DIVINE INTIMACY, by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.
#248 THE TEST OF HOPE
1. We prove the firmness our faith by persevering in it in spite of its obscurity; we prove that our hope is strong by continuing to hope in spite of adversity and even when God seems to have abandoned us. As an act of faith made in the midst of darkness and doubts is more meritorious, so is it with the act of hope uttered in desolation and abandonment. The three theological virtues are the most appropriate and fitting means of uniting us to God; in fact, the purer, more intense, and supernatural are our faith, hope, and charity, the more closely they unite us to Him. To help us reach this point, God leads us through the crucible of trials. The story of Job is re-enacted in some way in the life of every soul dear to God; he was tried in his property, his children, his own person, deserted by his friends, and ridiculed by his wife. He who had been rich and esteemed, found himself alone on a dunghill, covered from head to foot with horrible sores. Gut if God is good, if it is true that He desires our good, why does He let us suffer? “For God made not death,” says Sacred Scripture, “neither hath He pleasure in the destruction of the living… It was the wicked who with hands and words invited death” (Wis 1:13-16). Death and suffering are the consequences of sin, which God has not prevented because He has willed to leave man free. And yet not only sinners suffer, but the innocent also. Why? Because God wishes to try them as gold is tried in the furnace, purifying them and raising them to a good, to a state of happiness immeasurable superior to the goods and the happiness of earth. Thus God permits the suffering of the innocent, and even uses the consequences of sins – wars, disorders, social and personal injustices – for the greater good of His elect. It is often true, however, that when we are 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; therefore, it is difficult to endure in faith and hope – difficult, but not impossible, for God never sends us trials which are beyond our strength, just as He never abandons us unless we first abandon Him.
2. 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 they are accompanied by feeling, the practice of them is pleasant and consoling; but when the act 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). We must not deceive ourselves, thinking we can go through these trials without having to fight against discouragement, against temptations to distrust, and perhaps even to despair; this is the reaction of nature which rebels against that which wounds it. The Lord knows our weakness; He does not condemn us, he pities us. These feelings 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; even if our spiritual life should be reduced, for certain periods, to this exercise alone, we will not have lost anything, but we will have gained much. It is precisely by going through these trials that we reach the heroic practice of faith and hope; an the heroism of the virtues is necessary for the attainment of sanctity.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Today's reading in Divine Intimacy has an excellent meditation on the theological virtue of hope. Remember that St. Paul says that "hope is not hope if its object is seen." Our hope is in God's assistance to attain to salvation, the goal of our life. This hope is founded on a certainty, that His will is for our salvation, and that, provided we do not abandon Him, He will give us what we need to arrive at the goal (rather than the deformed certainty that we will arrive at the goal, which is not hope but presumption).