On Conformity to the Will of God

catherine.jpg (142123 bytes)
Stigmatization of Saint Catherine of Siena - by BECCAFUMI, Domenico - from Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena

Everything comes from Love, all is Ordained for the Salvation of Man,
God does Nothing without this Goal in Mind.

-Saint Catherine of Siena
Doctor of the Church

 

As the Father hath given Me Commandment, so do I - John 14:31

 

On Conformity to the Will of God

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Jesus Christ was given to us by God, as a Savior and as a Master. Hence He came on Earth, principally-to Teach us, not only by His Words, but also by His own-Example, how we are to Love God - our Supreme Good; hence, as we read in this Day's Gospel, He said to His Disciples: "That the World may know that I Love the Father, and as the Father hath given Me Commandments, so do I". To show the World the Love I bear-to the Father, I will 'Execute' all His Commands. In another place He said: "I came down from Heaven, not to do My own Will, but the Will of Him that sent Me" - John 6:38. Devout Souls, if you Love God, and desire-to become Saints, you must seek His Will, and Wish what He Wishes. Saint Paul tells us, that the Divine Love is poured-into our Souls by-means-of the Holy Ghost. "The Charity of God is Poured into our Hearts by the Holy Ghost, Who is given to us" - Romans 5:5. If, then, we Wish-for the Gift of Divine Love, we must Constantly Beseech the Holy Ghost to make us 'Know' and 'Do' the Will of God. Let us Continually-implore His Light to-'Know', and His Strength to-'Fulfill' the Divine Will. Many Wish-to Love God, but they, at the same time, Wish-to follow their Own, and not His Will. Hence I shall show Today, in the First (1st) Point, that our Sanctification consists entirely in Conformity-to the Will of God; and in the Second (2nd), I shall show 'How' and in-'What' we should, in Practice, Conform ourselves to the Divine Will.

 

First point
Our Sanctification, Consists Entirely in Conformity to the Will of God

It is certain, that our Salvation consists-in Loving God. A Soul that does not Love God, is not Living, but Dead. "He that Loveth not, abideth in Death" - 1John 3:14. The Perfection of Love, consists-in Conforming our Will to the Will of God. "And Life in His Good Will" - Psalm 29:6. "Have Charity, which is the Bond of Perfection - Colossians 3:14. According to the Areopagite, the Principal Effect of Love is to-Unite the Wills of Lovers, so that they may have but One (1) Heart, and One (1) Will. Hence, all our Works, Communions, Prayers, Penances, and Alms, Please God in proportion-to their Conformity-to the Divine Will, and if they be Contrary-to the Will of God, they are No-longer Acts of Virtue, but Defects, deserving-of Chastisement.

Whilst Preaching one Day, Jesus Christ was told that His Mother and Brethren were waiting-for Him; in Answer, He said: "Whosoever shall do the Will of My Father that is in Heaven, he is My Mrother, and Sister, and Mother" - Matthew 12:50. By these Words, He gave us to-Understand that He acknowledged-as Friends and Relatives, those only who Fulfill the Will of His Father.

The Saints in Heaven, Love God, Perfectly. In what, I ask, does the Perfection of their Love 'Consist'? It 'Consists'-in an 'Entire' Conformity-to the Divine Will. Hence Jesus Christ has Taught us to Pray-for Grace to do the Will of God on Earth, as the Saints do it in Heaven. "Thy Will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven" - Matthew 6:10. Hence Saint Teresa says, that "They who practice Prayer, should seek in all things, to Conform their Will to the Will of God". "In this", she adds, "consists the Highest Perfection". He that Practices it in the most-Perfect manner, shall receive from God the Greatest Gifts, and shall make the Greatest Progress in an Interior Life. The accomplishment-of the Divine Will has been the Sole-End of the Saints in the Practice-of all Virtues. Blessed Henry Suso used to say: "I would rather be the Vilest Man on Earth, with the Will of God, than be a Seraph, with my Own Will".

A Perfect Act of Conformity, is sufficient to make a Person a Saint. Behold, Jesus Christ appeared to Saint Paul, while he was Persecuting the Church, and Converted him. What did the Saint do? He did nothing more than offer to God his Will, that He might Dispose-of it, as He pleased. "Lord", he exclaimed, "what wilt Thou have me to do?" - Acts 9:6. And Instantly the Lord declared to Ananias, that Saul was a 'Vessel-of Election', and 'Apostle-of the Gentiles'. "This Man is a Vessel of Election, to carry My Name before the Gentiles" - Acts 9:15. He that gives his Will to God, gives Him All he has. He that Mortifies himself by Fasts and Penitential Austerities, or that gives Alms to the Poor for God's Sake, gives-to God, a Part-of himself, and of his Goods; but he that gives his Will to God, gives Him All, and can say: Lord, having given Thee my Will, I have nothing more to give Thee - I have given Thee All. It is our Heart - that is, our Will - that God asks of us. "My son, give Me thy Heart" - Proverbs 23:26. Since, then, says the Holy Abbot Nilus, our Will is so-acceptable-to God, we ought, in our Prayers, to ask of Him the Grace, not that we may do what He Will, but that we may do All that He Wishes us to do. Every one knows this Truth, that our Sanctification consists in doing the Will of God; but, there is some Difficulty in Reducing it to Practice. Let us, then, come to the Second Point, in which I have to say many things of Great Practical Utility.

 

Second point
How, and in what we ought to Practice Conformity to the Will of God

That we may Feel a Facility, of doing on All Occasions, the Divine Will, we must Beforehand offer ourselves continually, to Embrace-in Peace, whatever God Ordains or Wills. Such was the Practice of Holy David. "My Heart", he used to say, "is ready; O God! my Heart is ready" - Psalm 107:2. And he continually Besought the Lord to Teach him to do His Divine Will. "Teach me to do Thy Will" - Psalm 142:10. He thus deserved to be called a Man according-to God's Own Heart. "I have found David, the Son of Jesse, a Man according to My Own Heart, who shall do all My Wills" - Acts 13:22. And why? Because the Holy King was always ready to do whatever God Wished him to do.

Saint Teresa offered herself to God, Fifty (50) Times in the Day, that He might dispose-of her as He Pleased; and Declared her Readiness to Embrace either Prosperity or Adversity. The Perfection of our Oblation, consists-in offering ourselves to God, without Reserve. All are prepared-to Unite themselves to the Divine Will in Prosperity; but Perfection consists-in Conforming to it, even in Adversity. To thank God in all things that are agreeable to us, is acceptable to Him; but to accept with Cheerfulness, what is Repugnant to our Inclinations, is still more Pleasing to Him. Father M. Avila used to say, that a Single (1) Blessed be God, in Adversity, is better than Six Thousand (6000) 'Thanksgivings', in Prosperity.

We should Conform-to the Divine Will, not only in Misfortunes which come Directly-from God - such as Sickness, Loss of Property, Privation of Friends and Relatives - but also in Crosses which come to us from Men, but Indirectly-from God - such as Acts-of Injustice, Defamations, Calumnies, Injuries, and all other sorts of Persecutions. But you may ask, does God Will that others Commit Sin, by Injuring us in our Property, or in our Reputation? No! God Wills not their Sin; but He Wishes us to bear-with such a Loss, and with such a Humiliation; and He Wishes us to Conform, on all such occasions, to His Divine Will.

"Good Things and Evil ... are from God". All Blessings - such as Riches and Honors - and all Misfortunes such as Sickness and Persecutions - come from God. But Mark that the Scripture calls them Evils, only because we, through a Want-of Conformity to the Will of God, regard them as Evils and Misfortunes. But, in Reality, if we accepted-them from the Hands of God, with Christian Resignation, they should be Blessings and not Evils. The Jewels which give the Greatest Splendor to the Crown-of the Saints in Heaven, are the Tribulations which they Bore-with Patience, as coming-from the Hands of the Lord. On hearing that the Sabeans had taken away all his Oxen and Asses, Holy Job said: "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away" - Job 1:21. He did not say that the Lord gave, and that the Sabeans had taken-away; but that the Lord gave, and that the Lord had taken-away: and therefore he Blessed the Lord, believing that all had happened through the Divine Will. "As it hath pleased the Lord, so it is done: Blessed be the name of the Lord" - ibid. Being Tormented with Iron Hooks and Burning Torches, the Holy Martyrs Epictetus and Atone, said: "Lord, Thy Will be done in us". And their Last Words were: "Be Blessed, O Eternal God, for having given us the Grace to accomplish Thy Will".

"Whatsoever shall Befall the Just Man, it shall not make him Sad" - Proverbs 12:21. A Soul that Loves God is not Disturbed-by any Misfortune that may happen to Her. Cesaxius relates that a certain Monk, who did not perform Greater Austerities than his Companions, wrought many Miracles. Being astonished at this, the Abbot asked him one day, what were the Works of Piety which he Practiced. He answered, that he was more Imperfect than the other Monks; but that his Sole Concern was, to Conform himself to the Divine Will. Were you Displeased, said the Abbot, with the Person who Injured us so Grievously, a Few Days ago? No, Father, replied the Monk; I on the contrary, thanked God for it; because I know that He Does or Permits all things for our Good. From this answer, the Abbot perceived the Sanctity of the Good Religious. We should Act in a similar manner under all the Crosses that come upon us. Let us always say: "Yea, Father; for so hath it seemed Good in Thy Sight" - Matthew 11:26. Lord, this is Pleasing to Thee; let it be done.

He that Acts in this Manner, enjoys that Peace which the Angels announced at the Birth of Jesus Christ, to Men-of Good Will, - that is to those whose Wills are United-to the Will of God. These, as the Apostle says, enjoy that Peace, which exceeds all Sensual Delights. "The Peace of God, which Surpasseth all Understanding" - Philippians 4:7. A Great and Solid Peace, which is not liable to change. "A Holy Man continueth in Wisdom, like the Sun; but a Fool is Changing, like the Moon" - Ecclesiastes 27:12. Fools - that is, Sinners - are Changed-like the Moon, which Increases Today, and Grows-less on Tomorrow; Today they are seen to Laugh through Folly, and Tomorrow, to Weep through Despair; Today they are Humble and Meek, Tomorrow, Proud and Furious. In a word, Sinners change with Prosperity and Adversity; but the Just are like the Sun, always the same, always Serene in whatever happens-to them. In the Inferior Part of the Soul, they cannot but feel, some Pain at the Misfortunes which Befall them; but, as-long-as the Will remains United-to the Will of God, nothing can Deprive them of that Spiritual Joy, which is not Subject-to the Vicissitudes of this Life. "Your Joy, no Man shall take from you" - John 16:22.

He that Reposes-in the Divine Will, is like a Man placed above the Clouds: he sees the Lightning, and hears the Claps of Thunder and the Raging of the Tempest below, but he is not Injured or Disturbed by them. And how can he be ever Disturbed, when whatever he Desires, always happens? He that Desires only what Pleases God, always obtains whatsoever he Wishes, because all that happens to him, happens through the Will of God. Salvian says, that Christians who are Resigned, if they be in a Low Condition of Life, Wish to be in that State; if they be Poor, they Desire Poverty; because they Wish whatever God Wills, and therefore they are always Content. "Humiles sunt, hoe volunt, pauperes sunt, paupertate delectantur: itaque beati dicendi sunt". If Cold, or Heat, or Rain, or Wind come on, he that is United-to the Will of God says: I Wish for this Cold, this Heat, this Rain, and this Wind, because God Wills them. If Loss of Property, Persecution, Sickness, or even Death, come upon him, he says: I Wish for this Loss, this Persecution, this Sickness; I even Wish for Death, when it comes, because God Wills it. And how can a Person who seeks-to Please God, enjoy Greater Happiness, than that which arises-from Cheerfully Embracing the Cross which God sends him, and from the Conviction that, in Embracing it, he pleases God in the Highest Degree? So great was the Joy which Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi used to Feel, at the Bare Mention-of the Will of God, that she would fall into an Ecstasy.

But, how Great is the Folly of those who Resist the Divine Will, and, instead of receiving Tribulations with Patience, get into a Rage, and Accuse God of Treating them with Injustice and Cruelty! Perhaps they expect, that, in Consequence-of their Opposition, what God Wills shall not happen? "Who resisteth His Will?" - Romans 9:19. Miserable Men! Instead of Lightening the Cross which God sends them, they make it more Heavy and Painful. "Who hath resisted Him, and hath Peace?" - Job 9:4. Let us be Resigned-to the Divine Will, and we shall thus Render our Crosses Light, and shall gain Great Treasures of Merits for Eternal Life. In sending us Tribulations, God intends to make us Saints. "This is the Will of God, your Sanctification" - 1Thessalonians 4:3. He sends us Crosses, not because He Wishes Evil to us, but because He Desires our Welfare, and because He Knows that they are Conducive-to our Salvation. "All things work together unto Good" - Romans 8:28. Even the Chastisements which come from the Lord, are not for our Destruction, but for our Good, and for the Correction of our Faults. "Let us Believe that these Scourges of the Lord ... have happened for our Amendment, and not for our Destruction" - Judith 8:27. God Loves us so Tenderly, that He not only Desires, but is Solicitous-about our Welfare. "The Lord", says David, "is careful for me" - Psalm 39:18.

Let us, then, always throw ourselves into the Hands of God, Who so-ardently Desires and so-anxiously Watches-over our Eternal Salvation. "Casting all your Care upon Him; for He hath Care of you" - 1Peter 5:7. He who, during Life, casts himself into the Hands of God, shall lead a Happy Life, and shall Die a Holy Death. He who Dies resigned-to the Divine Will, Dies a Saint; but they who shall not have been United-to the Divine Will during Life, shall not Conform to it at Death, and shall not be Saved. The accomplishment-of the Divine Will, should be the Sole Object of all our Thoughts during the Remainder of our Days. To this End, we should direct all our Devotions, our Meditations, Communions, Visits-to the Blessed Sacrament, and all our Prayers. We should constantly Beg-of God to Teach and Help us to do His Will. "Teach me to do Thy Will" - Psalm 143:10. Let us, at the same time, offer ourselves to accept without reserve, whatever He Ordains, saying, with the Apostle: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" - Acts 9:6. Lord, tell me what Thou dost Wish me to do; I desire-to do Thy Will. And in all things, whether they be Pleasing or Painful, let us always have in our Mouths, that Petition-of the Pater Noster - "Thy Will be done". Let us frequently repeat it in the day, with all the Affection-of our Hearts. Happy we, if we Eve and Die saying: "Thy Will be done! Thy Will be done!".

 

- End of Liguori Sermon -

 

May the Divine Will be Loved and Praised!
May the Immaculate Virgin be also Praised!