lundi, novembre 03, 2008

Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?

Sermon for the 4th resumed Sunday after Epiphany

We may be tempted to think that after years of religious practice, we are well settled into spiritual life. We have followed Christ for a while and now we navigate on the calm waters of a peaceful ocean under a beautiful shiny sun. Like Candide of Voltaire, we imagine that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. At least everything is all right in our own interior world: We are good Catholics, we attend Mass every Sunday and even often during the week, we are faithful to certain good devotions. There is no reason to fear: all is for the best!
But one day comes what we have not foreseen. The weather changes and we have now to go through a storm. We are in the middle of the sea and there is no way to find a secured place. Then comes the panic: Lord save us, we are perishing! But it happens sometimes that we do not hear God because of the storm and because of our emotions. Our heart is agitated and we panic more and more. What a great opportunity we give to Satan to shake our spiritual edifice! And everything wavers and may collapse. Our spiritual life falls apart and here and there we give up something: devotion, Holy Communion, Confession or whatever. We change our habits and we display inconstancy.
And yet, a good sailor knows that he has to hold his course when he is in the middle of a storm, otherwise he is in great danger of running aground some reefs. Why don’t you follow this wise rule of prudence?
Saint John Mary Vianney asks you: How can this be, unless the religion you have is unreal, a religion of habit, a religion of long-standing custom, and not a religion rooted in the heart? And then he urges you: carry on, my friend, you are only a waverer. Carry on my poor man; in everything you do, you are just a hypocrite and nothing else! God has not the first place in your heart.
The storms have a certain utility. They reveal what is in our hearts and test our virtues. They are a good occasion of refining our fortitude, this beautiful virtue that makes the martyrs. But we have to hold our course and to change nothing in our spiritual life. Otherwise we might sink.
Listen again the advice of the Curé d’Ars: listen well and you will understand if you have religion as God wants you to have it in order to lead you to heaven. If a person has true virtue, nothing whatever can change him; he is like a rock in the midst of a tempestuous sea. If anyone scorns you, or calumniates you, if someone mocks at you or calls you a hypocrite or a sanctimonious fraud, none of this will have the least effect upon your peace of soul. You will love him just as much as you loved him when he was saying good things about you. You will not fail to do him a good turn and to help him, even if he speaks badly of your assistance. You will say your prayers, go to Confession, to Holy Communion, you will go to Mass, all according to your general custom.

The advices of Saint Ignatius of Loyola are very helpful too. He tells us what to do when a storm comes into our soul, things that he calls spiritual desolation. Listen to him: I call desolation tings such as darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to things low and earthly, the unquiet of different agitations and temptations. And then he gives us this precious rule: In time of desolation never to make a change; but to be firm and constant in the resolutions and determination in which one was the day preceding such desolation.

Now why do we have desolations? Why do we have to go through a storm? Saint Ignatius gives the answer:

There are three principal reasons why we find ourselves desolate.
The first is, because of our being tepid, lazy or negligent in our spiritual exercises; and so through our faults, spiritual consolation withdraws from us.
The second, to try us and see how much we are and how much we let ourselves out in His service and praise without such great pay of consolation and great graces.
The third, to give us true acquaintance and knowledge, that we may interiorly feel that it is not ours to get or keep great devotion, intense love, tears, or any other spiritual consolation, but that all is the gift and grace of God our Lord, and that we may not build a nest in a thing not ours, raising our intellect into some pride or vainglory, attributing to us devotion or the other things of the spiritual consolation.

This third explanation is very enlightening. It makes us remember that our spiritual life must be founded on Christ and not on ourselves. Once we will truly believe this, once our faith will be strong enough, then we will understand that there is nothing to fear. Let our spiritual life be rooted on the ground of the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and not on the quicksand of our passions and feeling!

1 commentaire:

Anonyme a dit…

It is always encouraging to hear what Saint John Mary Vianney says, and of course Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Yes, they have won the crown of life which we strive for now, but I want to let you know that your life has been a witness of constant faith, hope and love in the years that I have known you. Your faithfulness to your vocation inspire the heart to walk by faith and persevere even without emotion or consolations. Thank you Father!