HE WANTS INTENSELY TO MAKE US HAPPY
by Fr. William Most
For each other kind of creature, our Father has provided satisfaction and
pleasure suited to that creature. But for us, whom He even calls His children, He is not
satisfied with giving us a human happiness: He wants us to have a really divine
happiness. So in 1 John 3.2 we see that "When He appears, we shall be like Him, for we
shall see Him as He is". It means that we will be able to know Him as He knows us --
not with the same infinite fullness, but in the same directness. It means that we will be
able to love Him as He loves us, again, not with the same infinity, but in the same way.
Only a being partly divine could do these things. So 2 Peter 1.4 is right in saying that by
grace we become "sharers in the divine nature."
We are going to explore two facets of the picture, first, the immeasurable
strength of that will to save, second, some fraction of the designs of infinite wisdom to
make that will come true in reality.
Jesus once said: Only the Son knows the Father, and only the Father knows the
Son, and anyone to whim He wills to reveal Him." Within the Holy Trinity the Father
speaks one Word. But it is not a passing ripple in the air such as we speak: it is
substance, it is another Divine Person. Between Father and Son there is infinite Love.
That love is a Person, the Holy Spirit. 1 John 4.8 also says: "God IS love." We cannot
say that He has love- that would be a duality, but He is completely simple. So we must
say: He IS love.
To love is to will good to another for the other's sake. The Father wills to the Son
the good of divine nature: that will is effective, it constitutes the Son, by love. Father
and Son together will that same good of divine nature to the Holy Spirit. That will
constitutes Him. So We can begin, only begin, to see that God is love.
So when The Father says in 1 Tim 2.4 that He wills all men to be saved, it really
means that He loves them, for He wills them good, even divine good. He wills that we
be able to get in on the infinite streams of infinite knowledge and of infinite love that
flow within the Holy Trinity.
Does He want this strongly? Romans 5.8 says God proved His love for us. He
did this in two ways.
First, when we love, there are three steps. First, we see something fin in another.
That leads us, secondly, to will or wish that so fine a person may be well off. Then,
thirdly, if that will is strong, we will not be content to merely say I wish, but will act to
bring it about.
But if someone starts out to bring well-being and happiness to the one loved,
and a small obstacle can stop him - that love is small. If it takes a great obstacle to stop
him - that love is great. If even a measureless obstacle, literally immense, cannot stop
him - then that love is measureless.
What obstacle did the Father surmount to bring us this divine happiness?
Nothing less than the terrible death of His Only Son. This is a staggering thought. Plato
(Symposium 203) had said that "No god associates with man."Aristotle (Ethics 1. 5) said
that no friendship is possible between a god and a man, since the distance is too great.
What would these great minds have thought had they heard that God not only became
man, but even was willing to suffer so horribly for us. No wonder St. Paul told the
Corinthians (1. 24) that Christ crucified is "a stumbling block to the Jews (who had
heard in Dt 21. 23 "God's curse in upon every one who hangs on the tree"), and
nonsense to the Greeks." So in this way we can begin to see that His love is measureless
Further, since in Isaiah 55. 8-9 He had said: "As high as the heavens are above
the earth, so high are my thoughts above your thoughts, and my ways above your
ways" --in view of that He knew we could not understand Him or feel at home with
Him unless He in some way told us what He is like. So He did that in His Son, and by
way of the New Covenant that Son brought to us. In a covenant, the two sides each give
something and receive something. What they give is of course of the same greatness as
that which they receive. The Father accepted the infinite price of redemption, the death
of His Only Son. So in accepting that infinity, He pledged, obligated Himself to offer
forgiveness and grace infinitely, with no limit other than that which we might place, in
rejecting His advances.
If we used legal language, we would say that He created an infinite objective
claim or title to forgiveness and grace without limit for mankind. But is it just for
mankind in a block, as it were? It is that, but far more. St. Paul in Gal 2. 20 wrote that
"He loved me, and gave Himself for me." Was that just for St. Paul, a very special
person? No, Vatican II, Church in Modern World #22 assures us: "Each one of us can
say with the Apostle: The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me."
So for each one of us, individually, there is an infinite claim or title to all
forgiveness and grace. That does not imply a man could set out on a spree of sin, and
intend to pull up just in time. No, when he did pull up, there would be no change of
heart, it would be all preplanned. And so no real change of heart, no contrition.
Further, much sinning brings hardness or blindness. Then God would indeed be glad
to offer grace, gut the man would be closed off, incapable of taking it in.
In Psalm 118 the refrain is: "For His love is everlasting." Yes, that is true, but we
should add that it is also without measure.
We have tried to find gauge the immeasurable, we have found it absolutely
beyond our poor measures.
So we must explore a second facet: How in practice does He work to arrange to
bring about this infinite happiness for us? The measureless wisdom of the Father has
devised truly marvelous plans. We can penetrate only some part of them, but let us
make the effort.
His marvelous Wisdom has found ways to make use of every possible opening
to save souls. Some of these might seem to us beyond help. But His wisdom knows
how to say, in varying measures: They know not what they do."
For example, there are people called sociopaths, who seem almost unable to
grasp any moral principles. Is there any hope for them? Definitely yes, in His
marvelous plans to reduce responsibility in accord with variations in human
conditions. Myriad are the means He uses to help souls towards salvation.
First of all, there is such a thing as somatic resonance - a term from modern
psychology. Since we are made of body and spirit, and yet the two are so closely joined
as to add up to one person, the result is that if we have a condition on either one of the
two sides, there should be a parallel condition, called a resonance, on the other side.
For example, a person in deep black depression sometimes thinks he is losing or has
lost his faith. But the bad chemistry of his disease can interfere with the biochemistry
that should serve as the somatic resonance to his faith. This does not expel faith, but can
keep it from functioning normally, so that the person thinks he has lose it or is losing it.
Different conditions in the brain can serve as the somatic resonance to different
conditions. Thus, Science News of April 16, 1994, pp. 248-49 reported that PET scans of
persons with autism showed that normal persons have a cooler anterior singulate
compared to the active anterior singulate of the withdrawn person. The brain portions
involved seem to be the somatic resonance to the mental conditions. Further, Science
News of August 20, 1983, pp. 122-25 reports a chemist from Argonne laboratories took
hair samples of violent criminals, found strong correlation between certain highs and
lows in trace elements and violent behavior. It does not mean they had no free will. It
does mean their somatic resonance could strongly predispose them in an evil direction.
Cf. Discover magazine, August, 1992, pp. 11-12 for similar results.
There are numerous applications of this principle. Science News of Oct 14, 1989,
p. 250 reported men who had committed murder without clear premeditation had the
lowest levels of the breakdown product [of serotonin] known as 5-hydroxyindoleacetic
acid of 5-HIAA. Science News of April 16, 1994, pp. 248-49 shows that PET scans of a
normal brain processing glucose show considerable differences compared to the scan of
a brain of a person who has trouble relating to others. And there are numerous other
instances. Again, Science News of Aug 20, 1983, pp. 122-25 reports a chemist found
notable differences in highs and lows of certain trace elements in the hair of violent
criminals. (The appendix gives many more scientific details on the workings of this
These things do not deny free will. But they show that a person may be much
inclined in an unfortunate direction by abnormal chemistry. God who so greatly wills
all to be saved, surely makes full allowance for these things.
Furthermore, there are two marvelous spiral processes or patterns that show
how God's mercy and justice can be identified in practice in these processes. The bad
spiral appears when a soul sins much over a period of time. It grows less and less able
to perceive spiritual truths. Suppose we think of a man who has never been drunk
before, but tonight he becomes very drunk. The next morning he will have guilt
feelings - for this was the first time. There will be a clash between his beliefs and his
actions. Something will give in time. If he continues getting drunk, his beliefs will be
pulled to match his actions, so that a confirmed drink can hardly understand there is
anything wrong with it. Further moral truths may be dimmed in this way.
Now we can see both mercy and justice here. The fact that the man is losing light is
justice, he has earned that. But at the same time, what he does not understand at the
time of acting can lower his culpability. He may lose even the ability to see some
doctrinal truths. Thus Dignity, the group that defies the Church on the immorality of
homosexuality, published a statement before the Pope's appearance in Denver in the
summer of 1993 saying: The Pope is only titular head of the Church, We are the
Yes, there is a responsibility taken on at the start of the decline, when and if the
person sees himself declining, and consents to it. But at the later times of acting,
responsibility may be diminished.
We should notice also the reduced responsibility that comes from the fact that
people may have mental frameworks, sets of ideas already in their minds. If something
that does not fit tries to get it, it usually does not.
For example, Galen a second century Greek anatomist wrote a description of all
parts of the body without having fully dissected one. Centuries later, Fabricius, the
anatomy professor of William Harvey, who discovered the circulation of the blood, in
dissecting found some things contrary to Galen - he refused to believe his own eyes,
held instead to Galen.
Teilhard de Chardin, S. J., called variously a theologian or a paleontologist, not only
believed in evolution of the human body, but also of intelligence and morality, so that
just before the return of Christ at the end, he said most of our race would be joined in a
unity like that of a totalitarian state, by love. Compare Luke 18. 8: "When the Son of
Man comes, do you think He will find faith on the earth?" Or Matthew 24. 12: "Because
sin will reach its peak, the love of most people will grow cold". Or 2 Timothy 3 which
at the start of the chapter gives a dreadful list of what people will be like then. And
there is more in Scripture, which did not penetrate at all into De Chardin.
Then there is Ignaz Semmelweis, M. D. one of the discoverers of germs. He told
other Doctors to use antiseptic precautions. They said he must be crazy, put him in a
madhouse for the rest of his life.
And our Apostles, because they firmly believed in a militarily conquering
Messiah, did not grasp the predictions of Jesus of His death and resurrection. When
they happened, they acted as if they had never heard of such things.
Here too is much room for much reduced responsibility. So we need to pay
attention to Matthew 7. 1: "Judge not." Which does not forbid us to state the objective
moral rating of an action, but it does say we must not claim to know the interior of the
one who does such things.
His arrangements in Holy Scripture are similarly marvelous. Holy Scripture is a
great gift to us, but in its very difficulty and obscurity we see the workings of God's
wisdom in still another way. Actually, God wills some obscurity in Scripture, to
mercifully be able to say: "They know not what they do". How much responsibility is
dimmed in a given case, only He can judge.
We can notice the principle working out especially in the case of the parables. Early in
His public life, if we follow the chronology of St. Mark, His enemies charge He casts
out devils by the devil, then, as all three Synoptics report, Our Lord turned to parables,
and told the Apostles: To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God,
but to the others in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not
Now of course He did not deliberately blind them - if He had done that, He would not
have wept over Jerusalem later. Rather it means that parables are a divinely established
means for dividing people into two groups. One group, by living vigorously according
to what faith says, that the things of this world are worth little compared to eternity,
will get a little light at first, and then more and more, light. The other group will
become more and more blind -- we are speaking again of the two spirals, mentioned
above, in two directions.
But it is not only parables that cause this effect: God wills that Scripture in
general be difficult. If we make allowance for differences in language, culture, literary
genre etc. in understanding, after all that there is still a lot of difficulty not accounted
for. That part is willed by God. St. Augustine thought God wants it that way, to get us
to work harder, and so get more. Pius XII agreed (EB 563). So again, God has a means
of mercifully allowing a person to become less responsible as he loses light.
To turn to still another facet of His plans: An established mental framework can
cause difficulty in understanding, that is, a set of established ideas. For example, the
Apostles had an firm idea that Jesus was going to restore the kingship to Israel - just
before the ascension they asked when He would do that! (Acts 1: 6). That is why they
did not understand His predictions of His death and resurrection - such things could
not fit with their notion of what sort of Messiah He was. Similarly, since the Old
Testament predictions, as we shall see fully later, of the gentiles streaming to Jerusalem
were easily understood to mean that all gentiles would become Jews - and not that they
would be accepted by God as gentiles and become part of the people of God (cf.
Ephesians 3: 3-6, where that fact is revealed for the first time by Paul). As a result,
Peter and others were painfully slow to understand the command of Mt 28 to go and
teach all nations. So Jewish Christians in Acts 10 were shocked that Peter would even
speak to gentiles -though Jesus had ordered precisely that.
Such lack of comprehension fits, as we said above, with the words of Our Lord
Himself. "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
So we can see then some of the myriad ways God has devised to make salvation
possible for all.
In addition, as we saw above, He bound Himself by the infinite price of redemption in
the new covenant, to make available forgiveness and grace infinitely, without limit. The
only limit imposed is the receptivity of the one to whom the grace is offered. Still
further, as we learn from St. Paul in Gal 2: 20,"He loved me, and gave Himself for me",
the Father has established this infinite title or claim not just in favor of the world as a
whole, but in favor of each individual man. Vatican II (Gaudium et spes #22) tells us:
"Each one of us can say with the Apostle: The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself
for me." So He will do everything possible for the salvation of each individual.
Hence we see how unfortunate it is to say that God gives "sufficient" grace to all
to be saved. That sounds as if He doles it out, gives just enough: a man had better use
every bit or he will be lost, and God will not care.
No salvation outside the Church is a defined doctrine that has caused immense
confusion, and what amounts to denial of the goodness of God. Some, like L. Feeney,
have said that if a person has never had a chance to even hear of the Church he will be
damned for not entering it. That makes God to be a monster! The same people insist
that God sends to hell innocent babies who died without baptism, again, with no fault.
This is sheer blasphemy!
Can Protestants and pagans be saved?: "The Church has said yes many times
over. Pius IX (DS 2666) wrote: God in His supreme goodness and clemency, by no
means allows anyone to be punished with eternal punishments who does not have the
guilt of voluntary fault." The Pope did not explain the how, but he did state the fact.
Similarly, Vatican II, in LG #16: "They who without their own fault do not know of the
Gospel of Christ and His Church, but yet seek God with sincere heart, and try, under
the influence of grace, to carry out His will in practice, known to them through the
dictate of conscience, can attain eternal salvation" Again, we see the fact, not the how.
Further, since membership in the Church is needed for salvation, these two texts imply
that somehow that requirement is met, without explaining how. John Paul II, in his
Encyclical on Missions #10 said: "Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made
concretely available to all. . . . many do not have an opportunity to come to know or
accept the Gospel or to enter the Church. . . . For such people salvation in Christ is
accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the
Church, does not make them formally members of the Church." We underlined the
word formally, since it implies that some lesser kind or membership, we might call it
substantial, can suffice.
We can try to fill in on what these documents imply even though they do not
speak explicitly. St. Justin the Martyr, writing c. 145-40, said, in Apology 1. 46 that
some in the past who were thought to be atheists, were really Christians, since they
followed the divine Logos, the Word. In Apology 2. 10 he adds that the Logos is in each
person. Now of course that is not a spatial presence. A spirit does not take up space, but
is present where it causes an effect. What effect? We turn to St. Paul, Romans 2. 14-16:
"The gentiles who do have the law, do by nature the things of the law. They show the
work of the law written on their hearts." And according to their response, are saved or
It is the Spirit of Christ (or of God, or the Holy Spirit- all are the same) who
writes the law, that is, makes known to them interiorly what morality requires. Justin
had said that Socrates was one who did this. So Socrates (1) read what the Spirit wrote
on his heart and believed it. (2) He had confidence in it. (3)He obeyed, carrying out the
'obedience of faith" of which Romans 1.5 speaks. Now those three things are a
definition of faith as St. Paul means it. So Socrates was justified by faith. We add:
Romans 8.9 says that if one has and follows the Spirit of christ, he belongs to Christ.
But that phrase means to be a member of Christ, which means to be a member of the
Church, His Mystical Body. So Socrates did have substantial, not a formal membership.
Hence their is no problem
The same applies also to Protestants and pagans, and Jews who reject Christ, if
they fill the same three requirements.
What if one of these persons who is justified by faith in this way later commits a
mortal sin? Of course, perfect contrition will clear it. But we may speculate that there is
a different way of doing it. In Ezekiel 18. 21 God says: "If a wicked man turns from all
his sins. . and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely
live." No perfect contrition is addressed to God who is goodness itself; but the change
of heart in the wicked man, of which Ezekiel speaks, is addressed to God's justice: the
man sees what he has done is wrong, resolves to do it no more. But just as God is
identified with love, so also He is identified with His other attributes, including justice.
Hence we may speculate that this will explain what Ezekiel says, that a person might
recover the state of grace in that way. Such is God's goodness, who wants all to reach
eternal happiness, and gladly accepts whatever good will He finds.
In fact, although a pagan or some other person who follows the worship of some
body other than the Catholic Church, does not reach salvation by such worship, yet
God will accept the good will shown in trying to do what the man things God wills,
what is right.
The Church teaches that a person in any walk of life can reach spiritual
perfection, even though the means available in some states, such as abstinence from
marriage, are in themselves more powerful than those outside.
We said "in themselves", because the goodness of our Father has placed
wonderfully powerful means of spiritual growth in marriage too. Hence Paul VI once
said that marriage is a long path towards sanctification (on this cf. W. Most, Our
Father's Plan, pp. 145-49). God has sugar-coated the situation, to get people to as it were
register for this course in sanctification. During courtship, the very large differences in
male and female psychology are all heavily papered over by emotion. But when after
some time in marriage, the feelings subside to a more normal level, then they find out.
Each one can honestly say: I need to give in most of the time to make this work. That is
spiritually splendid, the opposite of selfishness. And if children come, the generosity of
even rather ordinary parents to children is really phenomenal. So Paul VI is very right:
Marriage can be a long path towards sanctification.
Checkerboard: God has marvelously arranged everything in such a way that no one
will be lost because of the circumstances of time and place in the world in which he
finds himself. To show one way He might use, we think of God looking over a great
checkerboard before time began to roll. He would see three kinds of squares: 1) the fist
class squares have Mass and all the Sacraments; 2) the second class, Protestantism, have
only some sacraments; 3) in paganism there are no sacraments, yet grace is given
Why the three? Because although the founder of a heresy may well be guilty of
grave sin, hardly is that the case with those born into a heresy, e. g, Lutheranism. It
takes quite a large nudge to get them to even suspect they should recheck their faith.
Further, the faith could not reach everywhere at once.
So it is inevitable that there be the three kinds of squares.
But God also sees differences in people. There are no differences at the start in
goodness for every bit of good we are and have and do is His gift: 1 Cor 4.7. But there
are great differences in resistance to grace, leading to sin. Some are so resistant that no
matter what kind of square they are given, they will be lost. He will not waste the class
1 squares on them, for the number of that class is not infinite. Then He notes that others
could be saved, but much depends on what kind of square they get. Some are so
resistant to grace that only with the class 1 squares will they be saved. So He give that
kind to them. Others can be saved in class 2 or even 3.
This fits with Scripture. At the end of chapter 1 of 1 Cor St. Paul tells them to
look at their community: not many learned or noble men etc. Rather, God has chosen
the weak things of the world to confound the strong. In Ez 3. 5-7 God told the prophet:
"I am not sending you to a people with obscure speech and difficult languages. . . . if I
were to send you to these, they would listen to you; but the house of Israel will refuse
to listen to you, since they will not listen to me. For the whole house of Israel is hard of
brow and obstinate in heart." Then Ez 5. 6, referring to Jerusalem said: "She [Jerusalem]
has changed my judgments into wickedness more than the gentiles."
The book of Jonah give the same picture: the Assyrians were cruel, the world's
worst people. Yet God cared for them. When the prophets went to the People of God,
they suffered much, perhaps died. But the people of Nineveh welcomed Jonah, readily
did penance in sackcloth and ashes. The Mekilta de Rabbi Ishmael (on Exodus, tr. Jacob
Lauterbach, Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, I. p. 7) pictures Jonah
as saying: Since the Gentiles are more inclined to repent, I might be causing Israel to be
condemned [by going to Nineveh]."
The parable of the good Samaritan shows two officers of the people of God passing by
the wounded man, while the Samaritan took care of him. When the 10 lepers were
cured, only one came back to thank - a Samaritan. In Mt 11. 21 Jesus is displeased at
Chorazin and Bethsaida: "If the wonders done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon
they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."
Appendix of Details on Somatic Resonance
1. US News & World Report, Nov 8, 1993, pp. 76-79. Personality changes seem to come
from some antidepressants. Serotonin, a mood-elevating brain chemical, normally
flows from the synapses. . . into the cells where it is deactivated. SSRIs such as Prozac
and Pamelor block the brain's natural ability to deactivate Serotonin, thereby resulting
in more Serotonin effect. Can cause drowsiness or lowered sexual desire. -- Due to
modification of somatic resonance.
2. Discover magazine, Oct, 1993, pp. 30-31;"Violence in the Blood" by Sarah Richardson.
A perfect correlation between inclination to violence seems to relate to a defect in men
on the short arm of the X chromosome, a marker known to code for an enzyme
monoamine oxidase A which should break down three important neurotransmitters,
including norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine.
3. Science News of Oct 14, 1989, p. 250 said: "Men who had committed murder without
clear premeditation had the lowest levels of the breakdown product [of serotonin
known as 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid or 5-HIAA. In addition, men who had killed
more than once had lower levels of 5 HIAA than did one-time murderers. . . . In a
study of violent offenders and impulsive arsonists. . . Linnolla's team again found
abnormally low levels of 5 HIAA. Men in this group who went on to commit additional
violent offenses or arson during an average three-year follow-up period after prison
release had the lowest levels of 5-HIAA. Studies measuring 5-HIAA levels in the
cerebrospinal fluid of suicide attempters show that individuals who used violent
means, such as guns, tend to have lower levels than those who took pill overdoses. . . . .
In autopsy studies, other investigators have linked low brain concentration of 5-HIAA
to a aggression in Alzheimer's patients. In contrast, note thomas R. Insel of NIMH,
some studies of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder show that these individuals
have slightly higher-than-normal levels of 5-HIAA. . . . Linnolla cautions that 5-HIAA
is only an indirect indicator of serotonin function."
3. Science News Oct 14, 1989, p. 246: "With the help of antidepressants, Ann finally
conquered the guilt and despair that had overwhelmed her for two years after her
husband's death in 1984. The 62-year old woman said she felt 'as if a cloud had been
lifted.' Then, in early 1988, Ann took part in a medical experiment. She and 20 other
patients recently recovered from depression drank a chocolate-flavored concoction of
amino acids that drastically lowers blood levels of a precursor of serotonin. . . . three
hours after drinking the liquid, Ann began sobbing uncontrollably. She slept little that
night and mourned her husband's death as if it had just happened. The following
evening, the episode ended as abruptly as it had begun. She stopped crying and told
the doctors she felt back to normal. . . . Thirteen other participants experienced similar
setbacks after drinking the liquid." COMMENTS: even though the patients knew it was
just a chemical change, yet their feelings seemed real.
4. Scientific American: Feb. 1974, pp. 84-91 reports low levels of serotonin go along
with increased sexual activity and insomnia.
5. Science News Oct 9, 1971, p. 249. An infusion of Lactate triggers anxiety attacks in
those prone to anxiety. cf. Ibid, July 16, 1983 pp. 45-46. Shows anxiety is linked to
6. Science News August 20, 1983, p. 122-25. A chemist from Argonne lab took hair
samples of violent criminals at Stateville prison in Illinois, found highs or lows of
certain trace elements tended to correlate with tendencies to violence.
7. Discover magazine, Aug. 1992. pp. 11-12: Louis Gottschalk a neuro-psychiatrist at U
of C at Irvine took hair samples of 193 rapists, murderers, armed robbers and other
violent criminals - and also took samples from normal persons."On the average violent
criminals have almost five times more manganese in their hair." He had set out to
reproduce an earlier study that had found elevated levels of lead, cadmium, and
copper in criminal hair. Those results did not hold up, but the manganese connection
8. Science News, by Tina Adler, "Comprehending Those who Can't Relate", vol 145,
April 16, 1994, pp. 248-49. Finds that autistic persons have difficulty in relating to
others a PET scan of a normal brain processing glucose, compared to a socially
withdrawn person shows in a normal person, a cooler anterior singulate compared to
the very active anterior singulate of a socially withdrawn person. The socially
withdrawn persons may have fine logical ability, but lack social interactive skills.