What has hatred to do with love, sanctity, or perfection? Such an ugly word seems to be the farthest thing from the patience and meekness of the saints. And yet, when we look more closely, we see many saints fighting vigorously against evils without and within — including any vices that hindered them in our path to union with God. If there is a holy love, there is a holy hatred for everything contrary to the good we love. It is an imitation of our Lord’s zeal as he cleanses the temple and rebukes the hypocrites, all for love for his Father’s glory and his ardent desire for the salvation of souls, including those of these same hypocrites.
So, we have every reason to hate our sins and vices, which keep our souls away from our Savior. But a good hatred is elusive, and an evil can easily slip into our penance when it includes anger or frustration with ourselves over our failings. Yes, we should hate our sins, but we must also be patient and gentle with ourselves. A holy hatred, then, ought to be peaceful, sober, and humble.
St. Francis de Sales explains that this anger with oneself is a path to pride and a product of a skewed self-esteem. We are troubled and disappointed with the fact that we are imperfect. This is not a hatred born primarily from a love for God but one mixed with worldly self-love. This is a hatred and an anger that cannot stand the reality that we are weak sinners. And yet we are. But thanks be to God; we are in His hands. His grace makes it possible for us to hope for the greatness to which we are called, a greatness we name sanctity.
Rather than fixating on each imperfection and becoming frustrated with every fall, we ought to fix our eyes on the goal. Never falling is not the goal. Our Lord consoles us with this fact as we meditate on his three falls along the way of the Cross. Instead, we should focus on persevering, getting up and moving forward after every fall without wasting time by complaining about our weaknesses. Our love is too urgent, and our imperfections too uninteresting. St. Francis de Sales offers as an alternative these gentle words:
“Well now, my poor heart, here we are, fallen into the pit that we had so often resolved to escape! Ah, well, let us lift ourselves up and turn our backs on it forever; let us beg the mercy of God and hope that he will aid us to be stronger hereafter, and entrust ourselves to the path of humility. Courage! Do not let your guard down. With God’s help, we will do well.”
(Introduction the the Devout Life, III, c. 10)
So, get up. Keep going. Don’t turn your eyes away from your crucified love. Hate the sins that he has born for you. And be kind to yourself.
Br. Andrew Thomas Kang, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE