Sunday, 29 September 2013

Dom Lehodey - On Confidence in God

Taken from the book Holy Abandonment.



"THE human will is so amazingly suspicious that as a rule it trusts none but itself, and it is always in fear of prejudice to itself from the will and power of others. Anything we possess of particular value, our fortune, our honour, reputation, health, life itself, we refuse to commit to the care of another unless we are sure we can depend on him. For the practice of charity and of holy abandonment we must therefore have the fullest confidence in God." 1 Hence, perfect abandonment, as a habit, cannot be found outside the unitive way, because there alone confidence in God attains its highest development. 

Human wisdom is very short-sighted, and the human will very weak, changeable, and subject to a thousand failings. Consequently, instead of trusting to our own lights and distrusting all others, even God, we should rather supplicate and importune Him to cause His will to be done and not ours. For "His will is good, good in itself and beneficent to us, good as the good God and, I dare to say it, necessarily beneficent." 2 

Who is He That watches over us with solicitous love and disposes of us by His Providence? It is the good God. He is so good that He is essential Goodness and Charity Itself, and in this sense "none is good but God alone" (Luke xviii, 19). There have been Saints who participated to a wonderful degree in the Divine goodness. Nevertheless, even the very best of men have possessed only a rill, or a stream, or at most a river of goodness, whereas God is the ocean of all goodness, goodness limitless and inexhaustible. When He has poured out upon us benefits almost innumerable, let no one think Him either wearied from giving or impoverished by His munificence. He has still an entire infinitude of goodness to dispense. In truth, the more He gives away the richer He becomes, for He gains the glory of being better known, loved, and served, at least by generous hearts. He is good to us: "He maketh His sun to rise upon the good and the bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust" (Matt. v, 45). He never ceases from giving us proofs of His goodness, opposing to the multitude of our sins "the multitude of His tender mercies" in order by His goodness to conquer our malice. Sometimes He has to punish, because He is not alone infinitely good but infinitely just also, yet "even in His anger He is not unmindful of His mercy" (Hab. iii, 2). 

This God, so infinitely good, is our Father Who is in Heaven. Just as He delights in this title of "the good God," and recalls to us His ancient mercies over and over again; in the same way He loves to proclaim Himself our Father. Because He is so great and holy and we so little and sinful, we might well have been afraid to approach Him. Therefore, to win our confidence and our affection He never tires of repeating in Sacred Scripture that He is our Father and the Father of mercies. It is "from Him all paternity in Heaven and earth is named" (Ephes. iii, 15), and there is no father like our Father in Heaven. He is a father in His devotedness, a mother in His tenderness. There is nothing on earth comparable to a mother's heart for self-forgetfulness, profound affection, and inexhaustible mercifulness; hence, nothing that inspires so much confidence and abandonment. And yet God's tenderness for us immeasurably surpasses that of the best of mothers. "Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? And if she should forget, yet will not I forget thee" (Is. xlix, 15). What can He refuse us "Who hath so loved the world as to give us His Only-begotten Son?" (John iii, 16). He knows well, much better than we, what we require for soul and body; and He commands us to ask it of Him, and only reproves us for not asking enough. Nor will He give a stone to His child when he asks Him for bread. And if He sometimes has to exercise severity in order to prevent us from ruining ourselves, it is always the love of the Father that wields the rod. He measures the force of each blow, and when He judges the chastisement sufficient dries our tears and pours soothing balm into our wounds. Let us have confidence in God's love for us, and never doubt His Heart of a Father. 

He Who watches over us is our Redeemer. He is more than brother, more than the dearest and best of friends, for He is the physician of our souls, our own official Saviour. He is come to "save His people from their sins" (Matt. i, 21), to cure their spiritual maladies, to bring us "life and a more abundant life" (John x, 10), to enkindle on earth the fire of Divine charity (Luke xii, 49). To save us: there is His task, His mission, His essential purpose. To succeed in this mission and purpose: there is His glory, His happiness. Can He be otherwise than interested in us? His life of hardships and humiliations, His Body furrowed with wounds, His Soul saturated with sorrow, Calvary and the Altar: everything about Him shows to what follies His love for us has led Him. Assuredly He has bought us at a great price (1 Cor. vi, 20). How could we have cost Him more? And in whom, then, shall we put our trust if not in our sweet Saviour, without Whom we should be lost? Is He not besides the Spouse of our souls? Devoted, tender, and merciful towards everyone, He cherishes with a special predilection those who have left all things in order to attach themselves to Him alone. He makes it His delight to keep them near Him in the tabernacle, and to live with them in the sweetest of intimacies. 

"When you find yourself in affliction," says De la Colombiere, "remember that the cause of your trouble is He Who willed to pass His whole life in pain in order to save you from eternal pains; He Whose Angel is always at your side, by His order watching over your ways; He Who on our altars prays without ceasing and sacrifices Himself a thousand times a day in your interest; He Who comes to you in the Sacrament of the Eucharist with so much goodness; He Who has no greater pleasure than to unite Himself with you, to converse with you. But you will say: 'He smites me cruelly and lays His hand heavily on me.' How can you feel afraid of a hand that has been pierced for you and permitted itself for your sake to be fastened to the Cross? 'He makes me walk along a thorny path.' If there was no other path leading to Heaven, would you rather perish for eternity than suffer for a time? Is not this the same path which He has travelled before you and for love of you? Do you find in it a single thorn that has not been crimsoned with His Blood? 'He offers me a chalice full of bitterness.' Yes, but remember it is your Saviour Who offers it. Loving you so dearly, how could He have the heart to treat you with this severity unless He saw it was immensely profitable to you or urgently necessary?" 3 

Being so good and holy, He never exercises His influence upon us except for the noblest and most beneficent objects. His end is and must immutably remain the glory of God. " 'The Lord hath made all things for Himself and His Own glory' (Prov. xvi, 4), as Sacred Scripture tells us. But let us not complain of that, because the glory of God is nothing else than His joy in giving us eternal joy, His happiness in making us eternally happy . . . The universe having for its primary end the glorification of God through the beatification of the rational creature, it follows that the secondary end of all things, at least on the earth, is the Catholic Church, as the Mother of Salvation. All terrestrial events, all, even persecutions, are willed or permitted by God for the benefit of the Church. And in the Church herself everything is regulated with a view to the profit of the elect, since here on earth the glory of God is identified with man's salvation. Hence we must conclude that a further end of the evolutions and revolutions occurring here below is the attainment by the elect of their eternal destiny. And perhaps we shall see in Heaven how whole countries have been put in commotion for the salvation of some of the elect.  . . . Is it not wonderful to contemplate God governing the universe with the exclusive object of making us happy and rejoicing in our joy?" 4 

Therefore, God's will is the sanctification of souls. Always and everywhere, this is the work that exclusively occupies Him. It is the purpose underlying all the occurrences, great and small, which agitate in different ways nations, families, and the lives of individuals. It explains why God wills that I should be sick today, contradicted, humbled, forgotten; why He has prepared this happy event for me, faced me with this difficulty, caused me to hurt my foot against this stone, exposed me to this temptation. It is His love for me, His desire of my happiness that regulates all His actions. With what confidence and docility we should submit and correspond to His guidance if we better understood His merciful ways! The more so when we remember that He has always infinite power and infinite wisdom employed in the service of His paternal goodness. He knows the particular end appointed for each soul, the degree of glory He has destined for her in Heaven, the measure of sanctity He has prepared for her. In order that she may attain her end and become perfect, He knows what paths she must follow, what trials she must endure, what humiliations undergo. His Providence has control of the myriad events which make up the course of our earthly existence, and directs them all to the appointed end. On the side of God, with Whom rests ultimately the disposal of all things, there is nothing but light, wisdom, grace, love and salvation. Now, by reason of His infinite power He can do whatever He wills. He is the Sovereign Master "Who holdeth the power of life and death, Who leadeth down to the gates of death and bringeth back again" (Wisdom xvi, 13). We experience alternations of sunshine and shadow, times of peace and times of affliction, prosperity and adversity: all this comes from Him. There is no event whatsoever over which His will does not preside as sovereign mistress. Everything falls out in accordance with His free ordinances. When He decrees to save Israel there is none who can resist His will, none who can make Him alter His purpose. For "against the Lord there is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel" (Prov. xxi, 30). 

It is true that in disposing of His rational creatures He respects their liberty. They have consequently the power to oppose their own wills to His will and apparently to thwart it. But in reality he has foreseen from all eternity the resistance of some and the submission of others, and He has formed His designs in the light of that prescience. In the infinite resources of His omnipotent wisdom He easily finds a way to change hindrances into helps, and to make the plots which demons and wicked men contrive for our ruin a means to our progress in virtue. "My counsel shall stand," so He speaks through Isaias, "and all My will shall be done" (Is. xlvi, 10). Your efforts, proud rebels, are all in vain, for God's will must be accomplished. He allows you in your actions to follow your free-will, until the time comes to render to everyone according to His works. But all the means you employ to frustrate His designs, He will know how to make subservient to their accomplishment. "Of what, then, can we be afraid? Rather what should we not hope for, being the children of so good a Father Who loves us and desires to save us, Who knows so well how to provide the most suitable means to that end and how best to put them in practice, Who manifests so much goodness in His ordinances, so much wisdom in His dispositions, so much prudence in the execution of His designs?" 5 

1. Le Gaudier, De perf. vitae spirit., p. iii, s. ii, c. xvii. 
2. Gay, op. cit., i.
3. Serm. sur la soum. à la vol. de Dieu. 
4. Desurmount, op. cit., c. iii.
5. St. Francis de Sales, Am. de Dieu, i, iv, c. viii.

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