My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. As a deer longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God ... When shall I come and behold the face of God? We pray this in the liturgy of the Mass. The deer attempting to slake his thirst with water is the psalmist’s symbolic way of describing the desire for God present in the heart of an upright person: a thirst and vehement desire for God! Such is the aspiration of one who is not content to accept worldly success as the satisfaction for human ambitions. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Jesus’ question forces us to take a radical look at the broad horizon of our life to which only God gives ultimate meaning. My soul thirsts for God! The saints were men and women with a great desire to belong to God completely, despite their defects. We could each ask ourselves: have I a true desire to be a saint? The answer would most assuredly be in the affirmative: yes. But our reply should not be as to a theoretical question, because for some holiness is unattainable, something to do with ascetical theology – but not a real goal for them, a living reality. We want to make it happen with the help of God’s grace.
So longs my soul for thee, O God. We must start by making the desire for holiness flourish in our own soul, telling Our Lord: ‘I want to be a saint’; or at least ‘When I experience my softness and weakness, I want to want to be a saint’. To banish doubt and make holiness more than an empty word let us turn and look at Christ: The Lord Jesus, divine teacher and model of all perfection, preached holiness of life (of which he is author and maker) to each and every one of his disciples without distinction: ‘You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Matt 5:48)
He has taken the initiative. If He had not, the possibility of being a saint would never have occurred to us. Jesus puts it to us as a command: be perfect!, and so it is not surprising that the Church makes sure her children hear the following resounding words: Therefore all the faithful are invited and obliged to holiness and the perfection of their own state of life.
Consider then how vehement our desire for holiness has to be! In Holy Scripture the prophet Daniel is called vir desideriorum, a man of desires. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all were worthy of such a title! The first thing that souls must do if they embark on the path of holiness is really to want to be saints whatever may come, whatever may happen to them, however hard they may have to labour, whoever may complain of them, whether they reach their goal or die on the road.
Allow your soul to be consumed by desires – desires for loving, for forgetting yourself, for sanctity, for Heaven. Do not stop to wonder whether the time will come for seeing them accomplished, as some pseudo-adviser might suggest. Make them more fervent each day, for the Holy Spirit says that he is pleased with men of desires.
Let your desires be operative, and put them into practice in your daily tasks.
Therefore, we should examine our conscience to see if our desires of holiness are sincere and effective, and furthermore, to see if we take them as something obligatory for a faithful Christian – as we have seen the Second Vatican Council state – in response to God’s desires. This examination could reveal the reason for so much weakness and apathy in interior struggle. You tell me, yes, you want to. Very good: but do you want as a miser longs for gold, as a mother loves her child, as a worldling craves for honours, or as a wretched sensualist seeks his pleasure?
No? Then, you don’t want to!
Let us develop these desires with the virtue of hope: one can only effectively desire something when there is hope of attaining it. If we consider some aim to be impossible and not for us, we will not really desire it; our theological hope rests on God.