Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 15, 2007
Our dignity lies in union with God
The basic fact of human existence was stated more than 1,600 years ago by St. Augustine: "O Lord, you have created us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." One's whole life ought to be a journey to complete union with God. The full dignity of the human person lies in union with God. This is eternal happiness.
The person bound for glory, the one who truly loves God, does not simply wait for heaven, but desires, with all his or her spirit, to be united with God in this world.
This hardly seems possible. Our world, with all its distractions, with its worship of things, with its many and varied forms of depravity, seems a most unlikely place to make true spiritual progress.
On Oct. 15, we celebrate the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, one who progressed far towards union with God in this world. It's true Teresa was a Carmelite, living a cloistered life removed from the world's most evident distractions. Nevertheless, she experienced many of the same trials and temptations that beset us in the secular world. Facing much opposition, she had to reform her order - virtually to begin it anew - before she could begin what we would consider a normal cloistered life.
Even then she came face to face with her fallen humanity. "We are labouring under the burden of our miserable nature," Teresa wrote, "which is like a great load of earth."
To achieve union with God, our constant task must be to remove this great load of earth, bit by bit, to root out of our hearts all that keeps us from God. Beginning with the massive clump of our own pride, we need to continuously shovel away layers of laziness, negligence, impatience and presumption.
One can despair of one's faults. Instead, let them lead us to beg God all the more intently to purify us and to bring us to fuller union. "What we have to do is to beg like poor and needy persons coming before a great and rich Emperor and then cast down our eyes in humble expectation."
God calls us ceaselessly to approach him. "However feeble our prayers may be, God values them highly."
Reflecting on the life of St. Paul, Teresa wrote, "It seems that no other name fell from his lips than that of Jesus, because the name of Jesus was fixed and embedded in his heart." Then, examining the lives of other saints, she found the same phenomenon - their concern was not morality or raising themselves to the highest spiritual levels, but simply loving Jesus. Love Jesus and everything else that is good will follow.
Teresa was a great analyst of the different stages of spiritual growth and, for this, she has been named one of the doctors of the Church. In the summit of mystical contemplative prayer, she found, not a life cut off from the world, but rather a life of great apostolic fervour. We see this clearly in her namesake, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who was a woman of deep and constant prayer, but who gave herself over totally to the service of the poor and the dying.
For Teresa of Avila, love was what mattered and what drove everything else. It is love that removes that great load of earth from our backs: "Love consists, not in the extent of our happiness, but in the firmness of our determination to try to please God in everything, and to endeavour in all possible ways, not to offend him and to pray to him ever to advance the honour and glory of his Son and the growth of the Catholic Church."
This way of love seems far removed from the hustle and bustle of ordinary daily life. But that helps to make it attractive.
The human heart hungers for something purer, something more worthy of our dignity as children of God. We need not abandon this world to overcome our hunger. We need only deepen our love of God, shedding our imperfections and drawing ever closer to the one who made us for himself.
- Glen Argan
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