August 8, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Dominic, priest

Today's Readings

Some people, beginners in the spiritual life, see the commandments as an external imposition, as a law stopping them from doing what they really want to do. They doubt the commandments and want the Church to change its teachings. What I am saying is not for such beginners, nor is it for people who are already living the perfect life. I am speaking now to those in the middle, who believe the commandments but do not follow them.

This life is absurd. We believe that God is God. We believe that he loves us. We even believe that his commands are not unreasonable. As Moses says, “What does the LORD, your God, ask of you but … your own good?” The commands of God, even if they are difficult, are for our own good. We want to follow the commandments. At least, we want to be the kind of people who follow the commandments; we want to be saints, but we fall so far short. Once a Christian has begun to completely trust God’s commands, they do not instantly begin to obey. We are even aware that we are living nonsense, but we continue. Something more is needed. We have had the conversion of intellect, but we need the conversion of will.

To some extent we will always do the very thing we hate. We suffer the consequences of original sin, including a weak will, but, like a weak muscle, it would benefit from exercise. It is strengthened by continually choosing what is right. We have to start acting in a logical way. If we want to be a certain kind of person, we must do whatever will make us the kind of person we want to be. Every time we make the right choice, our will is strengthened and it is a little easier to choose what is right the next time.

But progressing further toward God it is not merely a matter of gritting our teeth and being good. God wants to help us. We can be assisted by prayer, especially acts of Love, promising to obey God, and we can be further assisted by keeping the ideal before our minds. When we are tempted to act against what we know is true, we can also be tempted to do what is right. If we remember who we want to become, the beautiful life that we truly want can draw us more powerfully than the world, the flesh, and the Devil. It can be easy: just imagine what you would do if you were perfect, then do it anyway.