Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene on Unbounded Hope in God

[741] The story of Job is re-enacted in some way in the life of every soul dear to God [....] God permits the sufferings of the innocent, and even uses the consequences of sin—wars, disorders, social and personal injustices—for the greater good of His elected. It is often true, however, that when we are [742] undergoing a trial we neither see nor understand the reason for it. God does not account for His actions nor does He reveal His plans to us [....]

The least act of hope, of trust in God, made in the midst of trials, in a state of interior or exterior desolation, is worth far more than a thousand acts made in times of joy and prosperity. When we are suffering in mind or body, when we are experiencing the void of abandonment and helplessness, when we find ourselves a prey to the repugnances and rebellions of nature which would like to throw off the yoke of The Lord, we cannot pretend to have the comforting feeling of hope, of confidence; often we may even experience the opposite sentiment, and yet, even in this state we can make acts of hope and of confidence which are not felt but willed. The theological virtues are practiced essentially by the will. [...] When the acts must be made by the will alone, then this exercise is dry and cold, but is not for this reason of less merit; on the contrary, it is even more meritorious and therefore gives more glory to God. We should not, therefore, be disturbed if we do not feel confidence; we must will to have confidence, will to hope, to hope at any cost, in spite of all the blows God may inflict on us by means of trials. This is the moment to repeat with Job: "Although He should kill me, I will trust in Him" (Jb 13:15). [...] These feelings [of rebellion] do not offend God, provided we always try to react gently by making acts of confidence with our will. Every time a wave of discouragement tries to carry us away, we must react against it by anchoring ourselves in God by a simple movement of trust [....] It is precisely by going through these trials that we reach the [743] heroic practice of faith and hope; and the heroism of the virtues is necessary for the attainment of sanctity. [...]

[744] [God's] helpful power and His desire for our good, for our sanctification, infinitely exceed our most ardent hopes. This blind, unlimited hope is so pleasing to God that the more hope we have, the more He overwhelms us with favors: "The more the soul hopes, the more it attains" (St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, 7.2). [...]

The more wretched, weak, and powerless we find ourselves, the more we should hope in God. [...] The knowledge of our weakness ought to make us keenly aware of our need for God; indeed, our weakness itself ought to be an incessant cry, begging with complete confidence for His all-powerful aid. [...] God's mercy is waiting to come to us, to purify and sanctify us, [745] but it will not come until we open the doors of our heart by an act of complete confidence.

A soul that endeavors to apply itself with all the strength of its will to the practice of the virtues and the fulfillment of every duty, a soul that is determined to refuse nothing to Our Lord, should strive to maintain itself in an attitude of total trust in Him, in spite of inevitable falls. Yes, we should have complete confidence that God will come to sanctify us, regardless of our past faults, our present miseries, the aridity of our soul, the repugnances of nature, or the state of weariness and depression in which we may find ourselves. [...]

If we become discouraged, it is because we are seeking perfection not for God's glory alone, but for our own satisfaction as well, and also because we would prefer to find security in ourselves rather than to rely upon God alone. All this, in reality, is the result of a subtle pride. Instead of becoming disturbed and irritated by our imperfections, we must acknowledge them humbly, present them to God as a sick man shows his wounds to his doctor, ask pardon, and then immediately renew our efforts with great confidence. We must learn to make use of our miseries and failings to plead our cause, to show God how much we need His help, and to increase our confidence in Him. Hope in God is the great anchor of salvation for our poor soul, tossed by the billows of human frailty. [...]

[746] "O Jesus, how can a soul as imperfect as mine aspire to possess the plenitude of love? O Jesus, my first, my only Friend, You whom I love solely, tell me, then, what mystery is this? [...] I see myself as a feeble little bird with only a light down to cover me; I am not an eagle, yet I have an eagle's eyes and an eagle's heart; for, notwithstanding my extreme littleness, I dare to gaze on the divine Sun, the Sun of Love, and I burn to fly to You, resplendent Sun, who attract my gaze. I would imitate the eagles I see soaring [...] but alas, I can only flutter my little wings [....]

"What then, is to become of me? Must I die of sorrow because of my helplessness? Oh, no! I will not even grieve. With daring confidence, I shall remain here, gazing on my divine Sun. Nothing can frighten me, neither wind nor rain; and should impenetrable clouds come to conceal You from my eyes, O Jesus, I shall not change my place, knowing that beyond the dark clouds Your love shines always and that its splendor cannot be eclipsed for a single moment. Sometimes, it is true, my heart will be assailed by the tempest and I may feel as if I believe that beyond this life there is only the darkness which envelops me. This would be the hour of perfect joy... what happiness to remain here at all costs, to fix my gaze on the invisible Light which hides itself to my faith.

"Yet should You remain deaf to my plaintive cries, if You still veil Yourself... well then, I am content to remain benumbed with cold, and so I rejoice in such well-merited suffering.

"O Jesus, how sweet is the way of love. True, one may fall and be unfaithful to grace, but love knows how to draw profit from everything, and quickly consumes whatever may be displeasing to You, leaving in the heart only a deep and humble peace" (St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, 13-8).


Source: Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, Divine Intimacy, trans. by Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Boston (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 2005), 741–746.

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