Following the Wrong Road

Progress along the spiritual road seems painfully slow. As I listen to friends who are serious about their spiritual lives, I’m somewhat surprised by the common thread that runs through them: why, after so many years of prayer and varying degrees of asceticism, years of trying to lead a more spiritual life, must we struggle with the same weaknesses, the same faults? I’m frustrated with the slowness in which I am able to eradicate sin from my life. Is this just the way it is, or are we missing something, doing something wrong…or worse, are we following the wrong road altogether?

As I looked more closely at the ascetical life of St. Francis, one thing became clear: the purity of his motivation. Often for us moderns, spirituality has become just another tool to help us become better people. That is to say, our spirituality is egocentric: what is it doing for me? Not so for St. Francis. His goal was not self-perfection; his goal was God alone. Asceticism for St. Francis was inspired and animated by a simple principle, found in the sixth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.” To deviate from this reality is to return to a self-centered perfection which misses the essence and profound purpose of Christianity.

St. Francis took seriously the words of Christ, and in John’s Gospel, Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing.” Taking those words to heart changed Francis’ entire outlook: God alone must be the source and expression of all his actions. As we grow in awareness that of ourselves we can do nothing but that in Christ we can do all things, we will no longer be discouraged by our own faults, nor will we be proud of the virtuous acts we perform through the promptings of God’s grace. Once St. Francis arrived at the realization that he was nothing and that God was all, his own weaknesses and failings were no longer obstacles, but instead were transformed into a means through which his faith was strengthened by the exercise of heroic acts self-sacrifice, echoing the words of Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians: “Gladly will I glory in my infirmities that the power of God may dwell in me.”

I must learn to trust in God and mistrust my own strength. Only then will love motivate my actions and purify my intentions.


2 Responses to “Following the Wrong Road”

  1. 1 Joan Krebs March 13, 2013 at 7:47 am

    Two things after this message, Gerry:  1) Yes. 2)the Deuteronomy injunction has a Gospel addendum: “and love your neighbor as yourself….”

    Joan Krebs 1625 Glenview Rd, #310 Glenview, IL 60025


  2. 2 aliceny March 13, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Yes, Yes, Yes, Mr. Straub. You nailed it — In plain, easy-to-understand, non-pedantic language. Thank you.

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