Brookline Carmel Bulletin
August 7, 1960
When a man talks about something he prizes highly, his face reflects the ardor of his soul. Taking on a different aspect, it becomes radiant. In the mystery of the Transfiguration, Jesus’ countenance changed; it shone like the sun. All the while he carried on a conversation with Moses and Elias. They discussed His death, which was soon to be fulfilled in Jerusalem. This incident, as reported by the Evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke, immediately follows the incident in which Jesus proposed the doctrine of the Cross: “If any man would come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me. For he who would save his life will lose it; but he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” There is no mistaking it; if we would share in the glory of Christ, we must first share in His Cross.
We get a glimpse of Jesus in glory here, but we have to turn to the Prophet Isaiah to get a complete description of Him in His sufferings. Among other things we read: “There is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him; despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrow, and acquainted with infirmity. And his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows; and we have thought of him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins…” (Is. 53:2-5).
Jesus is the well beloved of the Father. The Father Himself has told us, at the Jordan and again on Tabor. But He did not spare Him. Surely, if God loves us with a special love, then we may expect Him to send us a special kind of suffering. God does not repent. His ways of dealing with His creatures do not change. Who, next to Jesus, is most dear to the Father? The Blessed Virgin, whose soul was pierced by seven swords of sorrow. What did Jesus say to His chosen Apostles? “As the living Father sent me, so also I send you.” He sent them all to a martyr’s death. (John’s martyrdom, one of prolonged waiting, was the most cruel.) Saint Paul had been rapt to the seventh Heaven, and had heard mysteries it is not allowed of men to speak of. That did not preserve him, either. He was given an angel of Satan to buffet him. In addition, his sufferings in his Apostolic labors were so numerous and varied that he was able to devise of them a veritable litany. “I will show him,” said Jesus of this vessel of election, “how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” Then there is the story of Saint Teresa of Jesus. Jolted rudely from her wagon on one of those many burdensome journeys, she angrily remonstrated with Our Lord. When told He treats all His friends that way, she replied, “No wonder you have so few.”
We do well when we ask God to make us saints, for that is what He wants us to be: “Walk before me and be perfect.” “Be holy as I am holy.” “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Our trouble is, though, that we focus our attention on the glory, and overlook the cross. Therefore, we cannot be sure that our desire for sanctity is authentic until we ask for crosses (and mean it!) Ours must be the sentiment of Jesus: “I have a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how straightened (anxious) I am until it be accomplished.” When we say over and over again, “Lord, make me a saint” we almost brainwash ourselves into believing we already are. If we considered instead how eager we are for sufferings and humiliations, we would find out straightaway how very far we are from sanctity.
To make saints of His children of predilection, God has to send them severe trials. Saint John of the Cross says that the Dark Night of the Spirit, God’s purifying instrument, is “horrible and awful to the spirit”. Some of the sufferings the soul experiences in this Night are described figuratively by Jeremias (Lamen. 3: 1-20) and quoted by Saint John in the Dark Night of the Soul (Bk. II, ch. 7, 2). Everyone aspiring to holiness should read that passage. Diamonds are formed in the dark under pressure (as I read the other day in the July 30 New Yorker. Diamonds are a form of the chemical carbon.) God loves us, then, not for what we are, but for what we can become. To transform our dark, stained, ugly souls into dazzling jewels the thick darkness of faith, the absence of sensible consolations and the pressure of grave trials are required. The Price of Predilection is very high, indeed. Petty souls, beware…!
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