In the traditional, unmutilated liturgy of Holy Church, there is
always a connection between the Epistle and Gospel of the Sundays of the
year. For example the Epistle and Gospel for Sexigesima Sunday are both
aimed at reminding us that we have "no lasting city" here on earth, but look
for an infinitely better one to come, in that Heaven of which St. Paul had a
foretaste by his vision. The saints tell us that many good people go to
Purgatory principally because they do not desire Heaven enough. God is a
burning fire of Love, Who longs to unite human hearts and souls to Himself
in the most perfect and satisfying of all possible unions. He detests
lukewarmness and indifference. It is a positive offense against God not to
long for union with Him, and for that Heaven which He Himself is. Only He
can satisfy the unlimited cravings of our poor human heart.
Life is meant to be a love affair between God and each individual soul.
To neglect this love or to make it secondary to any other interest or
attachment is a positive sin. At the same time, we can do nothing without
Him. "Without Me you can do nothing," says Our Lord. We cannot even
approach Him, unless He Himself draws us by His grace, which by nature we
tend to resist, being strongly pulled to material and passing things, which
distract or deflect us from God. "No man can come to Me," says Our Lord
"unless the Father draw him." We ought, therefore, to beg our Lord
continually to draw us by His all-powerful graces.
See how He drew Saul of Tarsus, a passionate persecutor of the early
Church. (Saul, be it noticed, was never a lukewarm person.) God turned him
into a fiery lover of souls and the most zealous of all the apostles. If we
feel within ourselves any lack of zeal or taste for the things of God and
the Christian life, for prayer, for the Mass, for the duties of our state of
life, we ought to beg God all the more to draw us, for this He is always
willing and able to do.
Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it
will be opened to you. For everyone
Who asks, receives, and he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks it
will be opened. What father among
You, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a
serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give
Him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts
to your children, how much more
will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!
St. Theresa of the Child Jesus made a prayer out of two words of Holy
Scripture: "Draw me!" We should beg God to draw us like an irresistible
This brings me to the second point, namely, the place of tribulation in
Christian life. In the Gospel Jesus refers to a class of souls whose spiritual
life is choked by the riches and pleasures of the present life. His
merciful love often sends tribulations to such souls, in the hope of turning
them back to Him. And often He succeeds. Thus, Napoleon Bonaparte,
impoverished and humiliated on the island of St. Helena, turned back to the
God of his youth, and received again the Sacraments of the Catholic Church,
to which he had done so much harm when at the height of his glory. Even in
the days of his prosperity the grace of God had worked on him, for once,
when asked by his generals what was the happiest day of his life, he gave an
astonishing answer. His eyes filled with tears, and he said: "The day of
my First Holy Communion."
We know what great tribulations St. Paul endured for the love of God
and of souls. He had fortitude, but he was aware that whatever strength he
found in himself was the work of the Holy Spirit, and not from himself. To
the Corinthians he wrote:
I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my
speech and my message were not in
plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and
power, that your faith might not rest in
the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Paul, you see, was a man of flesh and blood like ourselves. There is
in Scripture the example of another person who bore extraordinary sufferings
with patience, meekness and humility. I refer to St. Joseph. St. Paul, in
his sufferings, always remembered that he had been a great sinner and had
done great harm to the Church, and therefore deserved to suffer. But St.
Joseph, on the other hand, was perfectly sinless, and loved God perfectly
all of his life. It is generally believed that, like St. John the Baptist,
he was cleansed from original sin long before he was born. He was the
greatest of all the saints after the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by a special
grace never committed a deliberate sin throughout his life. Yet notice that
God did not spare him sorrows and sufferings greater than those of any other
saint, except the Mother of Sorrows. St. Joseph's sufferings were primarily
those of the heart and mind, interior sufferings of the cruelest sort, which
it is beyond our capacity to appreciate. No words, for example, can explain
or express adequately the unspeakable torment he suffered at the time of the
Annunciation. God sent an angel to Mary, but none at that time to St.
Joseph, and considering the extraordinary refinement and sensitivity of his
soul, who can fathom the depth of his angst, his cruel dilemma, when he
realized that Mary, whom he loved and venerated as she deserved, was going
to have a child.
God had come into Joseph's life in a most marvelous and intimate way,
but notice that for him the first herald of this event was not an angel of
light, but a terribly dark night of torment and anguish. God, Who is
infinite wisdom and love and knows what is best for us, very often acts
precisely in this way with all of us. I think I can say that it is His
usual way. For do not the lives of the saints teach that the greatest
graces are preceded by the greatest trials? And so, if our understanding is
properly illuminated by Faith and the Holy Spirit, we will see that trials
and tribulations are a blessing, they are God's messengers, informing us
that He is drawing near to us.
"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and
saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but
the Lord delivers him out of them all."
That is why we should never be too
cast down or upset when unexpected blows of any kind fall upon us. They are
angels in disguise, so to speak, and their message is: "Fear not, soul,
Jesus the Savior is drawing near to you. Make way for Him in your heart,
for that which is happening to you is of the Holy Ghost."
It is for reasons of this kind that the saints learned to welcome
trials and tribulations. They knew that great graces of union with God
would be the fruit. If we ordinary mortals find ourselves too weak to
welcome suffering, let us at least pray for the grace to bear it with
patience and trust in God, remembering the example of Our Lady in her
Sorrows, of St. Joseph, of St. Paul. St. John of the Cross says that if the
whole world should crash in ruins about our head, we ought not to lose our
peace. God is always in control. He knows what is best for us, and He
never makes a mistake. It is not the work of a loving father to always give
his children whatever they want or ask for, but rather what he knows to be
best for them.
Let us beg God to draw us, and leave to Him the things through which we
O Jesus, draw me! In sickness and in health, in adversity and
prosperity, in disgrace and in honor, in darkness and in light, in sin and
in virtue, do not fail to draw me. Be to me always and everywhere a divine
Magnet. Draw me by Your omnipotent love and Your all-powerful grace, until,
wholly purified by repentance and suffering, I come to rest in Your Paternal