Sanctity is about living proper balance … in everything. There are, however, in you and me, balancing acts that are more of-the-essence than others. It may well be considered important, for example, to reach the proper equilibrium between speaking and listening, or between fasting and healthy eating, however certainly the balance that matters most is that which makes me who I am as a person—my free will.
Virtue has been defined as the mean between two extremes, the middle point balancing two negatives. For example, the temperate eater consumes what is necessary, not more, not less. It would seem at first glance that my freedom should seek some sort of similar balance, but let’s see how.
When I began taking piano lessons, at first I had to train my baby fingers with scales, chords and lots of repetitions. Early on I wasn’t making music beautiful to the ear; it was almost painful to listen to. Every week my teacher would correct my body position, praise what little progress I had made, and pile on new exercises and chord patterns to be drilled into my little fingers with time and toil.
Today I would claim that I am “freer” to play the piano than anyone who never took lessons. And what my grown-up fingers now play is pleasing to the ear. I am free because I have taken on, and made my own, the musical rules of pressing the black and white keys in the right way.
No analogy is perfect. This simple image, however, can help us understand how God works in our souls. He invented the path of sanctity; he defines what is good and what is wrong; he alone is perfectly good. And yet, we are left free to practice, and thus to make our own, the principles he offers us.
What I do like about this analogy, is that the best piano player does not really seek balance between his own efforts and the guidance of the teacher, rather, both are needed fully; like the two wings of a bird.
The person who denies his own freedom, who expects God to “change him” without making an effort, is just as much at fault as the individual who goes-it-alone, trying to become a saint by sheer willpower.
In the nitty-gritty of life this is done by setting concrete goals with concrete actions that help me grow. For example:
Goal: Be there for my family members
Actions: 1 - A daily act of affection per person (hug, kiss, kind word) 2 - A moment when I ask each individual sincerely how they are doing.
Prayer: And this little plan is then brought up in my daily prayer: “Jesus, help me to love like you. Give me the grace to be there for those who need me.”
The one who makes progress in the spiritual life is thus the individual who makes the most of God’s guiding help and his own free daily efforts to forge himself in virtue … and this is the kind of music which is most beautiful in God’s ears.
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