Like all life the spiritual life is never static.  It can grow.  It can decline.  It is not like a hundred yard dash.  It is more like a marathon, requiring endurance and perseverance.

Growth in the spiritual life requires day by day unlearning love of the world  as described by John (I John 2: 15-16) “Everything there is in the world – disordered bodily desires, disordered desire of the eyes, pride in possession – is not from the Father.”

We are haunted, most of us, by a misleading tendency to confuse meritorious action with conscious effort.  The basis of merit is not hardship.  The basis of merit is love.  True, monotony and difficulty can be a proof of love but it is the love, not the hardship that counts.  When you love nothing is too menial, nothing is too monotonous, and nothing is too trivial.

God does not ask us always to be right.  What he asks is that we always be honest, always true to the best understanding of his will that we can attain.  God wants us to be good, but his love does not depend on our goodness.  Divine love is unchanging.  It never recedes or lessens because of our unworthiness.  Love is not one of God’s attributes.  It is his very essence.

C.S. Lewis pointed out, “our highest activity must be response, not initiative.”  That does not mean there is nothing for us to do, that we can be completely passive.  What one has received by grace must be won again and again by faithfulness.  Our role is actively to remove any obstacles to grace coming into our lives.  We must strive to be open, receptive.  Even omnipotence cannot give if there is no capacity to receive.  There is a nautical image that can serve to reflect this truth.    It is not the ship’s sail that make the wind blow, but the wind cannot drive forward a ship with torn sails.

The spiritual life is not based on feelings.  Our nature is such that we cannot avoid having feelings.  The critical thing is to recognize the role feelings play in our lives and to keep them under proper control.  The saints did not expect to “feel good about themselves.”  The goal of the spiritual life is union with God, not psychological equilibrium.

The greatest challenge is to be what God wants us to be, to be this particular person, with this particular body, at this particular time, in this particular place, in these particular circumstances – with all, in fact, that God’s providence has arranged for us.