Tribulation always takes us by surprise and hurts us, whatever it may be - the brutal loss of a loved one, an accident, a contradiction, an error, the consequences of our own sins... Then we fail to control the violent emotions that agitate us. Blinded by grief, we are distraught, and adding to our confusion, an interior voice repeats a nagging "why?" Shut up in our deep affliction, shaken by the roaring flood of our emotions and subject to the tyrannical power of our own imagination, we are impotent to answer that painful question.
It may even happen that, seized by the sentiment that an injustice has been committed against us, we complain against God and His providence. Nonetheless, the hour of tribulation is the hour of God and of His mercy.
When tribulation hits the most intimate of his being, man is unable to build up the facade, the fake persona, behind which he customarily hides. This evasion becomes impossible because suffering, striking him, robs him of his powers, and makes him realize how weak and dependent he is. Man, who loves so much to swagger proudly, must learn, through suffering, that he is nothing.
Usually man lives happily in an illusory world, where he can satisfy at leisure his inclination to stand out. Suffering comes, and abruptly drags him away from his dreams of pride. Thus, in this harsh school that admits no deception, he learns to confront reality without disguises.
He learns that suffering is a means for holiness. Since Our Lord embraced it, He has made of it an instrument for our redemption. Tribulation purifies us by pulling us away from ourselves, enabling us to be assimilated with Christ and to participate in His redemptive suffering. For if our sins have led us away from God, suffering - accepted and offered in union with the sufferings endured by Our Savior in Calvary - is a path to salvation. The grace of Faith allows us to discover in our sufferings the face of Christ suffering and merciful.
Very easily we forget our condition as sinners. Born in a naturalistic world, we do not have the just appreciation of reality and we rebel against the sting of tribulation, even asserting our rights against the sovereign wisdom of God. Could our insolence be so great that we would dare question God? It seems so, because man rises up against God and demands explanations, instead of acknowledging the excellence of the divine mercy that strikes the sinner here below to spare him in the next life the just punishments of his faults.
In reality, tribulation is a gift from God to the soul of the sinner, who by doing penance may cancel the debt owed to the divine Majesty. In His infinite goodness, God invites the forgiven sinner to participate in his own redemption, by uniting his sufferings to those of Christ on the Cross. Tribulation becomes thus a way towards happiness, by establishing in the soul a close identification with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
This identification should not be an empty word, a formula often and vainly repeated, but a concrete reality, a constant disposition of the soul, attentive to the divine will, desirous to accomplish it faithfully, even to the detriment of its own desires. Tribulation teaches us to detach ourselves from our own will, accepting in all humility that the will of God be done in each detail of our life. This is the first stage of our divine incorporation in Christ. It would be vain to think that we can enter into the divine intimacy without first embracing the Cross.
We must take our cross and follow Our Lord, so that our life will be praise for the glory of Our Savior and not a pathetic quest for our ridiculous satisfactions. We will then enjoy peace in our soul, not lingering on itself but finding its happiness in the loving subjection to the divine will. For the soul is truly happy only when it becomes capable of sacrificing itself totally to God by embracing His will. St. Augustine had said it admirably: "Thou hast created for us Thee, o Lord, and our soul is restless until it rests in Thee." The trials permitted by God, detaching us from ourselves, allow us to leave behind our worries and to live in divine peace.
Thus, we are wrong when we rebel against these crosses so necessary for the balance of our souls. In our senseless rebellion we cannot see, beyond the crosses, the happiness of belonging only to God.
Tribulation is an obligatory instrument for our conversion, which fortunately forces us to abandon our too personal views to adopt only those of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our holiness does not consist in the effort of the soul, desiring to let itself be seized by the Holy Ghost and to take advantage of any occasion of dying to self.
In the hour of trial, we must be peacefully attentive to will only what God wills, interiorly rejoicing for being the object of His mercy. Of course we will feel the pain, but we will also be able to offer it, and it will transfigure us, by grace, into mirror images of our God.
In those painful but redemptive moments we must look up to Our Lady as our model. We must remain at her side, standing as she was at the foot of the Cross, nobly giving ourselves to God and abandoning our soul to His will.
In Christo Sacerdote et Maria,