Mathematics and… sanctity

Today’s liturgy presents us with two paths to follow: which one shall I follow?

Newsdesk (06/07/2021 08:05, Gaudium Press):A catechism class was being held in the Polish city of Niepokalanów.

– “Today we will learn a new mathematical formula,” said the catechist. Now, what relationship could there be between mathematics and religion? This is what the students wondered.

Writing on the blackboard, he continued

– The formula is: v=V.

He concluded:

– This is the formula for holiness.

All the students were curious, of course, and did not cease to ask their teacher, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, questions, as they were eager to discover the reason for this mathematical-supernatural enigma.

After all, what is the analogy between the Polish saint’s formula and holiness? Today’s liturgy brings us the answer.

Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?

In the third chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel, Jesus, having chosen twelve disciples for himself, after exhorting them to preach the word and giving them power to cast out demons, is invited to return to their homes. Then a great multitude gathered round them, to the extent that they had not even time to take any food. Now:

“When they heard of this, Jesus’ relatives went out to seize him, because they said he was beside himself. The teachers of the law, who had come to Jerusalem, said that he was possessed by Beelzebub.” (Mk 3, 21-22)

What a strange event! It would seem that the relatives of Our Lord – people who, therefore, lived close to him from his early childhood – believed him to be the Messiah announced by the prophets, and, for this reason, went to meet him in order to benefit from his holy teachings. It was also expected that, faced with these calumnies, they would react with a forceful denunciation of the Pharisees gathered there and proclaim Him before all, like St John the Baptist, “the Lamb of God” (cf. Jn 1:29). This, however, was not what happened.

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It is certain that abundant graces were showered upon the relatives of Our Lord in order for them to discern His Divinity, for the signs performed by Him clearly demonstrated that He was divine. However, obstinate attachment to their own criteria and will made them reject these graces, preventing them from following the Divine Shepherd, and from opening their souls to the numerous benefits worked by Him before their eyes.

Further on, the Gospel narrates the following fact: while Jesus was speaking to the people, some men pointed out to Him that His Mother and His brothers were outside the house, looking for Him; to which He replied:

“Who is my Mother and who are my brethren. And looking at those who were sitting around him, he said: Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God, that is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mk 3, 33-35)

Commenting on this passage of the Gospel, Saint Augustine says: “[Jesus] with these words teaches us to put our spiritual kinship before our human kinship. He teaches us, moreover, that men do not find their happiness in being related through bonds of consanguinity to the just and the holy, but in adhering, through obedience and imitation, to the teaching and way of life of Jesus.”[1]

Mary Most Holy is therefore a model for every Catholic of “obedience and imitation to the teaching and way of life of Jesus. For it was she who fully carried out God’s will, as she beautifully declared of herself at the Annunciation: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). A “handmaid” because in everything she did the will of her Lord, following the example of her Divine Son, who was most obedient to the Father: “I came down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of my Father who sent me” (Jn 6:38); and: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” (Mt 6:10). This is one of the most important aspects of the holiness of Mary and of all the saints throughout history: “conformity to the divine will”.

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Conformity to the divine will! What a difficult task for the men and women of this century. In the face of the failures and difficulties that life presents us with, sadness and despair easily take hold of souls, and hopes fade.

Conformity to the divine  will

Catholic doctrine teaches us that Christian perfection consists essentially in charity: the love of God and of neighbour. Afonso Rodrigues, in his work “Exercises of Perfection and Christian Virtue”,[2] insists that the aspect of this desire for holiness that is “purest and most perfect is to conform oneself to the will of God, and to have a will to be willed in accordance with his Divine Majesty. For the more united and the more conformed each one is to the will of God, the better and the more perfect will he be.

Nothing can happen or come to pass in the world except by the command and will of God. Therefore, “you must not take anything as having come by chance or by human handiwork, for that is what can only give greater sorrow and sadness to the soul… do not think that this or that has happened to you because someone else arranged it so, and that if it were not such and such a thing, it would not happen thus, but in a very different way. We must take and receive everything that happens to us as coming from the hands of God, and conform ourselves to His most holy and divine will by whatever means and ways they come, because it is He who sends them by those means and ways”.

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This is the root and principle of all the peace and tranquility of the saints, because they subject themselves and place themselves in the hands of God. They are neither disquieted nor disturbed by the changes of this life, nor by the various successes that come to pass, because their hearts and will are united and in harmony with Divine Providence.

Thus, today’s liturgy presents us with two paths: those who follow the way of Our Lord’s relatives, who are not conformed to God’s will and are erring in their ways; and those who, after the example of Our Lady, accept everything with peace and serenity of soul, submitting to his divine designs.

Continuing our story: Saint Maximilian finally explained to his students the formula for holiness: “The smaller V is my will, the capital V is God’s will. Identify your will with God’s will: be saints. It’s simple, isn’t it? Thus all that remains is to obey.”[3]

By Guilherme Motta

[1] SANTO AGOSTINHO. Obras Completas. Madrid: BAC, v. 12, p.695-696.

[2] Cf. RODRIGUES, Afonso. Exercícios de perfeição e virtudes cristãs. 4 ed. Lisboa: União Gráfica, 1947, v. 2, p. 251-272.

[3] C. LORIT, Sérgio. 16670, quem era? São Paulo: Cidade Nova, 1966, p. 126.

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