Color on trees
Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman
Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman
The Spiritual Mind, Part 2

Thee Minutes with Newman

The Spiritual Mind, Part 2

by Fr. Juan Vélez

The Christian should act out of the good habit of loving God, rather than out of fear of sinning, even though the latter may at first play a part in his decisions.


Color on treesPeople often ask whether some action or other is a sin. Blessed Newman points out rather that when we have mastered our hearts we do not act out of fear, thinking when we do a deed, “if I do not do this, I shall risk my salvation; or, if I do it, I have a chance of being saved”;

For him, this is “comparatively a grovelling way, for it is the best, the only way for sinners such as we are, to begin to serve God in.”

Although this is the way we think as we grow up, we should:

Do good without thinking about it, without any calculation or reasoning, from love of the good, and hatred of the evil;—though cautiously and with prayer and watching, yet so generously, that if we were suddenly asked why we so act, we could only reply “because it is our way,” or “because Christ so acted;”

We should act, he continues, “with more of instinctive fear of sinning, than of minute and careful appreciation of the degrees of our obedience.” Good Christians are accustomed to be religious. Like David they act with “a princely heart of innocence.” He adds:

They surprise others at their very calmness and freedom from thought about themselves. This is to have a great mind, to have within us that “princely heart of innocence” of which David speaks.

We may think this is too hard to attain and may give up trying. It may be a question of laziness to “justify” the mediocrity in our behavior.

God is merciful and always draws us to himself. He dwells within us and lifts us up by his graces. When we respond to his inspirations we develop a habit of obedience or good instinct, an “obedience of the heart.”

We must examine ourselves: Do we live to God or to the world? Have we allowed the Gospel to act in us with its power or is it merely a word that we hear, a word that is something external?

Such obedience based on habit is a higher obedience than one based on custom.

The one is of the heart, the other of the lips; the one is in power, the other in word; the one cannot be acquired without much and constant vigilance, generally not without much pain and trouble; the other is the result of a mere passive imitation of those whom we fall in with.

The next time we wonder if something is a sin or not, let us seek that higher obedience. Moved by the power of the Gospel, let us do what is pleasing to God.


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