Thoughts for the Third Sunday of Lent from Fr Willie Doyle

Don’t be one of those who give God everything but one little corner of their heart on which they put up a notice board with the inscription: “Trespassers not allowed.”

COMMENT: Perhaps Fr Doyle’s lines today get to the heart of the difference between the saints and the rest of us. We may want to love God and we may try our best, albeit with many falls and weaknesses. Yet somewhere or other there is something that we want to hold onto and that we don’t want God interfering with. Perhaps it is our health or our financial security or perhaps some sin or even a little weakness or temptation that we enjoy flirting with. We may love God to a certain extent, but too many of us do not love Him enough to hand over everything, unconditionally. In the Gospel for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass for today, Jesus warns that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. We cannot grow to the holiness to which we are called if we do not want it. As Fr Doyle said elsewhere, there is nothing as hard as the half a half – a bit given to God and another bit given over to selfishness. It is this lack of generosity – this desire for God not to trespass – that makes Christian life more difficult than it ought to be. 

Fr Doyle was different. Yes, he struggled, and he had failings. But what is very clear from his diaries is that he really did want to give everything to God; there were no warnings against Divine trespassers in his soul. This did not come about automatically but rather was the result of his constant striving to go against his self-will, even in small things and even in things that were not bad in and of themselves. We are all called to this battle against our love of comfort. Perhaps we are not all called to use the methods employed by Fr Doyle (who seems to have had a special calling to a hard life of penance) but we shall never be able to give ourselves entirely to God if we don’t make a start in disciplining ourselves even in little ways.

The saints were also fully open to God’s will in their lives. If today wasn’t a Sunday we would celebrate the feast of St John of God, who was so totally overcome by love of God and neighbour that he became a shining beacon of charity for the poor and abandoned of Granada in Spain. He did not consider God a trespasser in his soul, and he placed no limits on his own charity.

There is also another similarity between Fr Doyle and Saint John of God. Fr Doyle died when trying to assist some fallen soldiers; St John died from an illness he contracted after he jumped into a river to save a drowning boy.

Today we can pray to both of these “martyrs of charity” for the generosity to which Christ calls during Lent.

St John of God
St John of God