Sunday, August 28, 2011

How to Take Up the Cross: Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time A


When it comes to picking up our cross there are two general attitudes. One says suffering and pain are to be avoided at all costs. Another says we must take up our cross and then God will bless us. Which of these two attitudes, dear brothers and sisters, is the Christian attitude? ... The answer, surprisingly, is neither. In the gospel Christ teaches us not to shun the cross, but he does not say that we are to bear it own our own strength like John Wayne. Rather our giving of ourselves, our self-sacrificing is to be done by God's strength, by the mercies of God, as Paul tells us in the second reading. We know St. Paul as the kind of guy who tried so hard to be perfect. And when he wanted to overcome a certain weakness he prayed and heard Christ say that his grace was enough, that his power is made perfect in weakness. This is why Paul would often say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It was not Paul's ability to face the cross, but Christ's strength enabling Paul to go through being jailed, whipped, lost at sea in a storm and shipwrecked all in his life as a witness to the gospel. Paul was no John Wayne. It was Christ that strengthened him in his prayer and through the sacraments.
We too dear brothers and sisters are called to face trying times. More immediately we have Hurricane Irene bearing down on us. After it has passed, we will be called upon to work for the good of our neighbors, feeding those who are without food, clothing those without clothes, giving shelter to those who have lost their homes, burying the dead, and consoling those who are grieving loss of loved ones or belongings. Where then are we to get this strength? My dear brothers and sisters, it is precisely in our Eucharistic celebration, it is in our prayer that God gives us the strength to face the coming storm and to face the cross of the aftermath. Here we offer to God ourselves, our hands, our feet, our willingness to serve others, and God renews in us the grace of His Holy Spirit, giving us a wellspring from which to draw strength when our hearts our thirsty and tired of giving. It is precisely here that we are called to standout and make a difference. It was by His becoming a human being, by His incarnation that Christ revealed to us the love of God. We too can reveal to others the love that God has given us, the love that God renews in us at this mass, through our works of mercy. It can be something as simple as helping a neighbor repair his fence or helping the elderly woman down the street to clear debris out of her yard. Whatever we chose to do we will be laying down our lives as Christ has asked of us, taking up the cross, with the strength that Christ himself gives us in the Eucharist. May the Lord give you His peace.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Tribulations

You know what they say about hearing the same thing three times in one day.

I woke up this morning with the song Everlasting God on my heart which of course speaks about drawing one's strength from God in the midst of trials,reminding us that "they that wait upon the Lord will have their strength renewed" (Is 40:31).

I wanted to post the song to my Facebook profile as my song for the day when I found a message from a friend who felt inspired to send me this reflection from the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, Book 3, Chapter 47.

EVERY TRIAL MUST BE BORNE FOR THE SAKE OF ETERNAL LIFE

THE VOICE OF CHRIST: MY CHILD, do not let the labors which you have taken up for My sake break you, and do not let troubles, from whatever source, cast you down; but in everything let My promise strengthen and console you. I am able to reward you beyond all means and measure. You will not labor here long, nor will you always be oppressed by sorrows. Wait a little while and you will see a speedy end of evils. The hour will come when all labor and trouble shall be no more. All that passes away with time is trivial. What you do, do well. Work faithfully in My vineyard. I will be your reward. Write, read, sing, mourn, keep silence, pray, and bear hardships like a man. Eternal life is worth all these and greater battles. Peace will come on a day which is known to the Lord, and then there shall be no day or night as at present but perpetual light, infinite brightness, lasting peace, and safe repose. Then you will not say: "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" nor will you cry: "Woe is me, because my sojourn is prolonged." For then death will be banished, and there will be health unfailing. There will be no anxiety then, but blessed joy and sweet, noble companionship. If you could see the everlasting crowns of the saints in heaven, and the great glory wherein they now rejoice -- they who were once considered contemptible in this world and, as it were, unworthy of life itself -- you would certainly humble yourself at once to the very earth, and seek to be subject to all rather than to command even one. Nor would you desire the pleasant days of this life, but rather be glad to suffer for God, considering it your greatest gain to be counted as nothing among men. Oh, if these things appealed to you and penetrated deeply into your heart, how could you dare to complain even once? Ought not all trials be borne for the sake of everlasting life? In truth, the loss or gain of God's kingdom is no small matter. Lift up your countenance to heaven, then. Behold Me, and with Me all My saints. They had great trials in this life, but now they rejoice. They are consoled. Now they are safe and at rest. And they shall abide with Me for all eternity in the kingdom of My Father.
Soon after reading this I went over to Church for my Holy Hour. And as today is the Memorial of St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori, CSSR, I came across excerpts of his meditation on the advantages of tribulations in my Magnificat.

THE ADVANTAGES OF TRIBULATIONS

What things soever were written were written for our learning, that through patience and the comfort of the scriptures we might have hope. (Epistle of Sunday. Rom. xv. 4-13).

In tribulations God enriches His beloved souls with the greatest graces. It is in his chains that St. John comes to the knowledge of the works of Jesus Christ. Let us believe that these scourges of the Lord, with which we are chastised have happened for our amendment and not for our destruction (Judith, viii. 27).

I.

By tribulation we atone for the sins we have committed much better than by voluntary works of penance. "Be assured," says St. Augustine, "that God is a physician, and that tribulation is a salutary medicine." Oh, how great is the efficacy of tribulation in healing the wounds caused by our sins! Hence the same Saint rebukes the sinner who complains of God for sending him tribulations. "Why," he says, "do you complain? What you suffer is a remedy, not a punishment." Job called those men happy whom God corrects by tribulation; because He heals them with the very hands by which He strikes and wounds them. Blessed is the man whom God correcteth... For he woundeth and cureth. He striketh, and his hand shall heal (Job v. 17). Hence, St. Paul gloried in his tribulations: We glory also in tribulations (Rom. v. 3).

Tribulations enable us to acquire great merits before God, by giving us opportunities of exercising the virtues of humility, of patience, and of resignation to the divine will. The Blessed John of Avila used to say that one Blessed be God in adversity is worth more than a thousand in prosperity. "Take away," says St. Ambrose, "the contests of the Martyrs, and you have taken away their crowns." Oh, what a treasure of merit is acquired by patiently bearing insults, poverty, and sickness! Insults from men were the great object of the desires of the Saints, who sought to be despised for the love of Jesus Christ, and thus to be made like unto Him.

My Jesus, I have hitherto offended Thee grievously by resisting Thy holy Will. This gives me greater pain than if I had suffered every other evil. I repent of it and I am sorry for it with my whole heart. I deserve chastisement: I do not refuse it: I accept it. Preserve me only from the chastisement of being deprived of Thy love, and then do with me what Thou pleasest. I love Thee, my dear Redeemer! I love Thee, my God! And because I love Thee, I wish to do whatever Thou wishest. Amen.

II.

St. Francis de Sales used to say: "To suffer constantly for Jesus is the science of the Saints; we shall thus soon become Saints." It is by sufferings that God proves His servants, and finds them worthy of Himself. God hath tried them and found them worthy of himself (Wis. iii. 5). Whom, says St. Paul, the Lord loveth he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth (Heb. xii. 6). Hence, Jesus Christ once said to St. Teresa: "Be assured that the souls dearest to My Father are those who suffer the greatest afflictions." Hence Job said: If we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil? (Job ii. 10). If we have gladly received from God the goods of this earth, why should we not receive more cheerfully tribulations, which are far more useful to us than worldly prosperity? St. Gregory informs us that, as a flame fanned by the wind increases, so the soul is made perfect when she is oppressed by tribulations.

In fine, the scourges of Heaven are sent, not for our injury, but for our good. Let us believe that these scourges of the Lord, with which, like servants, we are chastised, have happened for our amendment and not for our destruction (Judith, viii. 27). "God," says St. Augustine, "is angry when He does not scourge the sinner." When we see a sinner in tribulation in this life, we may infer that God wishes to have mercy on him in the next, and that he exchanges eternal for temporal chastisement. But miserable the sinner whom the Lord does not punish in this life! For those whom He does not chastise here, He treasures up His wrath, and for them He reserves eternal chastisement.

O Will of God, Thou art my love! O Blood of Jesus, Thou art my hope! I hope to be from this day forward always united to Thy Divine Will. It shall be my guide, my desire, my love, my hope. Thy Will be done! My Jesus, through Thy merits grant me the grace always to repeat: Thy Will be done! Thy Will be done!

Ah, my blessed Mother Mary, thou hast been pleased to suffer so much for me, obtain for me, by thy merits, sorrow for my sins, and patience under the trials of life which will always be light in comparison with my demerits for I have often deserved hell. Immaculate Virgin, from thee do I hope for help to bear all crosses with patience. Amen.
So I guess I am to infer that God is preparing me for tribulations. And if that be His holy will, then blessed be God!

Back in the US of A.

So, I've been back in the US since March assigned again in the same parish I was before going down to Honduras. I have just been lazy in posting to my blog. Some day I will write up a reflection on my time in Central America and how I saw God's providence even in taking from me the thing I thought He was calling me to: namely mission work.