A father loses his only daughter. A woman suffers from years of debilitating illness. Yet they do not lose faith. Jesus restores the daughter to life, and the woman is healed by touching the hem of His cloak. Our Lord's words to her should give us hope: "Take courage… your faith has saved you" (Mt.9:22).
In the midst of our present trials we must have the same faith. The saints accept everything that happens as coming from the hand of God. "We accept good things from God," says the holy Job, "and should we not accept evil?" (Job.2:10). Whatever happens is for our instruction and formation as saints, for "our citizenship is in Heaven from which we eagerly await a Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who will refashion the body of our lowliness, conforming it to the body of His glory by exerting the power by which He is able also to subject all things to Himself" (Phil.3:20,21).
In a wonderful passage, the author of Ecclesiasticus says: "My son, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great. Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and He will help you; make straight your ways and hope in Him" (Ecclus.2:1-6).
Like a good parent, God does not spare us when we are in need of punishment. "Every branch in Me that bears no fruit," says Our Lord, "he (the Father) will take away; and every branch that bears fruit He will cleanse, that it may bear more fruit" (Jn. 15:2). God corrects us so that we will choose the straight and narrow path to Heaven, and not drift along the broad road that leads to destruction. The old adage, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," is not considered politically correct in these times, but the word of God says: "Withhold not chastisement from a boy; if you beat him with the rod, he will not die. Beat him with the rod, and you will save him from the nether world" (Prov.23:13,14).
Although He was the perfect and sinless Son of God, even Jesus needed to grow, in His human nature, through trials and sufferings, as Scripture says: "And He, Son though He was, learned obedience from the things that He suffered; and when perfected, He became to all who obey Him the cause of eternal salvation, called by God a high priest according to the order of Melchisedech" (Heb.5:8-10).
Jesus now refines and purifies us through suffering to prepare a perfect people, a holy Church with holy priests, as we read in the prophet Malachias : "And who shall be able to think of the day of His coming? And who shall stand to see Him? For He is like a refining fire and like the fuller's herb. And He shall sit refining and cleansing the silver, and He shall purify the sons of Levi and shall refine them as gold and as silver: and they shall offer sacrifices to the Lord in justice. And the sacrifice of Juda and of Jerusalem shall please the Lord, as in the days of old and in the ancient years" (Mal.3: 2-4).
St. Peter tells us to rejoice in our sufferings: "Beloved, do not be startled at the trial by fire that is taking place among you to prove you, as if something strange were happening to you; but rejoice, in so far as you are partakers of the sufferings of Christ, that you may also rejoice with exultation in the revelation of His glory… For the time has come for the judgment to begin with the household of God; but if it begin first with us, what will be the end of those who do not believe the gospel of God? And if the just man scarcely will be saved, where will the impious and the sinner appear? Therefore let them also who suffer according to the will of God commend their souls in well-doing to a faithful Creator" (1 Pet.4: 12,13;17-19).
Those who have faith and trust in the Lord find that their sufferings have a purpose, and that they will have an end, as St. Paul says: "Now we know that for those who love God all things work together unto good, for those who, according to his purpose, are saints through His call" (Rom. 8:28).
This is a rule without exception. Not "some things," or "many things," but "all things work together unto good." But - "for those who love God." If we don't like the direction this country is taking, "all things work together unto good." If the Church should be in total eclipse from the Great Apostasy, "all things work together unto good." If the whole world should collapse into chaos and war, "all things work together unto good." If the Lord should come on the clouds of Heaven to judge the living and the dead, "all things work together unto good."
This is not the time to join the ranks of the discouraged, the cowardly, and the fainthearted. Now is the time to let the light of our faith shine forth - not for pride's sake - but to be a beacon for many who are being lost. In this Jesus Christ is our strength, and His word, the sword of the spirit, is our weapon (cf. Eph. 6: 17). St. Paul advises in today's Epistle: "Be imitators of me, and mark those who walk after the pattern you have in us" (Phil.3:17).
He means us. We must be those who walk the same way as St. Paul and all the saints who were "partakers of the sufferings of Christ." One day, through our faith and perseverance through these present trials, may it be said of us:
"These are they who have come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in the temple, and he who sits upon the throne will dwell with them. They shall neither hunger nor thirst any more, neither shall the sun strike them nor any heat. For the Lamb Who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them, and will guide them to the fountains of the waters of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" Apoc.7:14-17).
For the Sunday Proper for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, see "Dicit Dominus"
Father Louis J. Campbell