I have been working my way through a second reading of Finding God’s Will For You by St. Francis de Sales. His explanations of fundamental Truths always challenge his readers to reassess their relationship with the God they claim to love and serve. This gifted spiritual adviser always provides much fruit for contemplation.
God has a plan for each of us – one that will lead to eternal happiness. He provides us with the graces sufficient to discover, accept and live out that plan. At the same time, He gave us free will and allows us to reject the path He sets before us.
Many in our contemporary world (even among some clergy and members of our Church) ridicule and reject that which He calls us to believe and live. “Dogma” and “Doctrine” have become dirty words and those who dare treasure and teach God’s Truths are often ridiculed and attacked for doing so.
Think I am exaggerating? Let me share one personal example. On a recent trip, the homilist at the Mass I attended advised those sitting in the pews before him “to beware of those who want to share doctrine. They are scoundrels!” Sadly, a majority of those in attendance nodded their heads in apparent agreement!
It is quite evident from the following excerpt from Finding God’s Will For You that St. Francis de Sales would not agree with that homilist and (I pray God) that no one who reads this post would either.
“Christian doctrine clearly proposes to us the truths God wills us to believe, the goods He wills us to hope for, the punishments He wills us to fear, the things He wills us to love, the commandments He wills us to fulfill, and the counsels He desires us to follow. All this is called the signified will of God, because He has signified and made manifest His will and intention that all these things should be believed, hoped for, feared, loved, and practiced.
Because this signified will of God proceeds by way of desire and not by way of absolute will, we can either follow it by obedience or resist it by disobedience. In this regard God makes three acts of will: He wills that we should be able to resist; He desires that we should not resist, and yet He allows us to resist if we so will. That we can resist depends on our natural state and liberty; that we do resist depends on our own malice; and that we do not resist is according to the desire of Divine goodness. Therefore, when we resist, God contributes nothing to our disobedience but leaves our will "in the hands of its own" free will and permits it to choose evil; when we obey, God contributes His assistance, His inspiration, and His grace…In His desire that we should follow His signified will, God solicits, exhorts, incites, inspires, assists and rescues us, whereas in permitting us to resist, He simply lets us do what we, wish to do according to our free choice, but contrary to His desire and intention.
…By that [God’s signified] will, God desires with true desire that we do what He makes known; and to this end He furnishes us with all things needed, and exhorts and urges us to use them. For a favor of this kind, we can desire nothing more. Just as the rays of the sun do not cease to be true rays when shut out and thrust back by some obstacle, so God’s signified will does not cease to be God’s true will when we resist it, even though it does not produce as many effects as it would if we had cooperated with it.
Therefore the conformity of our heart with God’s signified will consists in the fact that we will all that God’s goodness signifies to us as His intention, so that we believe according to His teaching, hope according to His promises, fear according to His warnings, and love and live according to His ordinances and admonitions.”
Listen to no one who asserts that he who conforms his will to that of God is a scoundrel!