More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:8)
Earthquakes, record snowfalls, landslides, floods, tsunamis, economic uncertainty, rampant disharmony between countries, family members, in parishes, and within the Church itself. Can there be any more doubt that something cosmic in significance is going on? That what has been sown by the culture of death is now being reaped?
If we wondered before about God’s reasons for calling souls to the life of penance, surely that question has by now been answered. Evil has been unleashed in the world through almost limitless sin, and as Scripture tells us, “This kind (of demon) can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” (Douay-Rheims, Mark 9:29) If, as they say, an army marches on its stomach, then God’s army marches on an empty one.
We embrace weakness to allow God’s strength free reign within us, for his power is made perfect in weakness. St. Leo the Great, pope, said this in one of his homilies:
“No one should fear to suffer for the sake of justice; no one should lose confidence in the reward that has been promised. The way to rest is through toil, the way to life is through death. Christ has taken on himself the whole weakness of our lowly human nature. If then we are steadfast in our faith in him and in our love for him, we win the victory that he has won, we receive what he has promised.”
Of course, suffering in and of itself has no value. In God’s economy, however, nothing we give to him is ever wasted. This is explained beautifully by St. Faustina:
“Where there is genuine virtue, there must be sacrifice as well; one’s whole life must be a sacrifice. It is only by means of sacrifice that souls can become useful. It is my self-sacrifice which, in my relationship with my neighbor, can give glory to God, but God’s love must flow through this sacrifice, because everything is concentrated in this love and takes its value from it.” (Divine Mercy in My Soul, #1358)
As St. Faustina says, the key to suffering effectively is love. When we enter into the Sacred Heart of God, then all we do and are becomes sanctified, purified, and fortified. In this way we are able to give our lives to the service of God for his glory and for the salvation of the sinners he died to save. There is no higher calling than to give our lives for those most in need. I once felt the Lord telling me, “There are many ways to be a martyr, one of which is to lay down your life one desire at a time.”
As St. Paul tells us in the above passage from Philippians, we accept the loss of all things, so as to gain Christ. In embracing the life of penance for love of God and neighbor, we gain Christ for ourselves and for those God has given us to pray for. In the words of St. Pio, “It is true that God’s power triumphs over everything, but humble and suffering prayer prevails over God Himself.”
May we embrace anew the call to fasting, abstinence, and prayer. May it be done in and through the loving heart of God, that we might participate in the saving power of Christ and in some way relieve our crucified Savior’s unquenchable thirst for souls. Fiat!