“Without self-knowledge you have no root in yourselves personally; you may endure for a time, but under affliction or persecution your faith will not last. This is why many in this age (and in every age) become infidels, heretics, schismatics, disloyal despisers of the Church. They cast off the form of truth, because it never has been to them more than a form. They endure not, because they never have tasted that the Lord is gracious; and they never have had experience of His power and love, because they have never known their own weakness and need.”- Bl. John Henry Newman
Tasting the graciousness of God belongs to a deeply personal and committed faith. For those who have confronted themselves long enough, and have been honest before God by taking the time, or rather been humbled enough to seek Him more fully in their provided time, it is easy to find great truth in these words from Blessed John Henry Newman.
Endurance and perseverance in faith through trial and persecution relies upon what we truly believe and the implications of the truth(s) we profess. It should not take the trying moments of our lives to sharpen our awareness of faith or prove it’s worth to us, but it is in these times that we bear witness to what it means to be a follower of the Cross, and to profess Jesus Christ as Lord.
If we strive to attune ourselves to the will of God then we will find that tasting the graciousness of the Lord is not solely reserved to moments of consolation and when divine favour seems to be upon us. Great faith can be most evident in persecution and challenge, and even in desolation, for if one chooses to stay on the path of righteousness seeking the face of Christ within it all there will be peace, and there will come understanding.
Awareness of our own weakness and our need depends upon our authentic love of God. In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us of what we must do to inherit eternal life…”You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, Jesus’ response to this scholar of the law yearning to better understand the inheritance of eternal life is a well known and well read part of scripture. Yet, when read it must pierce us with a freshness that leads to an awareness of our need for ongoing conversion, and an ongoing surrender to the task of striving to love Him perfectly. To love the words of God is not enough, for they too can remain a form in themselves that we attach to and claim belief in but are never moved or transformed by.
Without consenting to know oneself, and failing to take on the challenging task of seeking the inner shades of our own personal truths that cloud us from attaining a necessary love of God, we remain on the outside of the depth of faith necessary to taste the graciousness of God.
A lack of honest self-knowledge can give rise ever so slyly to self-love which does not allow for us to fulfill Jesus’ primary command to us. And if self-love is primary in our sense of faith then everything we perceive as truth is disordered and greatly superficial. For although we claim to love God and His Holy Church, we accept only the form of His precepts that may suit us, those things that make us comfortable. And if we are more rooted in our false perceptions and cozy ideals than we are in love of God we can not claim faith in anything but ourselves.
The primacy of love of God will order all things in our lives toward that which is most good and naturally to where love is. From this will come a deeper sense of self that is necessary to establish a rootedness in Christ and adherence to truth. With this in alignment we can be more inclined to taste the graciousness of God, and to remain steadfast and fixed in faith when inevitable trial is upon us.
To be mindful of our weakness and need gives rise to the ability to recognize the power and love of our Lord. This is also why a sacramental life is so crucial in living out one’s faith. For through participating in the fullness of the gifts given us by Christ we can better access the grace necessary to endure and to persevere, and to be guarded from the perversions and dangers of overt love of self, misguided love of God, and pride.
May we always love God enough to think less of ourselves and persevere in the task of remaining faithful, trusting in the power and love of God.
Blessed John Henry Newman. Pray for us.
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