“Maximizing the Minimum“
Father Peter Fitzgibbons
February 20 – 21, 2021
Gospel: Mark 1: 12-15
How can you love God more? How can you experience more of His love? The answer is really very simple. By loving yourself less. God is love Himself. He has no need of our love and is totally self-sufficient. But, God wants to give us His love. Unfortunately, God, being the perfection of all virtues, including politeness and courtesy, won’t break into our souls. We have to open our souls up to Him. If our souls are closed off by self-centeredness, He cannot come in. He wants to give us His immense love and to fill our souls completely with Himself.
We can grow in the love of God by taking on little penances and pious practices. Doing so will help, but two things are important. They have to be small, and they have to be practical. Too often, people say they will grow in the love of God by doing a lot of grandiose things. But, it’s impractical, because they won’t do it. Instead, take little steps. The first step to take is to realize that we need to improve. That’s actually a big step, because many people are satisfied with maximizing the minimums. “Father, I go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.” “I go to confession once a year.” “I don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent.” “I obey the Ten Commandments.” “I don’t rob banks.” Okay. But, there’s a lot more in the book our Lord tells us to do. You know that, right? We tend to maximize the minimums. “Father, I am good.” Well, I don’t know about that. The Lord said not to call anybody “good.” We are called to be perfect. That’s in the black part of the Bible, not the white part. Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. “I’m here at Mass.” You are physically here but is your mind? Look! Squirrel. Distraction during prayer is normal; just come back to it.
Giving yourself totally over to God, to overcome self-centeredness is what we always must work toward. Our first parents disobeyed God, and we continue to do the same thing. “I won’t let God in until I need Him.” “I will only go to church if the Mass is in English, or Spanish, or Latin, and only if it’s at 12:00 on my day off, if I’m not too tired, or if it’s over by 5:30 because I have dinner reservations somewhere.” We use all these stipulations, and the Church has unfortunately bought into to it. “I will only go to confession if there are reconciliation rooms.” So, parishes have spent thousands of dollars creating reconciliation rooms. Come on! I hear confessions…I wish I heard a lot more.
We must take up our cross every day and follow Him. The ego is a terrible thing and destroys people. In any 12 Step program, you must have ego deflation at depth. Where did they get that I wonder. From the Catholic Church? Go figure. How do we overcome our ego and self-centeredness? By doing little things. “I need to pray more.” Well, then pray more. Say the rosary. By the time you get to Coy’s laundry mat or to the court house, you have plenty of time to say a decade of the rosary. There are five stop lights, so you have plenty of time to say it. You have to sit there anyway. You can’t zip right through the traffic lights, although they made it less likely to be caught when they have moved the police station. My point is that you have plenty of time to do little things. “I want to lose weight and to eat better.” Then do it, one step at a time.
God has no limit on His love. We are the ones who limit His love with our self-centeredness. We determine our salvation. God says, “I will give you the way to salvation if you let Me into your soul.” We say, “I’ll get back to you. Thank you very much. Appreciate the offer.” We want to cling to ourselves. One of my good friends who recently passed away, a judge, used to say, “I’m not much, but I’m all I think about.” I deserve to speed, because I’m important. I have business to attend to. That would be me. However, I should mention that a lot of cops are not Catholic. We want what we want when we want it. That’s what we all have to fight…our self-centeredness. “You can’t tell me what to do. “I deserve this.” That kind of thinking shuts God out.
We have to be humble. In fact, we are commanded to be humble. The 4th and 5th Commandments command us to obey our physicians and caregivers. You don’t go to your physician’s office and say, “Oh, what the heck do they know.” Doctors are very intelligent, so listen to them and do what they tell you. That’s humility. “I don’t want a colonoscopy.” That’s humility, especially when I had mine. I know everyone in that department. I work there. I knew them all. Having a colonoscopy is not a side of me they wanted to see, but what the heck…if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. As Saint Therese de Lisieux said, when you are humble, you are small and safe. As long as you continue doing small acts of penance, day after day, you are growing in God’s love and opening the door to your soul so that He can come in. God will not force his way in. He does not need our love. God is self-sufficient. But, He wants to give His love to us, because that is His nature. We are the ones with selfish self-centeredness and close the door on love. But, if we focus on the little things, we will grow spiritually and gradually open the door more and more to allow the love of our good Lord into our souls.
The Law of Physics says that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. If our souls are full of ourselves, God cannot get in. God isn’t going to push us aside. He isn’t going to make us love Him. We have to decide to love Him by renouncing ourselves and our attachment to things. You will discover that once you become detached from things, you will have far more joy and pleasures than you ever could have imagined. Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas both said that if there is any labor involved, love is no labor at all. It’s all a joy. Each sacrifice is a joy. Each sacrifice makes a way for greater enjoyment and greater love. It creates a way for a greater union with the Almighty and, therefore, a greater union with one another. So, we are the ones who determine how much we will love. The secret of loving God and experiencing His love is really easy. We just have to love ourselves a heck of a lot less.
How will you apply this message to your life? Are you maximizing the minimum? Will you fight to overcome self-centeredness and make room for God in your heart and soul?
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