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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Joy of Holiness


Throughout our day, we are constantly bombarded with all sorts of messages.  Some of these messages are conveyed to us in the form of advertisement of some new ‘life-changing’ product; others are suggested to us underhandedly with some God-forsaken, sly intention in hopes of winning some political, economic or social battle.  Be that as it may, these messages always attempt to shape our Will and our Desire in a way that will control and manipulate our character. 

Inside every human being, there exists Desire.  This Desire is the driving force in our life.  In and of itself, it is not a bad thing because it moves us to find partners (husbands or wives) with whom we can start family units and share with God the act of creation to produce new life on earth.  However, when it becomes corrupt, human wretchedness increases and multiplies.  This is especially true, when Desire is left to its own devices, to be free to control our life as it pleases i.e. to make us eat whenever or whatever it tells us, to engage in any sexual act with whomever it commands us, or to sleep, watch television, or speak whenever it decrees us.  This is wretchedness in all sense of the word, for how loud does the voice inside of us scream at times wanting to be freed from this slavery, and yet we find ourselves incapable of achieving this freedom?  How many times have you wished to stop smoking that cigarette, and yet you found yourself unable to keep that cancerous roll away from your lips? How many times have you wished to look at the other way when an attractive person passes by, and yet you found yourself not only taking a second look, but also flying into a world of fantasy where shameful things that occur in our mind cannot even be mentioned?  How many times have you wanted to do the good thing, and yet you found yourself doing the evil that you did not want to do?  As a result, we find that there exists a conflict (a gap, a rift, or a schism) between our Will (the good which we WANT to do) and our Desire (the inclinations which control our Will).  On the one side of this conflict, there is our Will which knows and wants to do the right thing; and on the other side, our Desire is there to quell down, control and silence our Will to enslave us and make us act in a manner that is contrary to our Will.  The result of this great conflict is great wretchedness and misery.  Think of all the great acts of evil in this world.  The perpetrators always have some sort of a defense for their gruesome acts.  In essence, this defense is really nothing more than their wish to act contrarily to the evil they’ve committed; yet, the agency to act contrarily is completely removed from them because of some excuse or another.  This excuse is what we know to be Desire.  The question then is how can we overcome this wretched conflict and become free?

Before we answer this question, first we must distinguish between joy and happiness.  Joy is a chronic, interior state of being that accompanies us regardless of exterior hardships and difficulties that surround us, whereas happiness is a temporary feeling of satisfaction that is dependent on the convenience of exterior elements.  Joy speaks to the soul, but happiness addresses the body.  Joy nourishes both body and spirit, but happiness only momentarily satisfies the body.  Joy belongs to Will, but happiness to Desire.  Joy is achieved by obeying the Will; happiness is attained by obeying our Desire.  This is precisely why often times we see people who are miserable in life, and yet they obtain a moment of happiness through some rebellious act of escapism such as drinking alcohol, doing drugs, or engaging in some act of sexual promiscuity.  So far, I’ve remained descriptive.  So far, I have not yet been prescriptive.  The question remains, how can we achieve joy in our life?

To answer this question, the solution lies in resolving the conflict and making our Desire conform to our Will.  In effect, this reverses the condition I described above where Will conforms to Desire.  However, this is impossible for human beings to do alone.  It is impossible to find a person in this world whose Desire conforms to his Will at all times through his own powers and strength.  Instead, this is a gift from God, which we call ‘grace,’ or the love of God that was revealed to us in the birth, life, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus.  Christ, the love of God revealed to humanity, moves our Desire upwards.  Once Desire is directed upwards towards God, no longer will it seek the lower appetites.  No longer will it rebel and wage war against our Will.  A human being can lie down in peace and conformity.  The war against pride, greed, envy, hatred, lust, gluttony, laziness is then won.  God has won this battle for us.  In turn, we too have a role to play.  We have a part to take in this fight.  Our role is to submit our Desire and our Will to Christ, who then takes over us and begins to be active in us.  Our part is to surrender ourselves completely and without any reservations to Christ, who then defeats all the forces that wage the fierce and deadly battles inside of us.  Then, both, Desire and Will, praise and glorify our Maker, whose love for us made Him take on a human form and die for us on the cross.  The fight is now won.  What is then achieved is not some fleeting, fraudulent moment of happiness.  Rather, it is joy, a persisting state that will reside inside of us even in the midst of the most turbulent and chaotic situations that life deals us.  It is the Joy of Holiness. 

5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Desire is and will always be a force in us every moment we exist on this earth. This is the domain of the prince of darkness and he/she will use this desire to pull us away from God's domain that we strive to be closer to. Everyone of us is fully aware of this desire, and instinctively can distinguish what is right (God's will) and what is wrong (desire), but most of us knowingly do what our desire commands. God's grace which empowers us to do HIS Will exists in everyone of us but so is our desire, it is US who should decide which do we follow.

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  3. If by desire you temptation then you're right. But I think you're mistaking Desire with temptation. Desire is not necessarily in and of itself "wrong." Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

    2535 "The sensitive appetite leads us to desire pleasant things we do not have, e.g., the desire to eat when we are hungry or to warm ourselves when we are cold. THESE DESIRES ARE GOOD IN THEMSELVES; but often they exceed the limits of reason and drive us to covet unjustly what is not ours and belongs to another or is owed to him."

    Desire becomes wrong only "when it exceeds the limit of reason," meaning when it does not conform to our Will, which always wants to do follow God's law. Read what St. Paul says about this "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; FOR THE WILLING IS PRESENT WITHIN ME but the doing of the good is not" (Romans 7:18).

    The reason why Desire Can be wrong is because of our fallen condition, because of Original Sin. OS has defiled our nature and distorted this Desire, so now no longer do we just fulfill our desires to remain satisfy our essential needs, but instead, we fulfill our desire in a manner that "exceeds the limit of reason." However, this condition is only cured through a recourse to God, who can cure our nature through means of grace, i.e. Sacraments, prayer, fasting, etc.

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  4. true that desire of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but desire leads to temptation when it is not kept in-check.

    I somewhat do not like the explanation of the catechism because if I am hungry, I eat, if I am cold I will find a warm shelter or put on a jacket. Both cases it is to fulfill a necessity for our physical wellbeing.
    Desire to me is fulfillment to a want rather than a need, and when you want something for pleasure (food > indulging, flesh > sexual desire, money > well fill in the blanks) desiring these will lead to temptation and temptation will lead to sin.

    We all have desires of many kinds, but as I said before WE are in charge of letting those desires turn to temptation and temptation into sin.

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  5. Whether it is fulfillment of a need or a want, desire for an object exists, regardless of the purpose. What else is it that makes us yearn for food when we're hungry other than desire for food? What else could it be that makes us long for warmth when we're cold besides desire for warmth?

    In both cases (need or want), desire is involved. This is important because it is necessary to admit that we human beings do have some desires that are healthy to a certain extent. It's only when this desire "exceeds the limit of reason," that it becomes corrupt. Any tampering with this understanding, and you might just find yourself have fallen into Gnosticism (if you deny that desire is healthy to a certain extent) or Hedonism (if you give into your desire at all times, even when it "exceeds the limit of reason")

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