Joy in the Midst of Trial. Sometimes it seems that everywhere we turn nowadays there’s bad and even frightening news: the War on Terror, the closing of US Embassies, unemployment, bankruptcy, furloughs, political discord, the attack on marriage and morals…I could go on and on.
Facing all of this it’s easy to become discouraged and sad. But as Christians we should avoid all discouragement, since it comes not from God but either from our own sinfulness or from the evil one himself. Rather, Christians should always live in hope, because the Lord Jesus loves us and will never abandon us or give up on us or mankind, and with Him, “all things are possible.”
Sadness, on the other hand, is a natural and sometimes even holy response to anything that is in discord with the way it ought to be, i.e., contrary to the will of God. So we should be sad when we see someone in pain, or as we see the institution of marriage under assault, or for our own personal sins.
But at the same time, even in sadness, filled with hope we should also find joy. Joy not because of the things that are going wrong, but joy in the fact that despite all of that Christ is still King of Heaven and Earth and showers His graces on us constantly, through His Church, His Word, His sacraments and countless other ways. And that even as bad as things get, our true home is in Heaven.
Moreover, we know that there is a reason for all suffering and trial in God’s plan, even if we don’t understand it right now. We remember that Christ’s suffering was the instrument of the salvation of the world, and so we remember that, in union with Christ, our own suffering is, in some way, God allowing us to work with Him to bring His plan of salvation to fulfillment in our world today. In this wondrous truth—that all we are enduring has meaning in God’s plan–we find true joy.
We see this very clearly in the lives of the great saints. For example, yesterday, August 10, we celebrated the feast of St. Lawrence the Martyr, who, as he was being burned alive on a grill over an open fire, said to his torturers: “Now you may turn me over, my body is roasted enough on this side.” Even in the midst of this great suffering his heart was filled with joy, confident that his martyrdom served some greater purpose in God’s plan.
And so we hear the words of the Lord in today’s Gospel: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.…[W]here your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
In the midst of the trials of our times, do not be afraid. And do not be discouraged. Be sad for the things that oppose the will of God, but also be filled with hope and rejoice that we are allowed to serve Him in this great hour of trial, and that He will be even closer to us now as we realize our great need for Him and His boundless love for us.
Going back to College. Even though there are still 3 full weeks until Labor Day, many of our young parishioners are already starting to head back to College (or going away for the first time as freshmen). So allow me, as pastor of both parents and students, to offer some quick advice.
Parents, you know better than I do how to be parents, but sometimes when kids go away to college some parents think their parenting is over. Wrong. Do not smother or discourage them, but do not neglect them, or your responsibilities, either. Most especially when it comes to morals, but also in making sure they receive an education consistent with the Christian values you raised them to live by. Some college kids are very mature, some are stuck in adolescence, but most are a little of both. Taking into account your own son’s/daughter’s personal level of maturity, take as active a part in their college experience as is reasonably possible or necessary. If they are very mature, respect that, but remember that they will still need your guidance from time to time. If they are still childish—and drinking, partying, etc., are signs of this childishness—do not hesitate to take a more active role. And don’t be afraid to insist that they behave like Catholics, including going to Sunday Mass. And if they close their ears and hearts to your reasonable parental guidance etc., don’t be afraid to close your parental checkbook, etc.
Students, I know how great it is to go away and spread your wings in college. It is a good, necessary and natural experience to leave the nest and become an adult. Enjoy yourself, but remember it wasn’t so long ago that people your age were expected to get a job and support themselves or their family, including their parents. Today your parents are allowing you this “time off” not to have fun, but to grow and learn. So make good use of this time to grow and to learn the skills, knowledge and wisdom you will need to function as responsible adults. Remember not to waste your time on foolish things, including ideologies or philosophies that lead you away from living as an adult Christian in a fallen world. Don’t let anything lead you away from Christ and His Catholic Church. Whatever that “anything” is—greed, lust, alcohol, drugs, self-righteous, pride, selfishness, friends, teachers, whatever. Keep your eyes fixed on Christ. When you are lonely, know that He is with you and loves you; when you are overwhelmed know that He fell under the Cross 3 times, and he will lift you up and help you carry your burden; when you are tempted turn to Him in prayer; when you hear lies and half-truths remember, He is the Truth. Go to Mass, every Sunday. Go to confession at least once a month. Obey the Commandments at all times. And pray every day, throughout the day.
God bless parents and college students. Know you are in my prayers and in the prayers of the whole parish. And don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of any help.
Volunteers need for CCD/Religious Education. We will soon be returning to Religious Education classes for grade school and high school. But we can’t do that if we don’t have teachers and teacher assistants. Please think and pray about contacting the RE office to volunteer for this important service to Christ and His Church.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles