Thursday, 9 July 2009

Purity of Intention

Purity of intention consists in doing everything from a simple desire to please God. Jesus Christ has said, that according to the intention, whether it be good or evil, so is our work judged before God. If thine eye be single, thy whole body is full of light; but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body is full of darkness.1 The single eye signifies a pure intention of pleasing God; the dark and evil eye signifies a want of such honest and holy intention, when our actions are done from a motive of vanity, or from a desire to please ourselves.

Can any action be more noble than for a man to give his life for the faith? and yet St. Paul says, that he who dies from any motive but that of a pure desire to do God’s will, gains nothing by his martyrdom.

If, then, martyrdom avails nothing unless it be endured for the sake of God alone, of what value will be all the preaching, all the labor of good works, and also all the austerities of penitents, if they are done to obtain the praise of men, or to satisfy their own inclination?

The prophet Aggæus says, that works, however holy in themselves, if not done for God, are nothing better than bags full of holes;2 which means, that they are all lost directly, and that no good comes of them. On the contrary, every action done with an intention of pleasing God, of however little value in itself, is worth more than many works done without such pure intention.

We read in St. Mark that the poor widow cast into the alms-box of the temple only two mites; but yet of her the Saviour said, See, that poor widow has cast in more than all.3 St. Cyprian remarks on this, that she put in more than all the others, because she gave those two little pieces of money with the pure intention of pleasing God.

One of the best signs by which we may know whether a person’s work is done with a right intention is, that if the work has not the effect desired he will not be at all disturbed. Another good sign is, that when a person has completed any work, and then is spoken ill of for it, or is repaid with ingratitude, he nevertheless remains contented and tranquil. On the other hand, if it happen to any one to be praised for his work, he must not disquiet himself with the fear of being filled with vain glory; but should it come upon him, only let him despise it in his heart, and say, with St. Bernard, “I did not begin it for thee, nor because of thee will I leave it.”4

To work with an intention of acquiring more glory in heaven is good, but the most perfect is the desire to give glory to God. Let us be sure that the more we divest ourselves of our earthly interests, so much the more will our Saviour increase our joy in Paradise. Blessed is he who labors only to give glory to God, and to follow his holy will. Let us imitate the love of the blessed, who, in loving God, seek only to please him. St. Chrysostom says, “ If we can attain to the fulfilment of God’s pleasure, what more can we desire? If thou art worthy of doing anything5 that pleases God, dost thou ask any other reward?”

This is that single eye which pierces the heart of God with love towards us; as he says to the holy Spouse, Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast wounded my heart with one of thine eyes.6 This single eye signifies the one end that holy souls have in all their actions, that of pleasing God. And this was the counsel that the Apostle gave to his disciples: Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.7 The Venerable Beatrice of the Incarnation, the first daughter of St. Teresa, said, “No price can be put on anything, however small, that is done entirely for God.” And with great reason she said this, for all works done for God are acts of divine love. Purity of intention makes the lowest actions become precious, such as eating, working, recreation, when they are done from obedience and from a desire to please God.

We must, then, in the morning, direct to God all the actions of the day; and it will be very useful to us to renew this intention at the beginning of every action, at least of the most important, such as meditation, Communion, and spiritual reading pausing a little in the beginning of these, like the holy hermit, who, before beginning anything he had to do, lifted his eyes to heaven, and remained still; and when he was asked what he was then doing, replied, “I am making sure of my aim.”

When, O my Jesus! shall I begin to love Thee truly? Miserable that I am! If I seek among my works for any that are good, for one work done only to please Thee, my Saviour, I shall not find it. Alas! then, have pity on me, and suffer not that I continue to serve Thee so ill up to the time of my death. Grant me Thy help, that what remains to me of life I may spend only in serving and loving Thee. Make me overcome all, that I may please Thee, and do all only to fulfil Thy holy pleasure; through the merits of Thy Passion, I ask it. O my great advocate, Mary, obtain for me this grace by thy prayers!

1“Si oculus tuus fuerit simplex, totum corpus tuum lucidum erit, si autem oculus tuus fuerit nequam, totum corpus tuum tenebrosum erit.” -- Matt. vi. 22.

2In sacculum pertusum.

3“Vidua hæc pauper plus omnibus misit.” -- Mark, xii. 43.

4Nec propter te cœpi, nec propter te desinam.

5“Si dignus fueris agere aliquid quod Deo placet, aliam præter id mercedem requiris.” -- De Compunct. 1. 2.

6“Vulnerasti cor meum, soror mea sponsa, vulnerasti cor meum in uno oculorum tuorum.” -- Cant. iv. 9.

7“Sive ergo manducatis, sive bibitis, sive aliud quid facitis, omnia in gloriam Dei facite.” -- 1 Cor. x. 31.

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