05 May 2007

A Spiritual Work of Heart

In today's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we read how, even after they were persecuted, Paul and Barnabas were "filled with joy and the Holy Spirit." Such docility to the will of God indicates a great freedom of heart -- a grace and a gift. They probably didn't schedule a persecution into their speaking tour but they accepted it and continued their ministry in a spirit of joy that allowed them to "shake it off" -- as our students like to say -- and move on.

St. Francis de Sales, at the risk of being misunderstood, wrote a great deal about cultivating a liberty of spirit. Such a liberty, St. Francis de Sales tells us, is found between, "two opposite vices: instability and constraint." A person who is unstable might stray from something virtuous or good for an insignificant reason or simply for the sake of introducing variety into her life; a person who is constrained might step over a needy person to get to the chapel lest she be late for her meditation. Liberty of Spirit abides between these two extremes. Amid the busyness of daily obligations, it is easy to become inordinately attached to our routines, our spiritual devotions or our preferred way of carrying out our daily responsibilities. As Paul and Barnabas showed great detachment (and joy!) in the face of persecution, so we are invited to cultivate a freedom of heart, a liberty of spirit in our daily activities.
"The effects of this freedom are a great inner serenity, a great gentleness and willingness to yield . . . . Try interrupting the meditation of someone who is very attached to her spiritual exercises and you will see her upset, flustered, taken aback. A person who has this true freedom will leave her prayer, unruffled and gracious toward the person who has unexpectedly disturbed her."
St. Francis de Sales

No comments: