ALL holiness consists in loving God. Divine love, says Holy Scripture, “is an infinite treasure to men! which they that use, become the friends of God.” (Wisdom 7:14). God is ready to give us this treasure of His holy love, but He requires that we should greatly desire it. He that little desires any good thing, takes little trouble to obtain it. On the other hand, St. Lawrence Justinian says that a great desire lightens the labor and gives strength.
And thus, he who has little ambition to advance in divine love, instead of becoming more ardent in the pursuit of perfection, will go on becoming always more lukewarm; and continuing thus tepid, he will be in great peril of falling at last down some precipice [i.e., into some mortal sin]. On the other hand, whoever aspires with fervent desires after perfection, and makes efforts daily to advance, will little by little in time attain it. St. Teresa says: “God does not bestow many favors, except on those who earnestly desire His love.” And again: “God leaves no good desire without its reward.” Therefore, the Saint exhorted everyone not to suffer his desires to slacken, because, “trusting in God and striving our best, little by little, we shall reach that point which the Saints reached.”
It is a deceit of the devil (according to the opinion of the same Saint) which makes some think that it is pride to desire to become saints. It would be pride and presumption if we trusted in our own efforts or resolutions, but not if we hope for all from God. For if we do so, He will give us that strength which we have not. Let us, then, desire with a very great desire to attain to a sublime degree of divine love, and let us say with courage: “I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13). And if we do not find that we possess this great desire, at least let us seek it urgently from Jesus Christ, for He will give it to us.
We will now pass on to the second means—resolution. Good desires must be accompanied by a determined will to make great efforts for the attainment of the good desired. Many desire perfection, but never take the means to gain it; they wish to go and live in a desert, to do great penances and practice great prayer and endure martyrdom; but all such desires are nothing better than mere fancies, which, instead of benefitting them, do them great harm. These are the desires which “kill the slothful,” as the Scripture says. (Proverbs 21:25). For, such a person, feeding himself upon these fruitless desires, pays no heed meantime to the correction of his defects, the mortification of his appetites, and patience in suffering contempt and contradictions. He wishes to do great things, but such as are incompatible with his present condition; and thus his imperfections increase. In every adversity he is disturbed, every infirmity makes him impatient; and thus he lives always imperfect, and imperfect he dies.
If then we truly desire to become saints, let us resolve first to avoid every venial sin, however slight; secondly, to detach ourselves from every affection to earthly things; thirdly, let us never omit our accustomed exercises of prayer and mortification, however great may be the weariness and disgust we feel in them; fourthly, let us meditate daily on the Passion of Jesus Christ, which inflames with divine love every heart that meditates upon it; fifthly, let us resign ourselves in peace to the will of God in all things that annoy us. Father Balthasar Alvarez used to say: “He that in troubles resigns himself to the Divine Will runs to God posthaste.” And, sixthly, let us continually beg of God the gift of His holy love.
Resolution, resolution! St. Teresa often said: “The devil has no dread of irresolute souls.” On the contrary, he who really resolves to give himself to God will overcome even what seemed to him insuperable. A resolute will conquers everything. Let us endeavor to repair lost time. The time that remains, let us give it all to God. All time that is not spent for God is lost. Why do we delay? Is it that God should abandon us in our lukewarmness, which may lead us at last to utter ruin? No, let us take courage, and from this day forth act upon this holy maxim: “We have only to please God and die.” Souls thus resolute are made by God to fly in the way of perfection.
This article is taken from a chapter in Attaining Salvation: Devout Reflections and Meditations by St. Alphonsus Liguori which is available from TAN Books.