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Thy Will Be Done

by Fr. Basil Harnish, O.Praem.

 

C.S. Lewis, in his work The Great Divorce, tells us: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it.”

Our Holy Father St. Augustine seems to provide the middle ground between these two extremes. In his Confessions Augustine makes this striking and thought-provoking cry, “O Lord, make me chaste, but not yet!” (Confessions 8,7). The tension in this passionate man’s heart cries out to God with a longing for a purity that can only come from the divine source and, yet he clings to a will enslaved by a lust that can only come from the machinations of man’s twisted desires.

At this point neither side is quite ready to budge. If God were to move the young man before the time decreed before all ages, Augustine might pass off the project of conversion as something altogether unrealistic in light of his utter addiction to sin. But this does not stop God from using each and every action of his grace to dispose St. Augustine for the “big one.” God is not outdone in generosity! From one corner of the Earth to another, in every dark cavern, in the midst of every addiction and every vicious passion, He will find us and call us back to Him. But how long will He wait for us to convert?

Some of the Church Fathers, including St. Basil, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Augustine, teach that according to the book of Wisdom, specifically when it says: “Thou hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight,” God has fixed for each person the number of days in his life, and the degrees of health and talent which He will give him, and so He has also determined for each the number of sins which He will pardon; and when this number is completed, He will pardon no more. Scary! In fact, the Fathers thought this idea to be so scary that it should be grounds enough for a person to accept the grace of conversion. Still, if I am enthralled with carnal and lower pleasure, how can I find this love that is overtaking my life?

When we first fall in love with God there is a kind of enchantment. At first the Lord often descends and delights the soul, in other words He provides spiritual training wheels to help the athlete find stability amidst his natural tendency to sway too far to the left or the right. In the beginning of one’s experience of God, the beloved reveals His presence without showing His face. Lovingness is felt but form is not discerned. This ‘start’ inflames the desire but does not enlighten the intelligence. It is to be enamored with a lover yet without knowing who they are.

At some point in time our Holy Father Augustine will remove the training wheels of interior honey-filled delight and will allow us to use the muscle memory developed in our initial fervor. Or maybe he won’t. With many scrapes, falls, broken bones, deaths and risings we begin to find a balance or a perfection of order that can only come from charity. We become so united with the Divine Flame that our most painful state is to be seemingly absent from Him. We become ‘Augustini’ little Augustines. We throw our pasts to the wind and glide full-sail through every tempest in order to arrive at the rest of the Harbor. In short, we persevere. So persevere every day in the desire for perpetual conversion by allowing God to breathe His Holy Spirit into the burial sheets of Christ’s resurrection, the true sails of our fickle hearts. And at midnight a cry will be heard: “Behold the Bridegroom is coming; go out to meet Him!”

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