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Turn my heart to your decrees

September 17, 2012
From the Office of Readings for September 17, Memorial of St Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor
Excerpt from St. Robert Bellarmine's 'On the Ascent of the Soul to God'
O Lord, good and forgiving and abounding in steadfast love, who would not serve you with all his heart, when he has begun at least to taste the sweetness of your fatherly rule? What do you order your servants to do, Lord? ‘Take my yoke upon you,’ you say. What is your yoke?—’my yoke is easy,’ you say, ‘and my burden is light.’ Who would not willingly carry a yoke which does not press down but gives strength, and a burden which does not weigh heavily but refreshes? With justification, then, you also say, ‘and you will find rest for your souls’. What is this yoke of yours that does not tire but brings rest? It is that ‘great and first commandment: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart’. For what is easier, better and more agreeable than to love goodness, beauty and love, all of which you are, O Lord my God?
Do you not offer a reward to those who keep the commandments, which are more desirable than a heap of gold and sweeter than honey from the comb? So in every way you offer a very ample reward, as James the apostle says: ‘The Lord has prepared the crown of life for those who love him.’ What is the crown of life? It is a good greater than all we can think of or desire: Paul quotes these words from Isaiah: ‘No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.’
There is much reward in keeping your commandments. That first and great commandment is not only profitable for the man who keeps it or for God who commands it: the other commandments of God also make perfect him who obeys them, improve him, instruct him and make him illustrious; in a word, they make him good and holy. If you understand this, realise that you have been created for the glory of God and for your own eternal salvation; this is your end, this is the object of your soul and the treasure of your heart. You will be blessed if you reach this goal, but miserable if you are cut off from it.
Therefore consider that to be for your real good which brings you to your goal, and that to be really bad which cuts you off from this goal. Prosperity and adversity, riches and poverty, health and sickness, honour and ignominy, life and death should not be sought after for themselves by the wise man nor are they to be avoided for themselves; if they contribute to the glory of God and your eternal happiness, they are good and to be sought after; if they are obstacles to this, they are evil and to be avoided.
Responsory
Men listen eagerly to the words of the priest, seeking knowledge and instruction from him,
because he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
A bishop should be God’s steward, capable of giving instruction in sound doctrine,
because he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
Let us pray.
Lord God,
to defend the power of the Church
you bestowed on Saint Robert Bellarmine great gifts of learning and holiness.
Grant, through his intercession,
that your people may always rejoice
to possess the fullness of that same faith.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.