Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Suffering, death and courage from the Spirit

"Make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart."
~Psalm 90:12

There are times in life when, through encounters with suffering or the sufferings of others, we are tempted  to fear and doubt.  There is real uncertainty and tragedy in life.  Despite our best efforts, our lives will certainly be touched by both at one point or another.  Today my heart aches from it.   I am anxious about mortality that I can not cure, and saddened by the death of people I love.

In our encounters with suffering and death, we may be tempted to disbelieve the claims that a loving God exists.   Even if we are believers in the God who is Love, we may be tempted to doubt His loving plan and our security in it.

This week we are between the Ascension and Pentecost.  During these days, so many centuries ago, the disciples must have felt a sense of loss, uncertainty and a fear of suffering ahead.  They had seen Jesus depart from them, but they were yet unaided by the help and confidence of the Holy Spirit.  After the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, their lives were marked by a strength of faith and confidence that was astounding.

The Spirit's power is breathtaking:

"You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, Father!  The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him."  ~Romans 8:15-17

Today, I want to be renewed in the confidence and courage of faith that only the Spirit can provide.  This is the prayer that I am praying today:

When we are beset with fear and doubt,
Our life is in your hands; deliver us.
When we are indifferent to your call to discipleship,
Our life is in your hands; deliver us.
When we are troubled by the specter of death,
Our life is in your hands; deliver us.
-Magnificat, May 2005, Vol.7 No.3, pg. 128

And here is how the Sprit reminded me to have faith in the purposes of our Loving God:

"If you would be convinced that in all he allows and in all that happens to you God has no other end in view but your real advantage and your eternal happiness, reflect a moment on all he has done for you; you are now suffering, but remember that the author of this suffering is he who chose to spend his life suffering to save you from everlasting suffering, whose angel is always at your side guarding your body and soul by his order....who comes lovingly to you in the Holy Eucharist and whose greatest pleasure is to be united to you.  We must be very ungrateful to  mistrust him after he has shown such proofs of his love, and to imagine that he can intend us harm. 'But,' you will say, 'this blow is a cruel one, he strikes too hard.'  What have you to fear from a hand that was pierced and nailed to the cross for you? 'The path I have to tread is full of thorns.'  If there is no other to reach heaven by, do you prefer to perish forever rather than to suffer for a time?  Is it not the same path he trod before you out of love for you?  Is there a thorn in it that he has not reddened with his own blood?  The chalice he offers you is a bitter one.  But remember that it is your Redeemer who offers it.  Loving you as he does, could he bring himself to treat you so severely if the need were not urgent, the gain not worthwhile?  Can we dare to refuse the chalice he has prepared for us himself?  Reflect well on this.  It should be enough to make us accept and love whatever trials he intends we should suffer.  Moreover it is the certain means of securing our happiness in this life quite apart from the next."
~Saint Claude de la Colombiere 
Magnificat, May 2005, Vol. 7, No.3, pg. 125

'Do not be afraid,' He says. (Matthew 10:31)  
Christ's love is unfathomable.  
May His love live is us and drive out all fear.

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