Calmness in the Face of Difficulties
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
Happy Father’s Day to all fathers! May our good Lord bless all fathers!
The month of June is dedicated to increased devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Let us ask our good Lord for the grace to know and understand His personal love for each one of us!
This Sunday I share with you a meditation on the Peace of Jesus. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
“Calmness in the Face of Difficulties: The storm on the lake. God will never abandon us.
According to the Gospels, the Apostles, while sailing to the opposite shore as the Lord had told them, were twice caught by a storm on the Lake of Gennesareth. In the Gospel of today’s Holy Mass (Mark 4:35-40) St. Mark tells us that Jesus was with them in the boat. He used the time to rest after a hard day’s preaching. He lay down in the stern, resting His head on a cushion, probably a simple, coarse leather bag stuffed with rags or wool. That was the usual thing the sailors had on these boats. How the Angels in Heaven would gaze upon their King and Lord as He recovered His strength, lying upon the hard deck planking! He Who governs the universe is stretched out there exhausted!
Meanwhile His disciples, many of them sailors, begin to feel the first squalls of the gathering storm. It soon falls on them, with tremendous force… and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. They did what they could, but the seas grew higher and rougher and they were about to founder. Then as a last resort they turn to Jesus. They wake Him with a cry of distress. Teacher, do You not care if we perish?
The skill of those sea-hardened fishermen was not enough. Our Lord had to intervene. And He awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. Peace also entered the hearts of those frightened men.
Sometimes the storm arises around us or within us. And it seems that our frail craft cannot take any more. At times we have the impression that God is heedless of our fate. The waves are breaking over us: personal weaknesses, professional or financial difficulties that are beyond our management, illness, problems with children or parents, the menace of calumny, a hostile environment, slander… But if you live in the presence of God, high above the deafening storm, the sun will always be shining on you; and deep below the roaring and destructive waves, peace and calm will reign in your soul. (J. Escriva, The Forge, 343)
God will never abandon us. We must go to Him, using all the means we need to employ. At all times, tell Jesus with the confidence of one who has taken Him as his Master, and wants to follow Him un-conditionally, ‘Lord, do not leave me!’ And together with Him we will face up to those trials and surmount them. They will no longer be bitter, and we will not be dismayed by the storms that blow.
We must be ready to face up to misunderstandings: Jesus awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ This miracle made an unforgettable impression on the Apostles. It con-firmed their Faith and prepared them for the harder, more testing battles that lay ahead. The sight of a perfectly calm sea, subject to the voice of Christ, was engraved on their hearts. Years afterwards, these men would pray, and the memory of this scene would bring peace to them as they underwent all the trials Our Lord had fore-warned them of.
On another occasion, on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus had told them that what the prophets had foretold about the Son of Man was about to be fulfilled. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spat upon; they will scourge Him and kill Him, and on the third day He will rise. (Luke 18:31-33) At the same time He warns them that they too will go through terrible times of persecution and slander. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household? (Matt. 10:24) Jesus wants to convince those first disciples, and us too, that there is no compromise possible between Him and His doctrine on the one hand, and the world as a kingdom of sin on the other. (cf. The Navarre Bible, note to John 15:18-19) He re-minds them not to be surprised to be treated in this way: If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. (John 15:18) Hence, as Saint Gregory explains, the hostility of the wicked echoes like praise for our way of life, because it shows that insofar as we annoy those who do not love God, there is at least some rectitude in us. Nobody can please God and the enemies of God at the same time. (St. Gregory the Great, Homilies on Ezekiel, 9) So if we are faithful there will be winds and storms. But Jesus will say once more to the stormy sea ‘Peace! Be still!’
At the very beginning of the Church the Apostles gathered abundant fruits. But at the same time they would suffer threats, insults, persecution. (cf. Acts 4:41-42) They were not concerned whether opinion was favorable or hostile towards them. They were concerned to make Christ known to all, to take the fruits of our redemption to the uttermost corner of the earth. They preached the doctrine of Christ, which in purely human terms constituted a scandal for some and seemed sheer madness to others. (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23) This doctrine entered all environments, transforming souls and customs.
Many of the circumstances within which the Apostles had to work have changed, but others remain as they were or have become even worse. Materialism, the excessive love of comfort and well-being, sensuality and ignorance represent once again in many places furious winds and stormy seas. And we can add to this the temptation of many people to adapt the doctrine of Christ to the times, seriously deforming the essential message of the Gospel.
If we want to be apostles in the midst of the world we must realize that some people - at times our husband, our wife, our parents, or an old friend - will not understand us. We will have to take heart, because it is not easy to row against the stream. We will have to work calmly and firmly. We cannot be deterred or allow ourselves to be deflected by the attitude of those who in many ways have compromised or so identified themselves with the customs of the new paganism that they seem unable any longer to understand the transcendent, supernatural meaning of life.
Our intimacy with God will give us calmness and strength, and we will be a firm rock for many. We can never forget that, particularly nowadays, the Lord needs strong and courageous souls who refuse to come to terms with mediocrity, but will be able to enter all kinds of environments with a sure step… (J. Escriva, Furrow, 416) In parent-teacher associations, in professional bodies, in the universities, in the trade unions, in informal conversation before or after a meeting… As a specific example, the influence of families is particularly important in social and public life. ‘They should be the first to take steps to see that the laws… not only do not transgress against, but actually support and positively defend the rights and duties of the family,’ (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 44) in this way promoting real ‘family politics’ (ibid). In this field it is essential to foster in a renewed
and complete way knowledge of the doctrine of the Church on the family, to awaken the consciences and social and political responsibilities of Christian families, and to establish or strengthen existing associations for the good of the family. (Spanish Episcopal Conference, Pastoral Instruction, Catholics in Public Life, 22 April 1986, 162) We cannot remain inactive while the enemies of God strive to eliminate all trace of the eternal destiny of man.
Our attitude towards difficulties: ‘The three concupiscences (cf. 1 John 2:16) are like three gigantic forces which have unleashed a tremendous frenzy of lust, of a created being’s conceited pride in his own strength, and of a desire for riches’ (Monsignor Escriva, Letter, 14 February 1974, 10)… And without being pessimistic or depressed, we can see that … these forces have achieved an unprecedented development and a monstrous aggressiveness, to such an extent that ‘an entire civilization is tottering, powerless and without moral resources to fall back on’ (ibid.). (A. del Portillo, Letter, 25 December 1985, 4) We cannot remain inactive in such a situation. For the love of Christ urges us on, says St. Paul in the Second Reading. (2 Cor. 5:14-17) Charity, and the real need of so many creatures, drives us to carry out an untiring apostolic activity in all environments.
Each person has to work in his own environment, in spite of the hostility we will meet and the misunderstandings of people who cannot or do not want to understand.
Walk therefore, ‘in nomine Domini’, with joy and security in the name of the Lord. No pessimism! If difficulties arise, then the grace of God, will come more abundantly as well. If more difficulties appear, more of God’s grace will come down from Heaven. If there are many difficulties, there will be many graces from God. Divine help is always proportionate to the obstacles with which the world and the devil oppose apostolic work. And so I would even dare to affirm that, in a way, it is good that there are difficulties, because then we will obtain more help from God. ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’ (Rom. 5:20). (A. del Portillo, Letter, 31 May 1987, 22) We can use this opportunity to purify our intentions, to be more attentive
to the Master, to strengthen our Faith. Our attitude must always be one of forgiveness and calmness, because God is with each of us. Christian, Christ is sleeping in your boat, St. Augustine reminds us; Wake Him, and He will rebuke the storm and peace will be restored. (St. Augustine, Sermon 361, 7) Everything is for our good and the good of souls. It is enough to be in His company to feel that we are safe. Worry, fear and cowardice arise when our prayer weakens. He knows well enough everything that is happening to us. And if need be, he will rebuke wind and sea, and a great calm will be established, and His peace will flood into us. And we too will be filled with awe like the apostles.
The Blessed Virgin will not leave us for an instant. If the winds of temptation arise, fix your eyes on the star, call upon Mary… With her for a guide you will not go astray; whilst invoking her, you will never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception. If she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you will not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you will reach the goal. (St. Bernard, Homilies on the Blessed Virgin Mary, 2)” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God grant us His peace in the midst of all difficulties!
In Christ through Mary,