The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose* an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.
The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis
*Note: It seems to me that “oppose” should instead be “pose as”, but I haven't been able to confirm this.
Below is a very good insight from 'St. Jack'. By the way, I often say the prayer that he mentions, “Lord I believe, help Thou my unbelief.” In fact for several years now I have said it at the elevation of the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass. (Update: after publishing this I realized there should be some clarification. I do not say this prayer in an audible voice. Instead, it is my own private devotion within the Mass.) Please don't misunderstand – it is not that I don't truly believe that it is our Lord's Body and Blood I hold in my hands – I pray it because I want my faith to be continually increased through the supernatural gift of grace we receive in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. And it has had an effect on me.
Don’t bother at all about that question of a person being ‘made a Christian’ by baptism. It is only the usual trouble about words being used in more than one sense. Thus we might say a man ‘became a soldier’ the moment that he joined the army. But his instructors might say six months later ‘I think we have made a soldier of him’. Both usages are quite definable, only one wants to know which is being used in a given sentence. The Bible itself gives us one short prayer which is suitable for all who are struggling with the beliefs and doctrines. It is: ‘Lord I believe, help Thou my unbelief.’ Would something of this sort be any good?: Almighty God, who art the Father of lights and who has promised by thy dear Son that all who do thy will shall know thy doctrine: [John 7:17] give me grace so to live that by daily obedience I daily increase in faith and in the understanding of thy Holy Word, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II
The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less. There is, indeed, one exception. If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his ‘gratitude’, you will probably be disappointed. (People are not fools: they have a very quick eye for anything like showing off, or patronage.) But whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less.
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married’, then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense—love as distinct from ‘being in love’—is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
The Church exists for sinners, and contains a great many of them.
The Radiance of Being by Stratford Caldecott (p.115)
We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
Too often people think to themselves, “I am a pretty good person. I have never done anything that is really wrong.” If that describes you then think hard about what Lewis says above – during those times when you are 'taken off guard' what is your reaction? I would hazard a guess that it is not, “Oh well, they just made a mistake. All is forgiven.”
If we are honest we would have to admit that our reaction many times to such situations is, “I'll show them! They can't do that to me.” Yes, perhaps that is not the reaction that we want to have but it is nevertheless how we do react. We must do something about those reactions. But how? They only way is to become a different person. But because all people have serious flaws that should not be copied there is really only one person for us to become – Jesus Christ. And isn't that, after all, the whole reason to be a Christian – in order to become like Christ?
Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.
As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1731-1732
In this time when freedom means to most people the freedom to do whatever they want, we would do well to consider the Church's teaching on the matter. Yes, we have free will to choose between good and evil but we must never forget that there is good and evil to choose between. Many people in our society want to do away with any idea that there is sin – that there is good and evil – in order that they can pursure whatever sinful inclination they may have without remorse. But this is not possible. If we want to be truly free and to be happy then we must use our freedom to live in accordance with the will of God. After all, He made us, He knows and wants what is best for us, and if we follow Him then we will be happy for all of eternity.
I believe this is the first time I have posted something from Narnia but there is good reason for doing so. Narnia is much more than stories to entertain children – Lewis wrote them for a purpose: to teach truths that are otherwise hard to explain. (At least that is what I remember from something else Lewis wrote on his understanding of myth.) And in a world where we are so wrapped up in only those things that we can see this passage can teach us all – children and adults – something very important: that what we perceive with our senses is not all that exists. Take the Blessed Sacrament for example – what appears to be before us is bread and wine when in reality it is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinty of Jesus Christ. I bring this up as an example because it seems to me that Lewis is trying to teach us about the presence of Jesus in the following passage. (Nevermind that he was an Anglican and, therefore, the Mass he attended was invalid and therefore Jesus was not physically present in the Eucharistic service Lewis attended. Let us look beyond that – as we should with everything that comes from a non-Catholic author – to the Truth that is contained within it.)
[Lucy] turned on and found to her surprise a page with no pictures at all; but the first words were A Spell to make hidden things visible. She read it through to make sure of all the hard words and then said it out loud. And she knew at once that it was working because as she spoke the colors came into the capital letters at the top of the page and the pictures began appearing in the margins. It was like when you hold to the fire something written in Invisible Ink and the writing gradually shows up; only instead of the dingy color of lemon juice (which is the easiest Invisible Ink) this was all gold and blue and scarlet. . . . And then she thought, “I suppose I’ve made everything visible, and not only the Thumpers. There might be lots of other invisible things hanging about a place like this. I’m not sure that I want to see them all.” At that moment she heard soft, heavy footfalls coming along the corridor behind her; and of course she remembered what she had been told about the Magician walking in his bare feet and making no more noise than a cat. It is always better to turn round than to have anything creeping up behind your back. Lucy did so.
Then her face lit up till, for a moment (but of course she didn’t know it), she looked almost as beautiful as that other Lucy in the picture, and she ran forward with a little cry of delight and with her arms stretched out. For what stood in the doorway was Aslan himself, the Lion, the highest of all High Kings. And he was solid and real and warm and he let her kiss him and bury herself in his shining mane. And from the low, earthquake-like sound that came from inside him, Lucy even dared to think that he was purring.
“Oh, Aslan,” said she, “it was kind of you to come.”
“I have been here all the time,” said he, “but you have just made me visible.”
“Aslan!” said Lucy almost a little reproachfully. “Don’t make fun of me. As if anything I could do would make you visible!”
“It did,” said Aslan. “Do you think I wouldn’t obey my own rules?”
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
Aslan (Jesus) makes an important point here – if God says He will do something then He will do it! “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b, RSV-CE) Even though we may not experience Him with our senses (i.e. we do not see His human body) we must believe He is with us because He has promised to be.
It is quite right that you should feel that “something terrific” has happened to you (It has) and be “all glowy.” Accept these sensations with thankfulness as birthday cards from God, but remember that they are only greetings, not the real gift. I mean, it is not the sensations that are the real thing. The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least.
If we have shared in Christ’s death and Resurrection through Baptism, and especially if we have received Confirmation, then we can and should be confident that God is always with us. Of course, we can choose to turn our back on Him through serious sin. But once we repent and turn back towards Him – going to Confession if needed – then we must trust in the promises of our Lord who said He would be with us always. And this remains true even if we do not “feel” His presence. Lewis is very right here and we would do well to reflect upon his words especially when we do not “feel” God.