Navigating the Interior Life Week 5 of 6
Navigating the Interior Life Week 5 of 6
St. Teresa of Avila in her powerful illumination of this place of spiritual growth revealed that getting through the “purgative way” can be a challenge that requires steadfast determination….
“Nevertheless, the assault which the devils now make upon the soul, in all kinds of ways, is terrible; and the soul suffers more than in the preceding dwelling places; for there it was deaf and dumb, or at least it could hear very little, and so it offered less resistance, like one who to a great extent has lost hope of gaining the victory. Here the understanding is keener and the faculties are more alert, while the clash of arms and the noise of cannon are so loud that the soul cannot help hearing them. For here the devils once more show the soul these vipers – that is, the things of the world – and they pretend that earthly pleasures are almost eternal: they remind the soul of the esteem in which it is held in the world, of its friends and relatives, of the way in which its health will be endangered by penances (which the soul always wants to do when it first enters this dwelling place) and of impediments of a thousand other kinds.
Oh, Jesus! What confusion the devils bring about in the poor soul, and how distressed it is, not knowing if it ought to proceed farther or return to the room where it was before!” – “Navigating the Interior Life” (NTIL), p. 106-108 (Paragraph II of text and Paragraphs III and IV of quote).
Do you ever feel like you’re straddling a fence – or walking a tightrope between this world and the next? Here we have so many sorrows, but admit it – there’s a lot of fun to be had, too – not all of it spiritual. And the goals we could set and achieve – in this world – are endless. To what heights might I climb? How far might I go?
My poor soul! St. Teresa is right – those devils do pursue me with a vengeance! Virtually every time I find consolation in God, they sneak in to remind me of all that the world has to offer. And I am easily distracted.
There are some days when I consider all the “bliss” I might have found, had I remained in my former ignorance – particularly when I compare my life with the carefree lives of relatives and acquaintances. Like Lot’s wife, for just a moment (a potentially deadly moment) I look back…
YES, I want heaven. But is the material world ANTI-heaven? It would seem so from the books we’ve been reading. But didn‘t God CREATE the world? And didn’t He say that “It was very good”? Can’t I love God and love this world? After all HE does, right? Can’t I pursue the American Dream and still be a “good-enough” Catholic? This is when my soul turns and races in the other direction, sprinting toward the entrance of this room, in effort to go back to that from whence I came.
Thankfully, thus far God’s grace has stopped me before I’ve reached the door. Upon quiet contemplation, I am gently admonished by a patient voice, filling my head with loving reminders. Remember, “…you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world…”(John 15:19). “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6); “Come, follow Me“(Matthew 19:21).
I must be watchful. The devil is quick to show me the kingdoms of this world, and offer, as he did to Christ, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall be all yours” (Luke 4:6-7).
Christ said to “Seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). Whatever God’s will is for my life -that is what I must pursue. I cannot pursue my own agenda, and somehow “mold” that agenda into God’s will. In fact, St. Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
St. Paul even instructs me on how to direct my thoughts. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). Eyes on Christ. Focusing my thoughts and efforts on the Good – only these things will keep me moving forward through these rooms.
At Mass on Holy Thursday, I was very moved by the lady who sat in front of me. There was nothing particularly remarkable about her. And yet, she was remarkable. She was probably in her 90s. I’m sure you’ve seen her type. She was aglow with smiles during the sign of peace, and she took my hand in both of hers, looking into my eyes and wishing me peace as though I were the only person on earth. And yet she could barely stand when it came time to leave the pew.
My very holy mother-in-law is the same way. These days, every time I speak with her, she is either coming from or going to a funeral. Perhaps there is something to the “age” factor. Wisdom comes with age or experience – and I’m sure the two often walk hand in hand. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The years teach much which the days never knew.”
Regardless, there are a great many people in this world who KNOW that it’s not about the money, or the house, or their looks or their health. It’s about LOVE.
These people recognize with every breath what St. Teresa of Avila shares with us:
On the other hand, reason tells the soul how mistaken it is in thinking that all these earthly things are of the slightest value by comparison with what it is seeking, faith instructs it in what it must do to find satisfaction; memory shows it how all these things come to an end, and reminds it that those who have derived so much enjoyment from the things which it has seen have died. Sometimes they have died suddenly and been quickly forgotten by all: people whom we once knew to be very prosperous are now beneath the ground…(NTIL, pg. 108-109)
Lord, may my reason inform my heart of this truth, that I, too, may always recognize the “prizes” of this world for what they are – mere baubles and trinkets – compared with the “pearl of great price” that is the kingdom of God.
1. Do you feel you’re straddling a fence? How do you work through this difficulty? What do you do to keep your eyes focused on Christ?
2. Open discussion: Feel free to comment on any topic from this past week’s reading.
Week 5 – 4/09 p. 115-122; 137-154 (E-Readers: Developing a Rule of Life, Conclusion, Appendix Two)
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