St. Peter beseeches the faithful of Christ to keep themselves as strangers and pilgrims in this world and you my dear Catholics are these pilgrims precisely because you are on a journey to Heaven.
When made a child of God at Baptism the child asked for eternal life, the end of the pilgrimage and the means to obtain it were given when it asked for faith. This path to eternity is the spiritual life or more aptly described as the spiritual battle. “The life of a man upon earth is a warfare,” says Holy Job.
The Catholic soul knows of this struggle. Our first parents in the Garden of Eden made the fatal mistake of listening to the rebellious serpent, consequently putting themselves and their progeny at enmity with God and children of the devil. “You were by nature children of wrath,” says St. Paul. This sin of Adam created the disorder in our human nature. Thus the triple concupiscence, which St. John speaks about as an enemy to our salvation which Satan, the prince of this world, uses to influence us to sin and keep us down in his servitude and far away from God. Nevertheless at the moment of Adam’s fall, God in His goodness promised a Redeemer. When the time came, Our Lord Jesus Christ, made all things right by shedding His blood for sinful mankind on the cross giving man the possibility of Heaven. This awakened the enemy of God to an ever-greater enmity for Him and man, who once again could obtain a blessed eternity and the devil thus wages a furious battle. Understanding this reality the Catholic will fight tactfully and find success.
The most basic view a Catholic must have is integrity for one’s religion, “a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” The life of man is divided by sin and only the desire for a whole life will be the solution. The spirit of Christ must be this principle of integrity, which when it pervades all aspects and contacts of life unites the kingdom and makes it capable of achieving the eternal beatitude, “man is made to be happy with God for all eternity,” says St. Ignatius of Loyola
The Catholics “newness of life,” this capability to live an integral life, began at Baptism and this event should be at the front of the Catholics mind, for at that moment we “put on Christ” and this requires death to the old man, which means sacrifice. “We are baptized in His death, we are buried together with Him, for if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin may be destroyed and that we may serve sin no longer.” The true Christian spirit is one of striving for perfect charity, which is exemplified in Christ, “no greater love doth man have that to lay down his life for his friend.” The heart of charity is sacrifice. Christ and His sacrifice on the cross have worked the victory over our adversary. Our success will be determined on our conformity with Him. This conformity with Our Lord is the key to overcome the division in our life caused by sin and embracing the sacrifice of Christ we will come to the glorious resurrection. A conformity that lies in the power of us all.
Once the baptized infant has arrived at the use of reason and can act with responsibility, the cooperation of the child with the graces received in the sacrament is necessary. The cooperation itself must increase in the child with the growth of the natural faculties of understanding and free will. Without cooperation, the seeds of divine life sown in Baptism, “that he serve sin no longer,” will remain dormant. God has chosen to make salvation among men here on earth conditioned upon the expenditure of human effort.
This is seen in the Gospel of St. Mark referred to in the Rite of Baptism when the priest says, “Ephpheta…be thou opened.” With the help of Christ the cured man spoke aright. The Catholic too can speak right only with the help of God, a help that God gives with divine abundance in the sacraments. But the man in the Gospel had to make his own effort to open his mouth and speak. If he had kept his mouth forever closed of what avail would the power of Christ have been to him? In the same way, of what avail are the graces of God poured into the soul, if it is overcome with apathy in it’s effort to seek God?
These efforts put forth for the flourishing of God’s grace must be according to God’s way. The faithful soul must strive with an understanding and will molded after the manner of Christ. The flourishing of this life of Christ runs in to a chief obstacle, which is inaction, or lukewarmness, which allows fragmentary living to snuff out the Christian life. The only way to throw off this plague of the soul is to feed oneself at the sacrifice of Christ, to nourish the soul with Holy Communion, the bread of strength and to live this sacrifice in one’s home and out in the world. This would be a life of integrity.
Our hearty and intelligent cooperation with the Mass will earn us an increase of the seeds of grace from God. Our efforts to grow and continual growth will keep us alive, for the essence of life is to grow. Not to grow is to cease to live, not to grow is to retreat. There is no standstill in this life, for standstill is retrogression, it is the beginning of spiritual death. To live the life of grace we must pursue goodness all the time. “All the way to heaven is heaven because thou hast said, ‘I am the way,’” says St. Catherine of Siena. We must do so to the abandoning of what is purely of ourselves. To find life we must loose our own and then all will be added unto us. We learn this dying to ourselves from the Mass, killing sin, breaking down the wall of division in our soul, one then can truly live a good life because the soul is unified. But we cannot do anything until we have firmly ingrained in our mind the desire for a whole Catholic life and the willingness to execute it cost what it may.
This sacrifice is par excellence the means of sustaining this new life and dying to one’s ego. To live a whole life for Christ is difficult, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” But there is no reason to fear and recoil because:
…the penance that is of God operates joy, salvation says St. Paul. This word operates is important because it tells us that we do not mean to stay in the gloom; if we take our part of the chalice, it is to get out of trouble; and our painful sacrifice like Calvary is a Passover, a passage, something in which we are not called to dwell morbidly. The message is essentially about joy of the cross, for if you do not find joy in the cross, you will never carry it, it will crush you or at least make you bitter. In the cross there is power and plenty of victory. It is not by saying joy and peace that joy and peace will come, it is by giving what it takes to get it. The cheerfulness of the saints and their abundance in the Holy Ghost does not come from nowhere, it is coming from a cause which is never any other that their effective union with the suffering servant.”
Fr. Blute, Apostle
Finally, the prayers of the Mass are the best expression of the mind of the suffering servant that the ages of Catholicism have formed and passed on to us. Participation in them is a steeping of our mind in the very mind of Christ. The Mass is the source of the divine life of grace. It is the divine inspiration to put forth generous efforts toward growth of the kingdom of God in one’s soul and also the divine school for the formation of the mind in the ways of Christ.
The Catholic must never let the world distort it’s view of reality. We can be safeguarded from the enemies of our soul by our unwavering fidelity to the Mass of all times, the heart of our spiritual battle, for the Mass will constantly remind us of the war which is being waged on the battlefield of our soul between Lucifer and Our Lord. The awareness of this fight will make us go to the Mass, the fountain of sustenance, so that we will have the strength to persevere in good and rectify the division in our soul wrought by sin. Then there will be no chance for the enemy to conquer us. My dear faithful let us strive day after day for integrity in our religion and our lives will end in Heaven.