Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen reminds us that “God never refuses grace to those who honestly ask for it”.
In the book The Greatest Commandment, Archbishop Sheen highlights a few guideposts wherein he expounds upon our deep-seated need to love God and implore His mercy by developing a personal relationship with Him through Sacred Scripture and the Sacraments.
Using the writing of the saints, philosophy, and some of his best material from over a dozen of his books, the good archbishop explains to us that God never refuses grace to those who honestly ask for it.
Archbishop Sheen writes:
+ Every person has a destiny — a final destiny. He has lesser goals, too, such as making a living, rearing a family, but over and above all, there is his supreme goal, which is to be perfectly happy. This he can be if he has a life without end or pain or death, a truth without error or doubt, and an eternal ecstasy of love without satiety of loss. Now this Eternal Life, Universal Truth, and Heavenly Love is the definition of God. To refuse this final project end and to substitute a passing, incomplete, unsatisfying object, such as flesh or ambitious ego, is to create an inner unhappiness that no psychiatrist can heal.
+ Revolution within the soul is the Christian adventure. It requires no hatred, demands no personal rights, claims no exalted titles, and tells no lies.
+ It is so easy to lose Christ; He can even be lost by a little Heedlessness; a little want of watchfulness and the Divine Presence slips away. But sometimes a reconciliation is sweeter than an unbroken friendship. There are two ways of knowing how good God is: one is never to lose Him; the other is to lose Him and find him again.
+ It isa strange paradox, but a true one, nevertheless, that man only becomes most human when he becomes most divine, because he has been destined from all eternity to be conformable to the image of the Son of God. Any form of Humanism, therefore, which denies the necessity of grace, and attempts to perfect man without it, is asking man to grow without an environment in which to grow. To remain on the level of the purely human, and to hold up the ideal of “decorum.” is to permit man to expand horizontally, in the direction of the human, but not vertically, in the direction of the divine. Humanism allows for the spreading out of man on the plane of nature, but not for his being lifted up on the plane of grace, and elevation is far more important than expansion. Deny the order of grace, the realm of the Fatherhood of God, and what environment has humanity to grow in except poor weak humanity like himself? Since the soul is spiritual, man needs the environment not only of humanity, which belongs to the realm of his body, but that of spirit, which belongs to his soul, and it is only by entering into harmony with that great environment that he attains the end of his creation.
+ As long as the soul dominates the body, as long as man follows the dictates of right reason, man lives a moral existence naturally. But experience bears out what Revelation teaches, namely that man cannot keep the whole moral law over a long period of time without falling into sin. Man therefore needs help from above and aids which nature cannot supply, and this higher life which gives strength to the soul is grace. It makes us children of God, partakers of the Divine Nature, and heirs of heaven. Grace is the life of Christ in the soul. We said before that man lives naturally when the life of the soul dominates the life of the body: here we add that man lives supernaturally as long as the life of Christ dominates the soul and through it all nature. It is thanks to this participated life of God in the soul through grace that even the human body takes on a new dignity.
The dividing line between ignorance and learning is also deep and wide: both leisure to study and a gifted mind would be required to turn an ignoramus into a learned man. But the passage from sin to virtue, from mediocrity to sanctity requires no “luck,” no help from outer circumstances. It can be achieved by an efficacious act of our own wills in cooperation with God’s grace.
+ As all men are touched by God’s flaming love, so all are also touched by the desire for His intimacy. No one escapes this longing; we are all kings in exile, miserable without the Infinite. Those who reject the grace of God have a desire to avoid God, as those who accept it have a desire for God.
+ The major problem of the world is the restoration of the IMAGE OF MAN. Every time a child is born into the world, there is a restoration of the human image, but only from the physical point of view. The surcease from the tragedy can come only from the restoration of the spiritual image of man, as a creature made to the image and likeness of God and destined one day, through the human will in cooperation with God’s grace, to become a child of God and an heir of the Kingdom of Heaven.
+ The reason why we are not better than we are is that we do not will to be better: the sinner and the saint are set apart only by a series of tiny decisions within our hearts. Opposites are never so close as in the realm of the spirit: an abyss divides the poor from the rich, and one may cross it only with the help of external circumstances and good fortune.
+ The capacity for conversion is greater in the really wicked than in the self-satisfied and complacent. The very emptiness of soul of the sinners is in itself an occasion for receiving the compassion of God. Self-disgust is the beginning of conversion, for it marks the death of pride.
+ In all other religions you have to be good to come to God. In Christianity, you do not. Christianity is realistic: it begins with the fact that, whatever you are, you are not what you ought to be. If everything in the world were perfectly good, we would still need God, for all goodness comes from God. But the presence of evil makes that need more imperative. Christianity begins with the recognition that there is something in your life and in the world that ought not to be, that need not be, and that could be otherwise were it not for evil choices.
+ There are two ways of coming to God: through the preservation of innocence; and through the loss of it. Some have come to God because they were good, like Mary. who was “full of grace”; like Joseph, the “just man”; like Nathaniel, “in whom there was no guile”; or like John the Baptist, ”the greatest man ever born of woman.”
But others have come to God who were bad, like the young man of the Gerasenes “possessed of devils,” like Magdalen, out of whose corrupt soul the Lord cast seven devils; and like the thief at the right who spoke the second word to the Cross.
+ Cease asking what God will give you if you come to him, and begin to ask what you will give God. It is not the sacrifice it sounds, for, in having Him, you will have everything besides.
+ God walks into your soul with silent step. God comes to you, more than you go to Him. Every time a channel is made for Him, He pours into it His fresh gift of grace. And it is all done so undramatically — in prayer, in the sacraments, before the altar, in loving service of fellow man.
Never will His coming be what you expect, and yet never will it disappoint. The more you respond to His gentle pressure, the greater will be your freedom.
+ God never refuses grace to those who honestly ask for it. All He asks is that the vague thirst for the Infinite which has urged the soul on to seek its good in a succession of pleasures shall now be transformed into a thirst for God Himself. All we need do is to voice these two petitions: Dear Lord, illumine my intellect to see the Truth, and give me the strength to follow it. It is a prayer that is always answered. And it makes no difference whether the desire for God we voice has come from our disgusts, satieties, and despair or whether it is born of our love of the beautiful, the perfect. God is willing to take either our old bones or our young dreams, for He loves us, not because of the way we are, but because of what we can be through His grace.”
The Greatest Commandment is available now from Sophia Institute Press.