Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
I wish you a blessed, safe and restful 4th of July weekend!
The month of July is dedicated to increased devotion to the Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus. Let us ask our good Lord for the grace to know and understand the power of His Precious Blood over evil!
This Sunday I share with you a meditation on the Grace of our Lord. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
“My Grace is Sufficient for You: God gives us His help to ena-ble us to overcome all obstacles, temptations and difficulties - In the Second Reading (2 Cor. 12:7-10) of today’s Holy Mass, St. Paul lets us see the depths of his humility. After speaking to the Corin-thians about his labors for Christ and the visions and revelations he had received from the Lord, he goes on to tell them of his weakness: to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.
We do not know with any certainty what St. Paul is referring to when he speaks of the thorn in the flesh. Some Fathers of the Church, (e.g. St. Augustine) think it is a particularly painful physical affliction; others, (e.g. St. John Chrysostom) think that he is refer-ring to the tribulations caused him by the continuous persecutions of which he is the victim; and some, (e.g. St. Gregory the Great) are of the opinion that he is referring to temptations that he finds particu-larly difficult to resist. (The Navarre Bible, St. Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians, in. loc.) Whatever it is, it is something that humiliates the Apostle, and that in some way hinders his work as a bearer of the Gospel.
St. Paul had asked God three times to remove this obstacle from him. He received this sublime reply: My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. God’s help is sufficient for him to overcome that difficulty; at the same time we are given to know about the Divine Power that enabled him to overcome it. He becomes stronger when he relies on God’s help, and this causes him to exclaim: For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weak-nesses, insults, hardships, persecution, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong. In our own weakness we too constantly experience the need to turn towards God and draw on the strength that comes to us from Him. How often God has said to us deep in our hearts: My grace is sufficient for you, you have My help to ena-ble you to overcome all trials and difficulties.
Perhaps we sometimes have a particularly vivid experience of lone-liness, weakness or tribulation: If so, seek the support of Him who died and rose again. Find yourself a shelter in the wounds in His hands, in His feet, in His side. And your willingness to start again will revive, and you will take up your journey again with greater determination and effectiveness. (J. Escriva, The Way of the Cross, Twelfth Station, 2)
Even our frailty and our weaknesses can be turned to good account. In his commentary on this passage, St. Thomas Aquinas explains
that God can sometimes allow certain evils of a physical or moral order precisely so as to draw from them a greater, more necessary good. (St. Thomas, Commentary on 2 Corinthians, in loc.) God will never abandon us in the midst of temptation. Our very weakness helps us to have greater trust, to seek refuge in God more urgently, to ask Him for greater strength and to be more humble: ‘Lord, put not your trust in me. But I, I put my trust in You’. Then, as we sense in our hearts the love, the compassion, the tenderness of Christ’s gaze upon us - for He never abandons us - we shall come to understand the full meaning of those words of St. Paul: ‘Virtus in infirmitate perficitur’ (2 Cor. 12:9). If we have Faith in Our Lord, in spite of our failings - or, rather, with our failings - we shall be faithful to our Father, God; His Divine Power will shine forth in us, sustaining us in our weakness. (J. Escriva, Friends of God, 194)
If you want to, you can: A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me… It seems here as if St. Paul sens-es his limitations in a very vivid way, and at the same time relives the occasions when he contemplated the greatness of God and the greatness of his own mission as an Apostle. Sometimes in the course of our lives we too have caught glimpse of generous aims, aims of sincerity, of perseverance…, and yet, it seems as though we have, in the very depths of our soul, a sort of radical infirmity, a lack of strength, an obscure impotence…, and this sometimes makes us feel sad and we say ‘I can’t’. (A. G. Dorronsoro, Time to Hope) We can see what Our Lord wants of us in this or that situation, but perhaps we feel weakened and exhausted by the trials and difficulties facing us. Your intelligence - enlightened by Faith - shows you the way clearly. It can also point out the difference between following that way heroically or stupidly. Above all, it places before you the Divine Greatness and beauty of the undertakings the Trinity leaves in our hands.
Your feelings, on the other hand, become attached to everything you despise, even while you consider it despicable. It seems as if a thousand trifles were awaiting the least opportunity, and as soon as your poor will is weakened through physical tiredness or lack of supernatural outlook, those little things flock together and pile up in your imagination, until they form a mountain that oppresses and discourages you. Things such as the rough edges of your work; your resistance to obedience; the lack of proper means; the false attractions of an easy life; greater or smaller but repugnant temptations; bouts of sensuality; tiredness; the bitter taste of spiritual mediocrity… and sometimes also fear - fear because you know God wants you to be a saint, and you are not a saint. Allow me to talk to you bluntly. You have more than enough ‘reasons’ to turn back, and you lack the resolution to correspond to the grace that He grants you, since He has called you to be another Christ, ‘ispe Christus’! - Christ Himself. You have forgotten the Lord’s admonition to the Apostle: ‘My grace is enough for you’, which is confirmation that, if you want to, you can. (J. Escriva, Furrow, 166)
My grace is sufficient for you. Our Lord says these words directly to each one of us so that we should be filled with fortitude and with hope when we see the trials that await us. Our very weakness will help us to rejoice at Christ’s power; it will teach us to love and to feel the need to be always very close to Jesus. Our very failures, our unfulfilled plans, will lead us to exclaim: W hen I am weak, then
I am strong, for Christ is with me. Whenever we are beset by greater temptations, setbacks or weariness, the devil will try to make us stray from the path by causing a lack of trust and discouragement to creep into our soul. This is why
today we must learn the lesson St. Paul wants to teach us: it is at such times that Christ is especially present to us and ready to help us; we have just to turn to Him. Then we too will be able to say with the Apostle: For the sake of Christ, then, I am content to put up with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.
Means we should use in times of temptation: It would be r ash to desire temptation or to provoke it, but it would also be wrong to be afraid of temptation, as though Our Lord were not going to give us His help to overcome it. We can confidently apply to ourselves the words of the Psalm: For He will give His A ngels charge of you, to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot. Because he cleaves to Me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows My name. When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation. (Psalm 91:11 et. seq.) At the same time, Our Lord asks us to be prepared for temptation and to use all the means at our disposal to overcome it: prayer and voluntary mortifications; fleeing from the occasions of sin, for whoever loves danger will perish by it (Sir. 3:26); leading a life of hard and constant work, carrying out the duties of our work in an exemplary manner and simply changing our activity in order to rest; fostering a great horror for every sin, however small it may seem; and, above all, making a real effort to increase within ourselves our love for Christ and for Our Lady.
We are putting up an effective struggle when we open our soul in spiritual direction whenever we are tempted to be unfaithful. To speak about it is already almost to overcome it. He who reveals his own temptations to his spiritual director can be certain that God grants his director the grace he needs to direct him well… We should never think that temptation is overcome by settling down to argue with it, or even by attacking it head-on… As soon as it presents itself to us we should turn away from it and direct our glace towards Our Lord, who lives within us and fights at our side, Who Himself has conquered sin; let us embrace Him in an act of humble submission to His Will, of accepting that cross of temptation…, of trust in Him and of Faith in His closeness to us, at the same time making an act of supplication that He may transmit His strength to us. In this way temptation will lead us to prayer, to union with God and with Christ; it will not be loss, but rather gain. In everything God works for good with those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). (B. Baur, In Silence with God) From our trials, our tribulations and temptations we can draw out much good, for in undergoing them we will show Our Lord that we need Him and that we love Him. They will set us on fire with love and increase all the virtues within us, for a bird flies not only by the impulse of its wings, but also by the lift and resistance of the air: in some way we have need of obstacles and setbacks in order that our love may grow. The greater the resistance to any progress along our way provided by our surroundings or by our own weakness, the more help and grace God will give us. And our Mother in Heaven will always be particularly close to us at those moments of greatest need: we should not fail to seek her motherly protection.” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of Mary, Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God grant us the gift of prayer!
In Christ through Mary,