“In order that anyone go straight along a road, he must have some knowledge of the end: thus an archer will not shoot the arrow straight unless he first see the target.” –From “Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas,” pg. 157. Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.
The Gospel reading (St. Matthew 17:1-9) and the sermon for today (St. Alphonsus Liguori, “On Heaven”, 2nd Sunday in Lent) both give the faithful something to long for with all their being. This longing is what should draw us forward, ever closer to God, all the days of our life here on earth. This longing is the desire for Heaven, the desire for complete and perfect union with God. To go about it any other way would be…well…backwards. If we try to stay on the straight path without a clear view of the target, we will most likely fall short and miss it. That is to say, if we try to be obedient to God for fear of the pains of Hell ALONE, we do not have the final goal in mind, and in this regard we fall short. Yes, we are avoiding Hell, but along with running FROM something, we should be running TO something with much greater fervor. This is what keeps us in a straight path, what keeps us from veering off the road. Yes, we may start from the archer’s hand at a very high speed, but if we do not know what our target is or what it will take to get there, we will probably drop away before we ever reach it. We may run with great fear and fly away from those things which will lead us to Hell, but if we do not fly TO something, if we do not fly TO God, to heavenly things, to virtue, to love of God and to the final goal of Heaven, we have no object. We are just a loosed arrow without a target. How sad a life to live, always flying from every wrongful pleasure but without any future recompense to gain from it! How sad to be miserable in this life because of sacrifices made without charity, without hope, without a desire for our greatest and only Good, and possibly fall into Hell because we failed in the most important commandment of all–to love God above all things! St. Paul says that if we do not have charity, we merit nothing, we gain nothing, we are nothing. How do we hope to attain God without loving Him?
No, we must look ahead at the prize to be won, our target, and shun those things which may lead us off the course. We must love God and desire Him above all else. Then the sacrifices we make will truly be sacrifices of charity, and they will not feel like sacrifices, but rather simply the means by which we will attain our greatest Good. This is how our sufferings are turned to joy, knowing that they will bring us to what we desire the most. And what is greater to be desired than Good Itself? Let us joyfully offer our Lenten sacrifices and our daily crosses to God, asking that they may be made worthy to merit for us our greatest desire and only Good, the beatific vision of God in heaven for eternity.