THE PATIENCE THAT WE MUST EXERCISE IN COMPANY WITH JESUS CHRIST, IN ORDER TO OBTAIN ETERNAL SALVATION. (Excerpt from Purgatory Explained by Father Schouppe)
To speak of patience and suffering is a thing neither practiced nor understood by those who love the world. It is understood and practiced only by souls who love the God. " O Lord," said St. John of the Cross to Jesus Christ, "I ask nothing of Thee but to suffer and to be despised for Thy sake." St. Teresa frequently exclaimed, " O my Jesus, I would either suffer or die." St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi was wont to say, "I would suffer and not die." Thus speak the saints who love God, because a soul can give no surer mark to God of love for him than voluntarily to suffer to please him. This is the great proof which Jesus Christ has given of his love to us. As God he loved us in creating us, in providing us so many blessings, in calling us to enjoy the same glory that he himself enjoys; but in nothing else has he more fully shown how much he loves us than in becoming man, and embracing a painful life, and a death full of pangs and ignominies, for love of us. And how shall we show our love for Jesus Christ ? By leading a life full of pleasures and earthly delights ?
Let us not think that God delights in our pains; the Lord is not of so cruel a nature as to be delighted to see us, his creatures, groan and suffer. He is a God of infinite goodness, who desires to see us fully content and happy, so that he is full of sweetness, affability, and compassion to all who come to him. But our unhappy condition, as sinners, and the gratitude we owe to the love of Jesus Christ, require that, for his love, we should renounce the delights of this earth, and embrace with affection the cross which he gives us to carry during this life, after him who goes before, bearing a cross far heavier than ours; and all this in order to bring us, after our death, to a blessed life, which will never end. God, then, has no desire to see us suffer, but, being himself infinite justice, he cannot leave our faults unpunished; so that, in order that they may be punished, and yet we may one day attain eternal happiness, he would have us purge away our sins with patience, and thus deserve to be eternally blessed. What can be more beautiful and sweet than this rule of divine Providence, that we see at once justice satisfied, and ourselves saved and happy ?
All our hopes, then, we must derive from the merits of Jesus Christ, and from him we must hope for all aid to live holily, and save ourselves; and we cannot doubt that it is his desire to see us holy: This is the will of God, your sanctification: But true as this is, we must not neglect to do our part to satisfy God for the injuries we have done to him, and to attain with our good works to eternal life. This the Apostle expressed when he said, "I fill up that which is wanting of the Passion of Christ in my flesh." Was the Passion of Christ, then, not complete, not enough alone to save us? It was most complete in its value, and most sufficient to save all men ; nevertheless, in order that the merits of the Passion may be applied to us, says St. Teresa, we must do our part, and suffer with patience the crosses which God sends us, that we may be like our head, Jesus Christ, according to what the Apostle writes to the Romans: Whom He foreknew, them He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren. Still we must ever remember, as the Angelic Doctor warns us, that all the virtue of our good works, satisfactions, and penances, is communicated to them by the satisfaction of Jesus Christ: The satisfaction of man has its efficacy from the satisfaction of Christ} And thus we reply to the Protestants, who call our penances injurious to the Passion of Jesus Christ, as if it were not sufficient to satisfy for our sins. What we say is, that in order that we may be partakers in the merits of Jesus Christ, it is necessary that we labor to fulfil the divine precepts, even by doing violence to ourselves, in order that we may not yield to the temptations of hell. And this is what our Lord meant when he said, The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent seize upon it.* It is necessary, when occasions occur, that we do violence to ourselves by continence, by the mortification of our senses, that we may not be conquered by our enemies. And when we find ourselves guilty through the sins we have committed, we must do violence to God with our tears, says St. Ambrose, in order to obtain pardon. And then, to console us, the saint adds, " O blessed violence, which is not punished with the wrath of God, but is welcomed and rewarded with mercy !" " The more violent any man is with Christ, the more religious is he accounted by Christ. For we must first rule over ourselves by conquering our passions, that we may one day seize upon heaven, which our Saviour has merited for us. And therefore we must do violence to ourselves by suffering contradictions and persecutions, and by conquering the temptations and passions which, without violence, are never conquered.
God teaches us that, in order not to lose our souls, we must be prepared to suffer the agonies of death, and to die; but, at the same time, he says that for him who is thus prepared he himself will fight, and will destroy his enemies. St. John saw before the throne of God a great multitude of saints clothed in white garments (because into heaven nothing defiled can enter), and he beheld that every one of them bore in his hand a palm, the token of martyrdom. What, then, are all the saints martyrs ? Yes, Lord, all grown-up persons who are saved must either be martyrs in blood or martyrs in patience, in conquering the assaults of hell and the inordinate desires of the flesh. Bodily pleasures send innumerable souls to hell, and, therefore, we must resolve with courage to despise them. Let us be assured that either the soul must tread the body under foot, or the body the soul.
We must, then (I repeat), do ourselves violence in order to be saved. But this violence is such (it will be said by some one) that I cannot do it of myself, if God does not give it me through his grace. To such a one St. Ambrose says, "If you look to yourself, you can do nothing ; but if you trust in God, strength will be given you." But, in doing this, we must suffer, and it is impossible to avoid it; if we would enter into the glory of the Blessed, says the Scripture, we must, through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God. 2 Thus St. John, beholding the glory of the saints in heaven, heard a voice saying. These are they who have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their garments, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb* It is true that they all attained heaven by being washed in the blood of the Lamb, but they all went there after suffering great tribulation.
Be assured, St. Paul wrote to his disciples, that God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able. God has promised to give us sufficient help to conquer every temptation, if only we ask him. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find. ' He cannot, therefore, fail of his promise. It is a fatal error of the heretics to say that God commands things which it is impossible for us to observe. The Council of Trent says: God does not command impossible things; but when He commands, He bids us do what we can, and seek help for what we cannot do, and He will help us. St. Ephrem writes, " If men do not put upon their beasts a greater burden than they can bear, much less does God lay greater temptations upon men than they can endure." Thomas à Kempis writes, "The cross everywhere awaits thee; it is needful for thee everywhere to preserve patience, if thou wouldst have peace. If thou willingly bearest the cross, it will bear thee to thy desired end." In this world, we all of us go about seeking peace; and would find it without suffering; but this is not possible in our present state; we must suffer; the cross awaits us wherever we turn. How, then, can we find peace in the midst of these crosses? By patience, by embracing the cross, which presents itself to us. St. Teresa says "that he who drags the cross along with ill-will feels its weight, however small it is; but he who willingly embraces it, however great it is, does not feel it."
The same Thomas à Kempis says, "Which of the saints is without a cross? The whole life of Christ was a cross and a martyrdom, and dost thou seek for pleasure Jesus, innocent, holy, and the Son of God, was willing to suffer through his whole life, and shall we go about seeking pleasures and comforts ? To give us an example of patience, he chose a life full of ignominies and pains within and without; and shall we wish to be saved without suffering, or to suffer without patience, which is a double suffering, and without fruit, and with increase of pain? How can we think to be lovers of Jesus Christ, if we will not suffer for love of him who has so much suffered for love of us? How can he glory in being a follower of the Crucified who refuses or receives with ill-will the fruits of the cross, which are sufferings, contempt, poverty, pains, infirmities, and all things that are contrary to our self-love?
Extract from The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ
Tan Books Pg 364-370
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