Thinking of Dismas
(from a letter from Rome to a spiritual directee)
This morning Jesus taught me something that is so wonderful and so beautiful that I know He would want me to tell you about it right away, I think it will be best to tell it as it actually happened historically.  Well, this morning as soon as I awoke I began to try, once again, to give my mind all to Jesus in an unceasing act of love.  Sometimes I find this at lest relatively easy to do, for a little while anyway, especially in the morning.  But this particular morning it seemed as though all the distractions of my whole life were clambering to be heard.  So I went about my business, trying as best I could to return to Jesus—but it seemed that the more I tried, the more insistent the distractions became.  But what could I do except to go on anyway?  Which I did.  It happened that today we had Mass here in our own chapel, so I went down to prepare for it as soon as I was dressed.  Then I knelt before the Blessed Sacrament and tried to recollect myself. . . .

I don’t know in what part of the Mass, but I think it was after Holy Communion, when suddenly Jesus opened my mind.  It was just a sudden light about loving Him and how He wanted to be loved.  And yet it was the perfect answer and explanation of all that I had been experiencing of late.  Here is what He said:

“I want you to understand the way I want you to love Me.  I want you to understand that you must love Me at this very moment with a love that dissolves every fault and sin of the past.  I want you to love Me in the realization that it is with My Love that you are loving Me, and that I want to be loved with a confidence that makes you despise all your own faults and sins of the past—and even your actually bad dispositions of this very moment.  That is the way I want to be glorified in you, and by you—that is the way I want to be loved, that alone is the love that trusts My Love, which truly responds to It.  Every other love is small and puny, without that fullness of understanding which delights Me because it is an understanding of the Power of My Love.”

And then I found myself thinking of Dismas, of Dismas who made one such act of love and who was sanctified by it after a whole lifetime of sin and corruption. (Lk 23:39-43)  And then Jesus said to me: “Yes, think of Dismas!  I gave him the grace to make one such act of love and now he is a saint.  But to you, My most beloved child, I give the grace to make, not one such act, but to repeat that act with each breath that I give you.  Do you see, then, how great My Love is for you, and for the children I have given you, and for all My little ones?”

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Little Souls Do Not Have Great Temptations
St. Theresa said once that little souls do not have great temptations. The reason is that they do not try to overcome temptation by their own strength because little souls have no trust in their own strength — they just run to the arms of their Father and Mother, and that is all — they are safe. Yes, little souls overcome temptation by ignoring it because they have a boundless trust in the Power of their Father.
After a temptation, when the Enemy tries to renew it by suggesting that one gave one‘s consent, again the little soul is back in its Father’s arms and then it says to its Father: "Did I give my consent? I hope not, but it is very likely I did —  I am so weak — so now You must love me more because I need You more —  and that is all there is to it.“
If there is something the little soul should know about itself, who can teach it if not the Father. But if a soul, in this situation, begins to withdraw into itself, in the hopes of proving its innocence, that is the beginning of the end, and God could very well permit a great temptation at this point, because such a soul, without realizing it, would be seeking its peace in its own "virtue.“
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The Spiritual Legacy of
Sister Mary of the Holy Trinity
Excerpted from Tan Books (1950)
(with meditation added)
“I wish each soul to understand that she has her own place in My Heart . . .
that she has her own mission that no one else can fulfill like herself.”
 
Therefore strive to become only what I made you to be.  That is infallible if only you will cooperate — because everything that has happened to you, everything that I send you, is a means to this end.
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When You Are Distressed and You Cry Out To Me
When a baby is distressed, it cries, and then its mother knows it needs help. So it is with yourself and Me. When you are distressed and you cry out to Me, I know it, and I take care of you at once. (Of course it is not because I would not know your distress otherwise! But you would not know it, you would not be open to the love you need from Me.) The mother does not question her baby’s disposition — it is enough for her to know that her baby needs help — and neither do I question your disposition; whatever you need, you must get it from Me, just as the baby must get everything it needs from its mother — so there is no problem.  As soon as you come to Me, everything is solved.
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On This Matter of Sin
When we see our inclination to sin, there are two wrong ways and one right way of dealing with it.
The first wrong way is to say, Well. it’s what I want to do, so I’ll be simple and honest about it and just go ahead and indulge myself.  This way quickly leads to profligacy and ultimately can lead to moral ruin.  It’s the way of the libertine, the person who has managed more or less to shut down the life of conscience.  Alas, their number is legion nowadays.  But this way of dealing with sin hardly applies to our readers here.
The second wrong way is to say, Well, I admit I want to sin at times but I know it’s really wrong and so I mustn’t allow myself to want what I see myself wanting at such times.  I must use all my powers to avoid it, even though I know at times I probably won’t be able to.  This approach to sinful inclinations, if left unresolved, will lead to moral sickness for we are locked in an unresolved conflict of not wanting what we do in fact want, and vice versa.  What’s at work here is the conviction that if we see an inclination to sin in ourselves, and especially if we give in to it, we shut ourselves off from God.  And so the way to correct that is to fight this attraction to sin. But the difficulty is that we are fighting to not do what we in fact want to do.  And every time we lapse the problem only gets deeper. What’s wrong here, theologically speaking, is the conviction that this is our personal moral dilemma and we have to address it somehow on our own.  Prayer or no prayer, it’s up to us to not be this way.  This is our dilemma: (1)  The ball is on our side of the net and now it’s up to us, and (2)  The opponent we face is actually ourselves.  No wonder we have sick and troubled consciences, even among the faithful unless we have been properly formed about our inclinations to sin and what we are to do about them.
The third way of  dealing with sin and the inclination to sin, the healthy way, is to say, Well, it’s true, I know that I have this inclination to sin, and that in myself, on my own, especially if I thought I could get away with it, I probably will wind up giving in to it.  But the theological truth is that I am NOT on my own. I have Jesus and in the measure that I believe that and stay close to Him I am holy and free of sin. And if I happen to fall, it’s out of weakness, not malice, and does not separate me from God.  This third way is the way of St. Paul.  He knew himself and freely acknowledged that, in his words: The good that I would do I do not. And when he sinned, he could say these most remarkable, liberating words:  It is not I that sin but the sin that is within me.  Paul is the model of a healthy mind.  He can admit in all simplicity that he has sinful inclinations, yet he does not allow sinful inclinations to convince him that he really wants to sin, and least of all that it separates him from God. Who shall separate us, he asks.   Neither heights nor depths, powers or principalities can separate us from the love of Christ.   
Paul’s words are liberating,  It is not I that sin, he wrote. The “I” here is the “I” that is in Jesus. Paul understood and believed that the liberated Christian can truly say:  It is not I that live, but Christ that lives in me.
All we really are, after all, is what we are actually.  So if we are actually in Jesus, we don’t want the evil things we might feel drawn to, not even though there is indeed something in us that does want it and even may at times cause us to fall into doing it.  If that happens, it is not the me in Jesus that wants it or that does it. It is sin that is within us, us outside of Jesus. But we are in Jesus, where our life is now securely hid.
This healthy state, then, is the spiritual state which does not look upon inclination to sin and even actual sin as something which separates us from God, not if what we want more than anything else is to be in Jesus.  Jesus in our lives is infinitely more powerful than any trace of our fallen nature that, in God’s Providence, may continue to operate.  The sick mentality does not believe that.  Just to the extent that the sinful inclination remains, the sick mentality takes  this as a sign that, in him or her at least, sin is stronger than grace. But this inclination to sin on the part of the faithful is no such sign. Jesus explained in the parable about the wheat and the tares, that sometimes it is better to leave the tares where they are, for the sake of the wheat.  A sick conscience believes it cannot go to God with sin.  A healthy conscience knows that that is exactly when we must go to God.
There is the story of how Jesus once came to St. Jerome and complained to him that Jerome  had not given him everything.  Jerome became very upset at this. Lord, he said, I have given you all I have, he cried.  What have I held back?  Jesus replied: No, Jerome, you have not given me everything. You have not given me your sins.
A sick and troubled conscience is like someone trying to walk on roller skates, always on the verge of a hard fall.  The healthy conscience, when it sees an inclination to evil, turns to Jesus.  And when it falls, it knows that it has fallen out of weakness and that that weakness does not separate the soul from God.  In fact, the fall has just the opposite effect for our very weaknesses impel us to stay ever close to Christ.  And he receives us for it is precisely the sinner that he came to save.  And that, dear friends, is the Good News of the Gospel.
If we really believed that we wanted evil, we would cover it up because no one wants to see himself as evil.  Eventually we would hide it from ourselves, and we would do this by losing awareness of the fact that sin is sin. This is what has happened in our culture where the notion of sin has virtually disappeared.  It is tragic that in many cases, sin is barely mentioned even in the Church, so great is this need to deal with it.  But dealing with it in any other way than the healthy way St. Paul teaches, only leads to moral sickness, or moral profligacy.
Why does God allow sin?  Surely it is not so that moral theologians can adjudicate whether it is moral or venial. God’s whole purpose in allowing sin is to show us what we are in and of ourselves, apart from Him, so that these weaknesses will move us to go to Him. The essential thing is not the sin, but this realization of what we are, so that we will be drawn to Jesus because we don’t want to be stuck in our sinful selves.
It is a tragic circumstance that most of the time we don’t act this way.  We think we have to be free of sin in order to go to Jesus. When we see ourselves inclining to sin, or actually sinning, we think we have to clean up our act before we can have a relationship with Him.  It is true that mortal sin breaks that relationship, but mortal sin only becomes mortal when there is the intention to break that relationship.  As St. Paul taught, our relationship is not broken if, when we sin, we sin out of weakness, which is to say, when it is not I who sins but sin that is within me.  And as St. Paul taught, God permits these weaknesses because they move us to go to Him.  That is what allowed St. Paul to say, When I am weak, I am strong.
Given our fallen nature and bad habits, nothing is easier than getting back into ourselves so that our peace and happiness depends not upon Jesus but upon what we do or don’t do, on our own. That’s why we should begin our day in the quiet spirit of turning to Jesus, uniting ourselves with Him and asking Him to be with us throughout the day.  If we do this, we will develop a sense of what it means to be with Him. If we don’t, the day will very likely proceed chaotically, for that failure to turn to Jesus knowing how much we need Him would be the beginning of all other sins.
After we have sinned and we turn to Jesus, then we can say “I am not in myself”—that is the moment of grace, and the only reason we say it is because God is giving us the grace.  If we don’t see ourselves as an object of faith—as being only in Jesus—what is there to believe in the Church?
More than anything else we have to convince ourselves that we are holy in Jesus because we have to counteract the mentality that we can’t be holy because of what we do.  That is why Jesus said: “Without Me you can do nothing.”  If we examine our conscience, we’ll see we are trying to make ourselves holy by what we do.  The correct principle is Jesus in us and us in Jesus.  Faith without works is dead, but we can add works without faith is also dead.  The important act of the act of faith is to trust in God’s goodness to us. God gives us the grace to realize we are His and He loves us.  When we believe in His love then we grow in faith and then we know whatever the sin was, Jesus already paid the price.  He suffered for our sins and He wants us to believe in Him.  Our reaction to sin would be:  “I did it again.”  When we have that sense then we wouldn’t be unduly afraid of sin because we’d really believe that nothing can separate us from God—neither are we making an excuse for sin.  We’re really aware of ourselves.   
The Pharisees used the adulteress to manifest their goodness.  But Jesus said:  “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”  If we don’t resolve our sins in the simplicity and truth of Jesus, we’ll all be Pharisees.
What we do when we sin is not static.  We go to Jesus, but the next moment we might again become aware of something wrong, so we go again.  It is like an embryo—the blood of Jesus circulates in us.
Our spiritual life is always a state of becoming.  If we ask, “How do we get to be this way?” analogously we get to be this way the way an embryo develops.  As the development of the body depends totally on the mother, so the development of the soul depends totally on the nourishment that a life of faith affords. Nothing furthers this development more than having a relationship with someone who functions like a true spiritual mentor. It could be a priest or spiritual director, or just someone close, a dear friend who is truly spiritual, someone whom we believe helps reveal God to us, someone to whom we can reveal ourselves.  When we realize that this person knows the worst about us and yet loves us because God loves us and we belong to Him, then we can really begin to believe that for ourselves, too.  That conviction is not something we can give ourselves. If God had wanted to, He could have created us like He created Adam. But in truth our belief that God loves us begins with the love of others, on our natural parents, especially our fathers if they are spiritual, and then, as we mature, on priests and mentors and spiritual friends who themselves live by faith in God’s Love and in his gratuitous Goodness to us individually.
God sees our sins and our inclination to sin as the failure of our first father, or someone after him, to have done this for us. A faith-filled father develops in his child the disposition and habit of going him with shortcomings and misgivings, so that as the child matures this disposition naturally develops into the practice of going to our heavenly Father with our sins.  God knows that when we go to Him, we wouldn’t want to sin.  So in a real sense God sees a faithless person as a victim of a faithless father, someone who himself probably did not have a faith-filled father. And so without a real father, we become our own father, and once we get lost in ourselves, what is there that we wouldn’t do that we wanted to do?  We would do whatever we wanted because we are the end of the authority line.  Then when the Church tells us who do these things that we have to love God, how can we when the only person we love is ourselves.  The truth is that we can’t love unless we know we are being loved, an experience that normally begins with a love our father has for us, our first authority who knows the worst about us (because we’re open to him about our shortcomings) and yet loves us. That is why, in our fatherless age, in our age of faithless fathers, we have a society of young people turning to drugs and everything else.  When a child believes that it is loved by its father, the child naturally loves the father back and wants to do what the father wants.  That is the foundation of all morality.  But if we’re lost in ourselves and what we want only what we want, all our morality becomes just a matter of public relations which could very easily become pubic!
When we understand this w can become merciful to ourselves because we can say: “Yes, that is the way I am” and then we turn to Jesus.