I was asked to accompany our youth to WYD. You would think that doing what God asked all would go smoothly. So you can imagine how horrified I was when on Day One I started getting a lot of pain and asthma. How could I serve the youth when held back like this? But I was reassured by the words of St Teresa of Avila: we don’t enter the monastery to gain perfect health! In other words, we don’t become Christian to avoid suffering – but to be set free to be loved and to love.
This is what the Lord says to us today: do not be surprised that you are tested. Sometimes we can be tempted to think that being Catholic we won’t go wrong or get humiliated. My friends, this is part of following Christ. Suffering is simply part of life on earth. As the first reading says: In a shaken sieve the rubbish is left behind,..The kiln tests the work of the potter,…The orchard where a tree grows is judged on the quality of its fruit…since this is the test of men. The only question is: do I suffer without God’s help – or with him?
The second thing he invites us to do is to praise him in times of suffering. It’s all there in the psalm: It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your truth in the watches of the night. Why? Because as the psalmist points out:
- God is good, and never ceases in generously showering us with his goodness.
- It makes us feel better – ie helps reorder our emotions to the Good.
- It also refocuses our heart on the One Essential: deepening our heart into the goodness of God’s heart, and opening our heart to receive his constant shower of goodness. Planted in the house of the Lord they will flourish in the courts of our God, still bearing fruit when they are old, still full of sap, still green, to proclaim that the Lord is just. In him, my rock, there is no wrong.
So with hymns, with words, in silence, or in the Daily Office – praise God daily.
Thirdly – as Jesus warns us in the Gospel, don’t be discouraged or distracted by blind guides. ‘Can one blind man guide another? Surely both will fall into a pit? The disciple is not superior to his teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher. In times like the present, there are always a few who will use our vulnerability to pressure us into changing the Master’s teaching or his foundational organisation of the Church. Don’t be distracted or alarmed: our responsibility is to calmly and reasonably test each proposal against whether it helps or harms how Jesus (1) set up and (2) what he teaches through the Church – his own Body.
And finally one last word: Be not afraid! God’s people have always had ups and downs – so it is not surprising when occasionally we go through the heat, fruitlessness, solitude and fatigue of the desert. But we always do so with Jesus Christ, who is as fresh and needed by all as when he rose from the dead. He makes no mistakes, he is with us, and all things are under his feet. So let’s pray that we are able to live true freedom – to abandon ourselves totally to his will, knowing that our hearts can rest in peace because we have placed them in His, and that He is looking after everything – the only one earthly security.