Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In the world, yet not of it . . . Gregory the Great

I came across this reading as titled above, by Gregory the Great in the Readings for Commons in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Gregory is preaching on the act of forsaking everything, which he admits that he does not "presume to do."  He suggests that you can still have things while giving them up.

How, we may wonder, can we do that?

The answer lies in his genius.  He says, "Whatever you possess must not possess you; whatever you own must be under the power of your soul. . . . In other words, we make use of temporal things, but our hearts are set on what is eternal.  Temporal goods help us on our way, but our desire must be for those eternal realities which are our goal.  We should give no more than a side glance at all that happens in the world, but the eyes of our soul are to be focused right ahead; for our whole attention must be fixed on those realities which constitute our goal."

What a beautiful reminder that everything external to us, especially those things that occupy our human sensitivities and attract our inclination to pride can become obstacles to our "soul's progress!"

He says, "But further, our minds should merely skirt even the good deeds we perform in this life; in this way, the physical things which give us pleasure will serve our bodily needs without hindering the soul's progress. . . . if you will, you can give everything up even while keeping it, provided you handle temporal things in such a way that your whole mind is directed toward what is eternal."

If you have ever wondered how to let go of the grip of the material world and move closer to God, Gregory concludes his essay by reminding us that we have the help of Jesus to achieve this when  "we burn with a great love for him, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever."

Indeed!  It is a classic practice if we want to grow spiritually, not to focus on the obstacle in our path, but to set our eyes on Jesus.  As we do that, the obstacle will fade and no longer be such a stumbling block.  The more attention we give to the obstacles to our union with God, the bigger they become.

Try taking Gregory's advice if you want to grow closer to God.  Spend more time in Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament; attend Mass; pray earnestly.  As "we burn with a great love for him," we will surely be amazed by his presence in our midst.

By simply adoring Jesus, you will find the surest path to freedom.

God bless,