Apostolic Maturity Presence of God – Your love, O my God, matures my soul and renders it capable of giving itself fully to the service of souls.
We may ask if the apostle can devote himself freely to the apostolate when he has reached the degree of union with God in which the flame of zeal bursts forth spontaneously. The fact is that, at this point, he cannot and should not evade the gift of self. Whether he is consecrated to contemplation or to action, whether he lives in the cloister or in the midst of the turmoil of the world, his life consists henceforth in giving himself unceasingly: in giving himself to God for the good of his neighbor, in giving himself to his neighbor for the glory of God. To stifle this tendency would be to retrogress and to impoverish his own spiritual life; the time has come when the soul should be enriched by the gift of self lived in the exercise of an intense apostolate, interior or exterior as the case may be. However, the saints teach that prudence is still necessary, and one must not cease to be vigilant, since to have received the interior grace of the apostolate does not signify that TeresaofAvilaone has been confirmed in grace. St. Teresa says this expressly: “I have known people of a very high degree of spirituality who have reached this state, and whom, notwithstanding, the devil with great subtlety and craft, has won back to himself” (Interior Castle, V, 4). “How many are called by the Lord to the apostleship, as Judas was, and enjoy communion with Him … and afterwards, through their own fault, are lost!” (ibid., 3). Spontaneously one recalls the cry full of humility and distrust of self that burst forth from the heart of St. Paul, the Apostle who had been rapt to the third heaven: “Lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway” (1 Cor 9:27). As long as we are on earth, we have reason to fear; we always have, alas, the sad possibility of not corresponding with grace, of separating ourselves, even in small things, from the will of God—and herein lies our ruin—thus, little by little we fall back. “Christian souls whom the Lord has brought to this point on your journey,” exclaims St. Teresa of Jesus, “I beseech you, for His sake, not to be negligent, but to withdraw from occasions of sin”; and she adds, “For this purpose [the downfall of an apostle] the devil will marshall all the powers of hell, for as I have often said, if he wins a single soul in this way, he will win a whole multitude” (Interior Castle, V, 4). On the contrary, if the apostle remains faithful to the grace of the apostolate, he will not only be an instrument for the salvation of many, but his own interior life will be deeply enriched.
“O Lord, the souls who were closest to You, as were Your most holy Mother and Your glorious Apostles, were those who suffered and labored the most for You, giving themselves no rest.
“O my God, how little should the soul that lives closely united to You think about resting! How far it ought to be from wishing to be esteemed in anything! If it is occupied with You, as it is right it should be, it will forget itself; its whole thought will be concentrated upon finding ways to please You, and seeing in what things and in what ways it can show You its love. You teach me, O Lord, that this is the aim of prayer, and that union with You tends to this: to produce good works and good works alone.
“If I fix my eyes on You, my crucified Lord, everything will become easy to me. Since you have shown me Your love by doing and suffering such amazing things, why should I content myself with words alone? Oh! make me know how to give myself to You as Your slave, so that branded as such with Your sign, which is the sign of the Cross, You can sell me as a slave to the whole world. Let me see what it means to become truly spiritual.
“Unite me to You, O divine Strength, that I may share in Your strength as the saints shared in it, so that with great zeal, I may work for Your glory, and suffer and die for You, and thus win many souls for You” (cf Interior Castle, VII, 4).
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