THE PRACTICE OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST
XXXI.-HE THAT LOVES JESUS CHRIST SEEKS TO DETACH HIMSELF FROM EVERY CREATURE
Anyone who would belong wholly to God must be free of all human respect. Oh, how many souls does this accursed respect keep far from God, and even separate them from Him for ever! For instance, if they hear mention made of some or other of their failings, oh, what do they not do to justify themselves, and to convince the world that it is a calumny! If they perform some good work, how industrious are they to circulate it everywhere! They would have it known to the whole world in order to be universally applauded. The Saints behave in a very different way; they would rather publish their defects to the whole world, in order to pass in the eyes of all for the miserable creatures which they really are in their own eyes; and, on the contrary, in practising any acts of virtue, they prefer to have God alone know of it; for their only care is to be acceptable to Him. It is on this account that so many of them were enchanted with solitude, mindful, as they were, of the words of Jesus Christ: But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth-(Matt. vi. 3-5). And again: But thou, when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber; and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret-(Matt. v. 6). But of all things, self-detachment is most needful; that is, detachment from self-will. Only once succeed in subduing yourself, and you will easily triumph in every other combat. “Vince teipsum -Conquer thyself,” was the maxim which St. Francis Xavier inculcated on all. And Jesus Christ said: If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself -(Matt. xvi. 24). Behold in a few words all that we need practise to become saints; to deny ourselves, and not to follow our own will: Go not after thy lusts, but turn away from thy own will-(Ecclus. xviii. 30). And this is the greatest grace, said St. Francis of Assisi, that we can receive from God: the power, namely, to conquer ourselves by denying self-will.
St. Bernard writes that if all men would resist self-will, none would ever be damned: “Let self-will cease, and there will be no hell.” The same Saint writes that it is the baneful effect of self-will to contaminate even our good works: “Self-will is a great evil, since it renders thy good works no longer good.” As, for instance, were a penitent obstinately bent on mortifying himself, or on fasting, or on taking the discipline against the will of his director; we see that this act of penance, done at the instigation of self-will, becomes very defective. Unhappy the man that lives the slave of self-will, for he shall have a yearning for many things and shall not possess them; while, on the other hand, he will be forced to undergo many things distasteful and bitter to his inclinations: From whence are wars and contentions among you? Are they not hence, from your concupiscences which war in your members? You covet, and have not-(James iv. 1, 2). The first war springs from the appetite for sensual delights. Let us take away the occasion; let us mortify the eyes; let us recommend ourselves to God, and the war will be over. The second war arises from the covetousness of riches: let us cultivate a love of poverty, and this war will cease. The third war has its source in ambitiously seeking after honours: let us love humility and the hidden life, and this war, too, will be no more. The fourth war, and the most ruinous of all, comes from self-will. Let us practise resignation in all that happens to us, and the war will cease. St. Bernard tells us that whenever we see a person troubled, the origin of his trouble is nothing else than his inability to gratify self-will. “Whence comes disquiet,” says the Saint, ” except that we follow self-will?” Our Blessed Lord once complained of this to St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, in these words: “Certain souls desire My Spirit, but after their own fancy; and so they become incapable of receiving it.”