is shown by one's Willingness to make the Sacrifices
needed to Surrender to His Will. In the Measure that one Habitually
Strives to Conform his Will to God, with the Growth of
Grace that it brings, the Soul is gradually Transformed
into the Likeness of Christ. As Father F.D. Joret, O.P. states,
Grace is a Crucifying Thing, inasmuch as it is an Inflowing of the very
Grace which Jesus received in its Fullness and which led Him
to the Cross (Dominican Life, p.268). Our Human Nature Recoils from the
Cross, but as it is Perfected by Grace, one more Readily
Embraces it, to Share in Christs Redeeming Action for Souls.
That Transformation, however, will be Slow and at times Painful.
Christ Suffered much in His
Surrender to the Will of His
Father, and at times our Surrender to the Will of the
Father (because of our Attachments) will not be easy. Yet the
Grace to do so will be Given if we ask for it and try to give God His Way.
This is part of the Process whereby God Purifies the Soul from the
Attachments that Stand in the Way of our Surrender to
His Will. Each YES, FATHER furthers that Process. With each Increase of
Grace there is Growth in Love which makes His Yoke easy, and His Burden
light (Matthew 11:30). If we do all we can to do what Christ did to Submit our self
Entirely to the Will of the Father the
Father will do the Rest.
Saint Teresa of Avila stressed much the general theme of these Reflections:
"The Sole Concern of him who has but Entered into the Way of Prayer . . . must be to Strive Courageously to
Conform his Will to that of God . . . Herein lie, Whole and Entire, the Highest Perfection to which we can attain. The more Perfect the
Accord is, the more do we receive from the Lord and the Greater is our Progress". (Interior Castle, 2nd Mansions)
"The Highest Perfection consists not in Interior Favors, or in Great Raptures, or in Visions, or in the
Spirit of Prophesy, but in the Bringing of our Wills so closely into Conformity with the Will of God, that as soon as we realize He
Wills anything, we Desire it with all our Might, and take the Bitter with the Sweet". (Book of the Foundations, 5)