August 17, 2011

On Trials

In the spiritual life it can take a long time to learn very simple things, and it can take even longer to put what one learns into practice.

For example, when I was younger in the faith I used to pray constantly for strength and endurance in trials and temptations. But it didn't seem to me that my prayer was answered. I didn't realize that my prayer was disingenuous.

I didn't really want 'strength and endurance' in temptation at all; what I wanted was not to be tempted. I wanted a daily existence of virtuous serenity in which I could adore my God in peace and admire the excellence of this option I had decided upon for my life. Laziness and vainglory, all that, and devoid of the Cross.

It took me a long time to figure out that the spiritual life is not about arriving at a place of freedom from trials and temptations, but about suffering trials and temptations well.

Finding ourselves as the sinners that we are, there is a mortal choice. The world's answer is self-hate and self-destruction, and it is visible all around us in so many subtle and not-so-subtle forms. But because Jesus Christ crucified has identified himself with all of the misery and alienation we have insisted upon for ourselves with our sins, there is another answer: the divine humility become human salvation.

So Christianity is not about being rid of the terrifying and inane trials of this life, nor about being free from the searing meaninglessness that attacks us in temptation, but accepting these things daily in faith, passing through them prayerfully in such a way that they become our salvation in the one Sacrifice of Christ.

Yes, it is true that in the spiritual life sins can be overcome, and we should strive to do so. In this sense we can become free from temptation. But there will always more and terrible trials and temptations to come, which God offers us so that our love for him might continue to be purified, and that, by taking up our own Cross we might participate in the salvation Christ has won for the world. Do we not imagine that the Cross began to feel heavier on the way to Calvary?


greg said...

Thanks for the shared meditation. It tugged my attention toward the cave on LaVerna. Wonder how Francis felt during that intense period.

Anonymous said...

Wow...just wow. Thank you so much Brother for this wonderful piece of writing. I'm not ashamed to say that my frequent prayer is to have strength to endure temptation, but, as you wrote, it's really disingenuous in that my desire is to be magically freed from all temptations. As for the part about the role of a Christian being to endure temptation well, I should have this tattooed on the back of my arms!

I will reflect on your post for a long time...

Many Thanks for this...truly the Spirit has worked through you today (at least in my eyes).