Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

O, Lord, I adore You in the little boat of my soul. Since You are with me, I shall not fear.

1. In today's liturgy, especially the Gospel (Mt 8:23-27), Jesus appears in our midst as the ruler of the elements, the conqueror of all tempests. "And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves." Let us think of all the persecutions which have beaten against Peter's barque, the Church, down through the ages; or we can think of the trials which God still permits individual souls to undergo. Whatever happens, the spirit of faith tells us that every struggle and tempest is willed, or at least permitted by God: "Everything is grace"; everything is the result of His infinite love. God is not a tyrant who crushes us, but a Father, who tests us because He loves us. If He permits sorrow, interior or exterior trials, personal or public vicissitudes, it is only to draw out of them some great good.

Virtue and goodness are strengthened in time of difficulty; the efforts made in the bearing trials tend to make us surpass what we would have done had we enjoyed calm. Jesus was sleeping peacefully in the stern of the boat when the terrified Apostles awakened Him: He answered them reproachfully, "Lord, save us, we perish!""Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith?". If we are disturbed and upset by trials, it means that we lack faith. Even when God conceals Himself, when everything seems to fail us and we feel terribly alone, we can be absolutely certain that God will never abandon us if we do not first abandon Him. Instead of becoming bitter or falling into despair, it is the moment to intensify our faith, to make strong acts of faith. St. Therese of the Child Jesus used to say, "I count on Him. Suffering may go to its limit, but I am sure He will never abandon me".

2. The Apostles were saved only when they called upon Jesus. As long as they laboured and struggled alone, they had no success. Many times we fail to surmount interior difficulties because we work alone. God wants us to experience our own insufficiency; therefore, He let us struggle until we have recourse to Him with full confidence. Certainly God wants our efforts, but He does not want us to place all our hope in them. This accounts for the small progress so many make on the road to sanctity - too much reliance on their own resources, too little on God's help. We must be firmly convinced that "our sufficiency is from God" (2Cor 3:5). We must have less confidence in ourselves and more in God. Jesus can do all things, and confidence works miracles. "We receive from God as much as we hope for" (J.C. Dark Night of the Soul II: 21,8). There are other kinds of tempests, too, such as those provoked by the difficulties we sometimes experience in our relations with our neighbor. St. Paul in the Epistle (Rom 13:8-10) gives us the remedy: "Owe no man anything, but to love one another." Love conquers all. Our love for God overcomes our interior storms; our love for our neighbour, in whom we love Christ, overcomes the tempest which arise from dissensions, misunderstanding, and clashes of temperaments. If from certain people we receive only pain and trouble, let us follow the precious advice of St.John of the Cross:"Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love" (Letters, 22).

"O my Lord, how true a friend You are, and how powerful! For you can do all You will and never do You cease to love! Let all things praise You, Lord of the world! Oh, if someone would but proclaim throughout the world how faithful You are to your friends! All things fail, but You, Lord of them all, never fail. How little is the suffering that You allow to those who love You! O my Lord, how delicately and skillfully and tenderly do You deal with them! Oh, happy are they who never loved anyone save You! You seem, Lord, to give severe trials to those who love You, but only that in the excess of their trials they may learn the greater excess of Your love. O my God, had I but understanding and learning to find new words with which to exhalt Your works as my soul knows them! These, my Lord, I lack, but if You forsake me not, I shall never fail You. Let all learned men arise up against me, let all created things persecute me, let the devils torment me; but You, Lord, do not fail me; for I have already experienced the benefits which come to him who trusts only in You!" (T.J. Life, 25).
Take away from me, O Lord, all trust in my own strength. Make me see that I can do nothing without You. Show it to me in a practical way, even if it causes me sorrow and humiliation. O Lord, I no longer desire to rely on my own strength; in You alone do I place all my trust. With Your help I shall continue to strive to practice virtue and to advance in Your ways, but with my eyes always fixed on You, O divine Sun, who alone can make my feeble efforts bring forth fruits of virtue! When storms arise, I will take refuge in You; I will call upon You with all the strength of my heart and with all my faith, certain that you will give me that peace and that victory which I would seek in vain apart from You.