Can we be encouraged to try to do better? Sure. The resulting goal that we set for ourselves can issue from a reckoning about what our dogs think about us and what the reality actually is. Fine. But…
Don’t have any goals in the spiritual life. Sure, there are things like keeping the commandments with a firm purpose of amendment, of frequenting the sacraments, of following the precepts of the Church, etc.
But that’s our ecclesial life, so to speak, intimately tied, it is true, to our spiritual lives, but there is a distinction to be made. Our Lord plucks us up out of the quagmire of this world, up to cross, where He is, where He said He would draw when He is lifted up there. We might think that we can climb up on the cross ourselves and don’t need or are afraid of His help to get there. We know that the goal there is set by Jesus, not ourselves, namely, that we participate in the charity of God in drawing all to the Heart of our Savior.
But that is something we cannot bring ourselves into living. It is beyond us. We have no idea what it means to intercede for all the members of the Body of Christ who are being drawn by Jesus to Himself on the Cross. This outrageous charity is not the way we would go about things. If we set anything to do with that as a goal for ourselves at which to arrive through our own machinations of doing this and that, we will only arrive at what we imagined with our own brains. It’s not about us. It’s about Jesus. We are not our own saviors. He the One, the only One. He saves us because we cannot do this ourselves.
The fad in the formation of seminarians for all these years of darkness was to equate psychology and the spiritual life, making the seminarians into perfect human beings who then don’t need any grace of redemption or salvation. And then the house of cards falls. The most oft cited book on vocations here in these USA is all about God calling perfect human beings, or human beings who are well under way to becoming perfect human beings who don’t have any weakness consequent to original sin. This has a certain insanity about it.
I wouldn’t want anyone in a seminary who thought he didn’t need Jesus because he was already the perfect human being (what arrogance!). Neither would I want someone around who despaired of depending on Jesus. I would want someone available to formation, that is, someone who was willing to be at ease with the fact of the cross we are commanded to carry, which includes all weakness consequent to original sin. Know yourself! Yes. To a point. But we don’t really know whence Jesus had to save us until He lifts us out of the quagmire.
Jesus doesn’t make us of ourselves stronger, more whole, perfect. No. He brings us into His strength, His truth, His love, His goodness and kindness, before which standard we can understand a bit more what He’s done for us, leaving us in humble thanksgiving. In heaven there will be no more weakness, but here, in justice, as consequences of sin freely chosen with the sin, yes.
Having a goal of humble thanksgiving? No. We don’t know what it is. But assent to it as our Lord brings you into being humble, into thanksgiving, into His truth and goodness and kindness.
“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect!” commands Jesus. Yes. But not of ourselves, but because we are made to be members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Jesus is perfect. He’s the Son of His Father. He’s the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception. It’s all about JESUS!