He Wants Intensely to Make Us Happy

Author: Fr. William Most


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 for us.

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 somatic resonance).

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 Church.

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 understand.

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 not.

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 interiorly.

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 biochemistry.

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 did.

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.