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Practice of Conformity to God (PART II)

In Reverses of Fortune

We should accept with the same conformity to the will of God the loss of employment or money and all other setbacks in our temporal affairs, repeating with faith the words of Job: “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; as it has pleased the Lord, so it is done.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!” 

What does it matter why those who are the instruments of your reverse of fortune have acted as they have done?  The revolt of Absalom and the curses of Semei were directed against David for a political purpose but this did not prevent him from attributing them, rightly, to the will of God.

The misfortunes of Job were brought about by the devil because he was a just and God-fearing man.  In the times of persecution Christians were deprived of rank and position, despoiled of their possessions, torn from their families, thrown into prison and sent to execution all for their religious convictions and faith in Christ.  Far from complaining, they went their way, like the apostles, rejoicing that they have been counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.

Whatever the excuse for the persecution you may be made to suffer, and especially if it is because of your religion, accept it all without hesitation as coming from the understanding and paternal hand of your Father who is in heaven.

It is the same with regard to money matters.  You may find yourself obliged to make a payment you consider unjust – something you have already paid but cannot prove, the forfeit of a security you have given for someone, or taxes you consider excessive, or anything of this nature.  If the payment can be, and is, lawfully required of you, then it is the will of God you should pay it.  It is He who is asking you for the money and it is to Him you are really giving it when you bow to the necessity in a spirit of submission to His will. 

Those who act in this way can be assured of His manifold graces.  Let us take the case of two persons.  One, out of a spirit of conformity to God’s will, makes a payment which is perhaps excessive, perhaps quite unfair, but which his creditor has the power to demand.  The other, of his own free choice, gives an equal sum to charity.  It is well known what great advantages, even in this life, are to be gained from giving to charity, but the person who makes a sacrifice of his money not of his own accord or to some one he chooses to give it, but out of a spirit of conformity to God’s will, is performing an even more profitable act. 

By the very fact that it is against his will, the act is purer and more agreeable in the sight of God, and if it can be said that from the experiences of all ages charity brings down upon man the abundant blessing of God, it can also be said without exaggeration that such an act as has been described brings down still more abundant blessings.

In Poverty and Its Hardships

We ought to conform to God’s will in poverty and all the inconveniences poverty brings in its train.  It is not too hard to do so if we fully realize that God watches over us as a father over his children and puts us in that condition because it is of the most value to us.  Poverty then takes on a different aspect in our eyes, for by looking on the privations it imposes as salutary remedies we even cease to think of ourselves as poor.

If a rich man has a son in bad health and prescribes a strict diet for him, does the son think he has to eat small amounts of plain or tasteless food because his father cannot afford better?  Does he begin to worry about how he will exist in the future?  Will other people think that because of his diet he has become poor?  Everybody knows how well off his father is and that he shares in his father’s wealth and he will again have what is now forbidden him as soon as his health is restored.

Are we not the children of the God of riches, the co-heirs of Christ?  Being so, is there anything we can lack?  Let it be said boldly: whoever responds to his divine adoption with the feelings of love and trust that the position of being children of God demands has a right, here and now, to all that God Himself possesses. 

Everything then is ours.  But it is not expedient we should enjoy everything.  It is often necessary we should be deprived of many things.  Let us be careful not to conclude from the privations imposed on us only as remedies that we may ever be in want of anything that is to our advantage.  Let us firmly believe that if anything is necessary or really useful for us, our all-powerful Father will give it to us without fail.

To those gathered round to hear Him our Savior said: “If you then being evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask him…? (Matt. 7:11).

This is an unquestionable truth of our holy faith, and any doubt about it, through lack of confidence on our part, can only be blameworthy and an insult to Christ who again and again made the most definite promises about the matter.  “Do not be anxious” for your life, what you shall eat He tells us, nor yet for your body, what you shall put on.  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are not you of much more value than they?…And as for clothing, why are you anxious?  Consider how the lilies of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which flourishes today but tomorrow is thrown into the over, how much more you, O you of little faith! 

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What are we to put on?” for after all these things the Gentiles seek; but your Father knows that you need all these things.  He has given his word and there is only one condition attached – that we seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, that we make this search the one great aim of our lives by bringing everything else into relation with it to make it successful and fulfill our every duty with this end in view.  In return for this He will unburden us of all anxiety, He will take upon Himself all our needs and the needs of those who belong to us or for whom we have to provide, and His care will be all the greater in proportion to the degree of confidence and surrender to His will we strive to attain.

Do we then for love of Him give up the desire to possess the perishable goods of this world?  By virtue of another of Christ’s promises, these goods a hundred-fold, as well as eternal life, are assured us in this life, and as a result we shall be rich while we are judged to be poor.  Freed from the thirst for wealth, from the possession of it and the burden that accompanies it, we shall enjoy a peace and contentment unknown to those who, appearing to possess riches, are in reality possessed by them and cannot escape the cares they bring with them.  In this way we shall experience the truth of St. Paul’s words that godliness has the promise of the present life as well as that of which is to come.

This article is taken from a chapter in Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint Jure, S.J. and St. Claude de la Colombiere, S.J.  which is available from TAN Books.

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