By Francis Fernandez-Carvajal
2/63.1 Purity of intention and presence of God. Acting with our minds on God.
The life of the first Christians and their witness to the world make known to us their quality and their character. Their norm of conduct was not to take the easy way out, or opt for the more comfortable line, or the more popular decision, but rather did they seek to fulfil completely the will of God. They ignored the danger of death ... they forgot how few they were, they never noticed how many were against them, or the power or strength or wisdom of their enemies. Their power was greater than all of that: theirs was the power of him who had died on the Cross and risen again. They had their gaze riveted on Christ, who gave his life for all men. They were not seeking their own personal glory, nor the applause of their fellow citizens. They always acted with a right intention, because they had their eyes fixed on the Lord. That is what allows St Stephen to say at the moment of his martyrdom: Lord do not take their sin into account, as we read in to-day’s Mass.
Our intention is right when Christ is the end and motive of all our actions. Purity of intention is no more than presence of God: God our Lord is present in all our intentions. How free our heart will be of every earthly obstacle, how clear our vision and how supernatural our way of doing things when Jesus Christ really reigns in our intimate world and presides over all our plans and purposes.
By contrast, the person who is always seeking the approval and applause of others can easily deform his own conscience. The rule of action then becomes what people will say, rather than the Will of God. Concern for the opinion of others can easily become fear of the environment. It is easy then to neutralise the apostolic activity of Christians, who have taken upon themselves the urgent task to fulfil on earth the evangelization of the world.
Sometimes, in order not to appear out of step, one easily begins not to be consistent with one’s principles. One falls into the temptation of leaning to the side from which approving smiles and handshakes more readily come, or at least in the direction of mediocrity. This is what happened to the Pharisees. Vanity and cowardice were what led them away from God. That is what led them to seek another theatre for their struggles, and is what lost them: because once you begin to try pleasing your spectators, the battles you fight are the ones they want to see. On the contrary, those who truly seek Christ have to accept that their conduct will be unpopular and often criticised, particularly if they live in an environment that is not very Christian.
The first thing we have to do with our actions is to please Christ. If I were still concerned about pleasing men, I would not be a servant of Christ. And St Paul also replies to some Corinthians who were criticising his apostolate: Not that it makes the slightest difference to me whether you, or indeed any human tribunal, find me worthy or not. I will not even pass judgement on myself ... The Lord alone is my judge.
Human judgements are often wrong. Only God can judge our actions and our intentions. Among the surprises which await us on the day of judgement, not least will be the silence with which Our Lord will greet those actions of ours which merited the applause of men ... On the other hand it can happen that he will weigh in positive terms some actions which have drawn down criticism and censorship upon us. Our Judge is the Lord. It is He whom we have to please. We must ask ourselves many times each day: Am I doing what I should be doing now? Do I seek the glory of God, or am I trying to show off, to make sure people like me? If we are sincere on those occasions we will obtain light to rectify our intention if necessary, and direct it towards God.
 St John Chrysostom, Homilies on St Matthew, 4
 Acts 7:59
 S. Canals, Jesus as friend
 Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, 93
 St John Chrysostom, o.c., 72
 Gal 1:10
 1 Cor 4:3-4
 G. Chevrot, In Secret
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rev. Francis Fernandez-Carvajal
Rev. Francis Fernández-Carvajal is a Priest of the Opus Dei Prelature and the author of many popular spiritual works. His seven-volume series In Conversation with God provides over 500 meditations to be used throughout the liturgical year. It has sold over 2 million copies and has been translated into many languages.