For all eternity we will be with God, so we should accustom ourselves to his presence. If we want to attain heaven, we must train our habits and our loves now. If I love food more than God, how can I expect to enter heaven? If I love human companionship more than divine communion, will I become a saint?
A. G. Sertillanges, a Dominican, writes, “Retirement is the laboratory of the sprit; interior solitude and silence are its two wings. All great works were prepared in the desert, including the redemption of the world. The precursors, the followers, the Master Himself, all obeyed or have to obey one and the same law. Prophets, apostles, preachers, martyrs, pioneers of knowledge, inspired artists in every art, ordinary men and the Man-God all pay tribute to loneliness, to the life of silence, to the night.” Any word we say must be grounded in deep thought. All action should spring from ardent prayer. We must be slow to speak and quick to hear.
Silence should undergird speech. Sertillanges observes, “Speech is weighty when one perceives silence beneath it, when it conceals and yet suggests a treasure behind the words, a treasure that it gives out little by little, as is fitting without haste and frivolous excitement. Silence is the hidden content of the words that count. What makes the worth of a soul is the abundance of what it does not express.” If we strive to edify our neighbors, to counsel the doubtful, and to comfort the afflicted, we must choose our words carefully. In the abundance of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.
Fasting, prayer, and solitude form a chord of three strands not easily broken. The Israelites wandered for forty years in the wilderness to remind us that this world is not our home. Moses fasted for forty days and received the law. John the Baptist went into the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord and to call all men to repentance. Jesus fasted in the wilderness to overcome the devil.
Let us shun earthly comforts, soft living, and physical pleasures if we wish to enter heaven. A Jesuit prayer reads: “Remember, Christian soul, that thou hast this day, and every day of thy life: God to glorify, / Jesus to imitate, / The Blessed Virgin and the Saints to invoke, / A soul to save, / A body to mortify, / Sins to expiate, / Virtues to acquire, / Hell to avoid, / Heaven to gain, / Eternity to prepare for, / Time to profit by, / Neighbors to edify, / The world to despise, / Devils to combat, / Passions to subdue, / Death perhaps to suffer, / And Judgment to undergo.”
Let us fight the battle because the reward is glory. The Blessed Virgin told Saint Bernadette, “you will not have joy in this life but in the next.” Let us look forward to eternal consolations, spurning Satan, all his works, and all his empty promises. Remember the White Witch and Edmund. She promised him Turkish delight but gave him slavery.
This is my Father’s world; / I walk a desert lone; / In a bush ablaze to my wond’ring gaze / God makes His glory known. / This is my Father’s world; / A wanderer I may roam. / Whate’er my lot, it matters not; / My heart is still at home.