Brookline Carmel Bulletin
March 26, 1961
Who among us doesn’t beseech Our Lord now and then that He, please make His holy Will known to us? We want more than anything else to do His Will, yet find it very painful not to know for certain what it is. At a time like the Feast of the Annunciation we almost wish an Angel of God would come and tell us point-blank. There aren’t any lengths to which we wouldn’t go in order to do exactly what he would command.
We do well, however, to resist such wishful thinking. First of all, we deceive ourselves if we think we can ever have mathematical certitude concerning God’s Will for us. To have it would remove the opportunity of practicing Faith. We know that “without Faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11,6). Our Lady had to practice Faith, Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Ghost, testified: And blessed is she who has believed…(Luke 1,45). Mary had to believe that her messenger was from on high, and that God really intended to work such an unheard of wonder in her.
Secondly, there is a principle of philosophy (Occan’s Razor) that states: Entities are not to be multiplied, that is, postulated, without necessity. A theologian would modify it slightly: God does not use extraordinary means to achieve His ends when ordinary means will suffice. Ordinary means by which He can make His Will known to us do exist, and we would be extremely imprudent to desire anything else. It is far better, other things being equal, to walk in the ordinary paths. In the Life of the Blessed Virgin, the conversation with the Angel was probably the only extraordinary phenomenon that occurred. The very nature of the message made it necessary. It was too delicate a matter to entrust to a human ambassador. Other than that, everything she needed to know came through the regular channels, particularly through Saint Joseph.
In general, we learn of God’s Will for us and the entire human race from Scripture and Tradition. But to reveal His Will in particular, in this or that given situation, he speaks through our very own intellects. Illumined by Faith and the principles of philosophy, it arrives at an understanding of what things should be like and also of what they actually are. With the further assistance of Faith, common sense and experience, the intellect is able to figure out what it must do to close the gap between what it obtains and what it should obtain. We instinctively know, too, that we may do anything required to bring about the desired change provided we do not violate the rights of God and of our fellow men. It is very rarely that a man with a decent education can in justice plead ignorance of God’s Will for him in everyday affairs.
In specific instances, God helps us to discover His will by allowing our Guardian Angels to act upon our memory and imagination. They cause us to remember pertinent facts of revelation and of general knowledge. God knows that our intellects will go to work on them and come up with their implications. Through the instrumentality of actual graces He helps the intellect come to the right conclusions, those that embody His Will. Then there are times when the truth that solves all our doubts just ‘dawns’ on us. This, too, is one of the ordinary ways by which God speaks to us.
Before giving ready credence to the conclusions we have drawn we have to have recourse to a certain indispensable safeguard. Namely, to check our decisions of the moment against the known Will of God. This is because the devil also can work in our memory and imagination in order to lead us astray, and he can quote Scripture to suit his own purposes. In Mary’s case, she prudently inquired into the manner in which she was to become the mother of the Messiah. Were it suggested she forego her vow of virginity, she would know immediately her visitor was not from God. God had already accepted her vow through Joseph. He does not contradict Himself. In other words, God never requires us to do anything contrary to the vocation, which, with the approval of His representatives, we have embraced.
Our Lady was alone when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. And, according to a pious tradition, she was meditating on Sacred Scripture and praying earnestly for the advent of the Messiah. From this we see that if we expect to be receptive to divine inspirations and give God every opportunity to communicate His Will to us, we have to imitate Our Blessed Lady. All unnecessary entanglements in mundane and profane affairs must be shunned (Lord knows how many necessary ones we are involved in). God’s voice cannot be heard by the man immersed in worldly pursuits. Knowledge of the faith, familiarity with Sacred Scripture, especially the New Testament, and a grasp of the principles of spirituality also are essential. How can God cause us to remember what we have never heard or read? We dare not, therefore, leave off listening to sermons and doing our spiritual reading. Our Lady was praying for the coming of the Messiah. We ‘tune in’ on God’s wavelength when we become genuinely concerned for the welfare of souls.
By way of summary, then, we can say that maintaining a prayerful spirit is the best way to dispose ourselves to receive the divine illuminations. If we have it, we ‘invite’ God to disclose Himself and His Holy Will. It is an invitation He never declines.
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