The end of man’s life must be the pursuit of sainthood and heaven, and for this it is necessary to respond to God with docility. The most essential law the Christian is required to follow, is meekness in response to the action of the Spirit who lives in us. The significance of the divine law written on stone tablets wanes in comparison to the law God has written in the hearts of men, through the gift of His Spirit. Attaining holiness, in essence, is wholly reliant on the movement of the Spirit of God.
How is one, then, able to give oneself over to the Holy Spirit completely? There are the spiritual exercises, the monthly retreats, the weekly meetings, which are the fundamental means to reflect on what God has asked of us and how we have answered him. More than just attending meetings and retreats, and doing spiritual exercises faithfully, it is necessary to do them well, with whole-hearted participation. The meetings require weekly participation which, for various reasons, may not even be possible. The monthly retreat is for everyone, but the religious who have taken vows are obliged to do so by virtue of their vows. So if they do not participate in the retreat, they are sinning. For this reason, if one cannot do it together with the others, it must be done alone and then reported to their superior.
Where the spiritual exercises are concerned, it is not only the religious who can participate in them, but also the laity. The community should take all measures to increase the number of courses of spiritual exercises so that everyone can participate. Everyone must feel the need for the exercises and respond to it.
How does one perform the spiritual exercises? First of all, you have to participate. Participation requires that you leave your usual life to go to another place. This detachment is essential, because by always remaining in the same habitation, even if one participates in all the meditations, one cannot free oneself from everyday worries. Free from habitual worries, we want to tend to God, trying to keep listening only to what he will suggest to us from within. This is the important thing: listening to what the Lord will suggest to us from within.
I am not important; instead it is important for God to speak to you. My words must arouse in you this vibrant attention to God who lives within you. And he does not live within you to be idle, but to talk to you. God always desires something. Whoever loves always desires something from the beloved, he wants the gift of love from him. If he loves you, he wants your response of love. Therefore God is not silent; if he is silent it is because you do not listen to him, and you worry about trifles instead, thinking about your children or about work. Of course, these concerns prevent your soul from having that constant attention that puts you in a position to listen to God.
Try not to disturb those who pray. Prayer is communion with the living God, who has chosen us so that we may have an ever greater intimacy with him. And do not worry! The more we live in union with God, the more we will experience the self-same union among ourselves too. Talking a lot does not necessarily contribute to real communion among us. Very often these are just occassions to gossip that may or not interest either one or the other, but will distract us from the attention we must have toward the Lord. Union among us is the distinctive sign that we are truly Jesus’ friends. Indeed, it can be said that the community is the surest expression that God dwells in us, because the first effect of a union with him is a union with brothers, a union of charity that becomes ever more intimate and profound. Now this union of love will be strengthened not because we speak, but because we listen to the Lord.
The spiritual exercises must lead us to this. If after listening to my sermons, you return to your home without listening to God, the exercises will have been like oil on water; they will leave no fruit for your life. The greatest fruit of the exercises is this encounter with God; it is feeling embraced by him, loved by him, inspired by him on a journey of love. God is charity, and one cannot live in union with him who is love, without love, and then manifest it in our union with all those with whom the Lord wants us to walk the path of evangelical perfection.
Remember – and it is the last recommendation I make to you – remember that you cannot desire to be less holy. It is not about being good. There are many “good” people in this world. Good people, whose goodness counts for nothing, because they spend their time immersed in worldliness, rather than with God. Only the saints have the power to renew the world, to restore it to its former glory through their holiness. We must be holy because it is God who commands us: “Be holy, because I am holy.” It is not presumption and not even pride, because we are convinced that we can do nothing and that we are sinners. But we trust in the immense goodness of God that he has indeed called us.
I recommend to you, open yourselves to divine grace with this humble but sincere desire of wanting to respond fully to his divine call.
(From “Che Dio vi parli”, Chorabooks 2016, translated by Aurelio Porfiri)
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