Friday, June 25, 2010

For when I am weak it is then that I am strong...

"As soon as souls give themselves completely to God, God Himself causes or permits others to despise and persecute them." - Saint Alphonsus de Liguori.

I am something of a pariah in my own diocese. I am treated with nothing but contempt because I have the audacity to stand with the Church's Magisterium and to promote and defend the teaching of the same. I am hated so much that when I wrote my Bishop a letter expressing my interest in pursuing a vocation to the priesthood, I received absolutely no response. By contrast, the late Senator Edward Kennedy was treated with the utmost respect and referred to by high-ranking Church officials as "our brother and friend." This even though the Senator dissented from Church teaching and promoted the killing of the unborn. Many of our local priests have engaged in dissent from the Church's teaching and they are welcome within the diocese. One that I know of has gone so far as to promote fornication. Others were in support of homosexual "marriage."

Why do I relate all of this? Because I am envious? Not at all. Because I am feeling sorry for myself? Again, no. I'm not that self-involved. I know I am nothing. A blade of grass. A puff of smoke. Here today and gone tomorrow. Of no special importance. I actually rejoice in being small. My very name means "little one." That's all I am and all I will ever be. Praise the Lord Jesus. For when I am weak, it is then that I am strong.

So why do I even mention all of this. Because as Christians who strive to live a holy and authentic life in the Lord Jesus, there is something which becomes immediately apparent as we survey this broken world. And it is this: while as disciples of the Lord we receive the power of God and His gifts which include wisdom and fortitude (courage), often we are hesitant or slow to do good or when we do choose to do good we meet almost constant opposition. By contrast, those who receive the power of the devil appear to be tireless in their activities as they work frenetically to discover new ways of doing evil or deceiving others and everything seems to come to them very easily.

There is an important spiritual lesson here. The world we live in is under the dominion of Satan, the "Prince of this world." When we witness an individual achieve outstanding success without any real setbacks, opposition or persecution, there is a very real possibility that such a person is an adept of the Prince of this world and is receiving his "gifts": "All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me." By contrast, often lack of success and persecution are sure signs that one really stands for God.

Father Joseph Esper explains, "Why does the Lord allow failure? According to St. Paul of the Cross, 'The works of God always meet with opposition so that the Divine Magnificence may shine forth. It is when things appear to be crashing to the ground that you will see them even more be raised on high.' Just as 'God is able to write straight with crooked lines,' so His servants, with the help of His grace, are able to grow in holiness in spite of their setbacks. St. John Vianney reminds us, 'The saints did not become saints without many a sacrifice and many a struggle,' and St. John of the Cross offers these reassuring words: 'The Lord measures our perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them.' Talented and productive hands count for much less in God's eyes than a loving heart; we are therefore advised by Bl. Zeferino Agostini, 'Do not be dismayed by toil or suffering, nor by the meager fruit of your labors. Remember that God rewards not according to results but according to efforts.' By Heaven's standards, faithfulness equals success, especially when serving the Lord involves something contrary to our own preferences. As St. Vincent de Paul notes, 'One act of resignation to the divine will, when it ordains what is repugnant to us, is worth more than a hundred thousand successes according to our own will and pleasure.'.....Once we've overcome our human desire for popularity and success, the world is no longer able to ensnare us or to lead us astray - and on that day we will truly become successful in God's sight." (Saintly Solutions, pp. 108-109, Sophia Institute Press).

And so, as anonymous commenters continually inform me how stupid I am; how ignorant, backward and useless I am; as I continue to be ostracized even within my own diocese, I meditate on the words of Our Lord Himself:

"Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Mt 5: 11, 12)...Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets." (Lk 6: 26).

The world has a far different measure of success. God's ways are different. On the Day of Judgment, we will be judged primarily on how we have loved.

Perhaps this is why the Day of Judgment is referred to as the Dies Irae - Day of Wrath. Because there is so little love.


Sally said...


Michelle said...

I agree. Those who hate you are counterfeit Christians. They are envious of you. And envy is a diabolical sin.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Thank you both. God bless you!

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