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“In God’s name, do not despair”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2016/07/29 at 12:00 AM
The saints are those who struggle right to the end of their lives, who always get up each time they stumble, each time they fall, and courageously embark on their way once more with humility, love and hope. (The Forge, 186)

To make sure that cowardice does not make you betray the confidence God has placed in you, you must avoid the presumption of naively underestimating the difficulties that you will meet in your Christian life.

These difficulties shouldn’t surprise us. As a consequence of our fallen nature, we carry within us a principle of opposition, of resistance to grace. It comes from the wounds inflicted by original sin, and is aggravated by our own personal sins. Therefore we have to strive ever upwards, by means of our everyday tasks, which are both divine and human and always lead to the love of God. In this we must be humble and contrite of heart and we must trust in God’s help, while at the same time devoting our best efforts to those tasks as if everything depended on us.

As we fight this battle, which will last until the day we die, we cannot exclude the possibility that enemies both within and without may attack with violent force. And, as if this burden were not enough, you may at times be assailed by the memory of your own past errors, which may have been very many. I tell you now, in God’s name: don’t despair. Should this happen (it need not happen; nor will it usually happen) then turn it into another motive for uniting yourself more closely to Our Lord, for he has chosen you as his child and he will not abandon you. He has allowed that trial to befall you so that you may love him the more and may discover even more clearly his constant protection and Love.

Take heart, I insist, because Christ, who pardoned us on the Cross, is still offering us his pardon through the Sacrament of Penance. We always ‘have an advocate to plead our cause before the Father: the Just One, Jesus Christ. He, in his own person, is the atonement made for our sins, and not only for ours, but for the sins of the whole world’ [1], so that we may win the Victory. (Friends of God, 214)

[1] 1 John 2:1‑2

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“Know how to forgive one another”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2016/07/15 at 12:00 AM
How very insistent the Apostle Saint John was in preaching the mandatum novum, the new commandment that we should love one another. I would fall on my knees, without putting on any act – but this is what my heart dictates – and ask you, for the love of God, to love one another, to help one another, to lend one another a hand, to know how to forgive one another. And so, reject all pride, be compassionate, show charity; help each other with prayer and sincere friendship. (The Forge, 454)

Our Lord Jesus Christ became incarnate and took on our nature to reveal himself to mankind as the model of all virtues, ‘Learn from me,’ he says to us, ‘for I am meek and humble of heart.

Later, when he explains to the Apostles the mark by which they will be known as Christians, he does not say, ‘Because you are humble.’ He is purity most sublime, the immaculate Lamb. Nothing could stain his perfect, unspotted holiness [1]. Yet he does not say, ‘You will be known as my disciples because you are chaste and pure.’

He passed through this world completely detached from earthly goods. Though he is the Creator and Lord of the whole universe, he did not even have a place to lay his head. Nevertheless he does not say, ‘They will know that you are mine because you are not attached to wealth.’ Before setting out to preach the Gospel he spent forty days and forty nights in the desert keeping a strict fast. But, once again, he does not tell his disciples, ‘Men will recognize you as God’s servants because you are not gluttons or drunkards.’

No, the distinguishing mark of the apostles and of true Christians in every age is, as we have heard: ‘By this’, precisely by this, ‘shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

(Friends of God, 224)

[1] cf John 8:46

“Never give way to fear or routine”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2016/06/24 at 12:00 AM
You are going through a critical stage. You feel a certain vague fear and find it difficult to adapt your plan of life. Your work seems to weigh you down, since twenty-four hours are not enough to do everything you ought to each day. Have you tried following the Apostle’s advice: “let all things be done decently and according to order”? That means, in the presence of God, with Him, through Him, and only for Him. (Furrow, 512)

How shall I manage, you seem to ask, to act always in a spirit that leads me to finish all my professional work perfectly? The answer comes not from me, but from St Paul: ‘Work courageously, be strong. And let everything you do be done in a spirit of charity’ [1]. Do everything for Love’s sake and do it freely. Never give way to fear or routine. Serve God Our Father.

Having put them very much to the test, I am very fond of repeating these artless but very expressive verses:

My life consists in loving,
And if with loving I’m familiar,
‘Tis because I’ve sorrowed much;
For there’s no finer lover,
Than one who’s suffered much.*

Go about your professional duties for Love’s sake. Do everything for the sake of Love and (precisely because you are in love, even though you may taste the bitterness of misunderstanding, of injustice, of ingratitude and even of failure in men’s eyes) you will see the result in the wonders that your work produces — rich, abundant fruit, the promise of eternity!

It happens, however, that some people (who are good, or should we rather say ‘goodish’) pay lip service to the beautiful ideal of spreading our faith, but in practice they make do with a superficial and careless professional output. They seem scatterbrained. If we happen to come across such Christians, we should do our best to help them, affectionately but uncompromisingly, having recourse where necessary to the gospel remedy of fraternal correction: ‘Brethren, if a man is found guilty of some fault, you who are spiritually minded ought to show a spirit of gentleness in correcting him. Have an eye upon thyself, lest thou too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and so you will be fulfilling the law of Christ.’ (Friends of God, 68-69)

[1] 1 Cor 16:13‑14

“It is now Christ that lives in you”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2016/06/04 at 12:00 AM
Your relatives, colleagues and friends have noticed the change, and realized that it is not a temporary phase, but that you are no longer the same. Don’t worry, carry on. Vivit vero in me Christus — it is now Christ that lives in me — that’s what is happening. (Furrow, 424)

“He that dwells in the aid of the Most High, shall abide under the protection of the God of heaven.” This is the risky security of the Christian. We must be convinced that God hears us, that he is concerned about us. If we are, we will feel completely at peace. But living with God is indeed a risky business, for he will not share things: he wants everything. And if we move toward him, it means we must be ready for a new conversion, to take new bearings, to listen more attentively to his inspirations — those holy desires that he provokes in every soul — and to put them into practice.

Since our first conscious decision really to follow the teaching of Christ, we have no doubt made good progress along the way of faithfulness to his word. And yet isn’t it true that there is still much to be done? Isn’t it true, particularly, that there is still so much pride in us? (Christ is passing by, 58)

“The temptation of weariness”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2016/05/15 at 12:00 AM
I want to warn you against a difficulty that may arise: it is the temptation of weariness and discouragement. Isn’t it still fresh in your memory what life — your old life — used to be like, with no aim to it, no purpose, no sparkle, and then, with God’s light and your own dedication, a new direction was given to it and you were filled with joy? Don’t be so silly as to exchange your new life for that other one. (The Forge, 286)

If you feel for whatever reason that you cannot manage to go on, abandon yourself in God, telling him: Lord, I trust in you, I abandon myself in you, but do help me in my weakness! And filled with confidence, repeat: See Jesus what a filthy rag I am. My life seems to me so miserable. I am not worthy to be a son of yours. Tell him all this ‑‑ and tell him so over and over again. It will not be long before you hear him say, Ne timeas! ‑‑do not be afraid; and also: Surge et ambula! ‑‑ rise up and walk! (The Forge, 287)

You were still rather hesitant when you were telling me: “I am deeply aware of the occasions when the Lord is asking more of me.” All I could think of was to remind you how you used to assure me that the only thing you wanted was to identify yourself with him. What’s keeping you back? (The Forge, 288)

If only you could manage to fulfill that resolution you made: “to die a little to myself each day.” (The Forge, 289

“God is good and He loves you”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2016/05/01 at 12:00 AM
Woes? Setbacks deriving from one thing or another? Can’t you see that this is the will of your Father God, who is good and who loves you – loves you personally – more than all the mothers in the world can possibly love their children? (The Forge, 929)

But do not forget that being with Jesus means we shall most certainly come upon his Cross. When we abandon ourselves into God’s hands, he frequently permits us to taste sorrow, loneliness, opposition, slander, defamation, ridicule, coming both from within and from outside. This is because he wants to mould us into his own image and likeness. He even tolerates that we be called lunatics and be taken for fools.

This is the time to love passive mortification which comes, hidden perhaps or barefaced and insolent, when we least expect it. They can even go so far as to strike the sheep with the very stones that should have been thrown at the wolves: the follower of Christ experiences in his own flesh that those who have a duty to love him, treat him instead in ways that range from mistrust to hostility, from suspicion to hatred. They look upon him with misgiving, as if he were a liar, because they do not believe it is possible to have personal dealings with God, an interior life; and all the while, with atheists and those who are indifferent to God (people who are usually impertinent and rude), they behave in a most amicable and understanding manner.

Our Lord may even allow his followers to be attacked with a weapon that never does honour to its user, the weapon of personal insult; or to be subjected to a smear campaign, the tendentious and indictable result of a massive campaign of lies: for not everyone is endowed with a sense of fairness and good taste.

This is the way Jesus fashions the souls of those he loves, while at the same time never failing to give them inner calm and joy, because they are fully aware that, even with a hundred lies, the devils are incapable of making a single truth; and he impresses on them a living conviction that they will only find comfort when they make up their minds to do without it. (Friends of God, 301)

“We have to toil away each day with Jesus”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2016/04/15 at 12:00 AM

 

How happy when they die must be those who have lived heroically every minute of their life! I can assure you it is so, because I have seen the joy of those who have prepared themselves for many years, with calm impatience, for this encounter. (Furrow, 893)

Our Lord has given us as a present our very lives, our senses, our faculties, and countless graces. We have no right to forget that each of us is a worker, one among many, on this plantation where He has placed us to cooperate in the task of providing food for others. This is our place, here within the boundaries of this plantation. Here is where we have to toil away each day with Jesus, helping him in his work of redemption.

Allow me to insist. You think your time is for yourself? Your time is for God! It may well be that, by God’s mercy, such selfish thoughts have never entered into your mind. I’m telling you these things in case you ever find your heart wavering in its faith in Christ. Should that happen, I ask you — God asks you — to be true to your commitments, to conquer your pride, to control your imagination, not to be superficial and run away, not to desert. (Friends of God, 49)

[1] cf Col 1:24

“Let us always be brutally sincere”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2016/04/09 at 12:00 AM
If that dumb devil mentioned in the Gospel gets into your soul, he will spoil everything. On the other hand, if you get rid of him immediately, everything will turn out well; you will carry on merrily, and all will be well. Resolve firmly to be “savagely sincere” in spiritual direction (always keeping your good manners) and to be sincere immediately. (The Forge, 127)

As I have already said, we all have our defects. But our defects should never be a reason for us to turn away from God’s Love. Rather should they lead us to cling to that Love, sheltering within his divine goodness, as the warriors of old did by climbing into their suits of armour. Our defence is the cry ecce ego, quia vocasti me, here I am, because you have called me. Just because we discover how fragile we are is no reason to run away from God. What we must do is to attack our defects, precisely because we know that God trusts us.

How shall we be able to overcome our meanness? Let me make the point again because it is so important: by being humble and by being sincere in spiritual direction and in the Sacrament of Penance. Go to those who direct your souls with your hearts open wide. Do not close your hearts, for if the dumb devil gets in, it is very difficult to get rid of him.

Forgive me for insisting on these points, but I believe it is absolutely necessary for you to have deeply impressed on your minds the fact that humility, together with its immediate consequence, sincerity; are the thread which links the other means together. These two virtues act as a foundation on which a solid victory can be built. If the dumb devil gets inside a soul, he ruins everything. On the other hand, if he is cast out immediately, everything turns out well; we are happy and life goes forward properly. Let us always be brutally sincere, but in a good mannered way.

I want one thing to be clear: I am not as worried about the heart or the flesh as I am about pride. Be humble. If ever you think you are completely and utterly right, you are not right at all. Go to spiritual direction with your soul wide open. Don’t close it because, I repeat, the dumb devil will get in, and it is difficult to get him out again.

Remember the poor boy who was possessed by a devil, and the disciples were unable to set him free. Only Our Lord could free him, by prayer and fasting. On that occasion the Master worked three miracles. The first enabled the boy to hear because, when the dumb devil gets control, the soul refuses to listen. The second made him speak, and the third expelled the devil. (Friends of God, 187-188)

“Sadness is the end product of selfishness”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2016/03/18 at 12:00 AM
May no one read sadness or sorrow in your face, when you spread in the world around you the sweet smell of your sacrifice: the children of God should always be sowers of peace and joy. (Furrow, 59)

Being children of God, how can we be sad? Sadness is the end product of selfishness. If we truly want to live for God, we will never lack cheerfulness, even when we discover our errors and wretchedness. Cheerfulness finds its way into our life of prayer, so much so that we cannot help singing for joy. For we are in love, and singing is a thing that lovers do.

If we live our lives in this way, we shall be bringing peace to the world. We shall be making God’s service attractive to others, because ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ [1]. Christians are ordinary people, but their hearts overflow with the joy that comes when we set out to fulfil, with the constant help of grace, the will of the Father. Christians don’t see themselves as victims, underrated, or restricted in their behaviour. They walk head on high, because they are men and children of God.

Our faith brings out the full meaning of these human virtues, which no one should ever neglect. Christians should be second to none as human beings. Those who follow Christ are able (not by their own merit but by the grace of God) to communicate to those around them what they at times suspect but cannot quite grasp: that true happiness, a genuine spirit of serving our neighbour, can only come by passing through the Heart of our Redeemer, perfectus Deus, perfectus homo. (Friends of God, 92-93)

[1] 2 Cor 9:7

“Penance means being full of tenderness and kindness towards the suffering”

In 01 Daily Meditations on 2016/03/11 at 12:00 AM
Here is a recipe for your way as a Christian: pray, do penance, work without rest, fulfilling your duty lovingly. (The Forge, 65)

And if you can’t think of anything by way of a definite answer to the divine guest who knocks at the door of your heart, listen well to what I have to tell you.

Penance is fulfilling exactly the timetable you have fixed for yourself, even though your body resists or your mind tries to avoid it by dreaming up useless fantasies. Penance is getting up on time and also not leaving for later, without any real reason, that particular job that you find harder or most difficult to do.

Penance is knowing how to reconcile your duties to God, to others and to yourself, by making demands on yourself so that you find enough time for each of your tasks. You are practising penance when you lovingly keep to your schedule of prayer, despite feeling worn out, listless or cold. (Friends of God, 138)