On the Advantages of Tribulations


The Burial of Christ, the Seventh Dolor (Tribulation) of Mary - by BOTTICELLI, Sandro - from Alte Pinakothek, Munich

 

"Now when John had heard in Prison the
Wonderful Works of Christ . . ." - Matthew 11:2.

 

On the Advantages of Tribulations

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

In Tribulations, God Enriches His Beloved Souls with the Greatest Graces. Behold, Saint John in his Chains, comes to the Knowledge-of the Works-of Jesus Christ: "When John had heard in Prison, the Works of Christ". Great indeed are the Advantages-of Tribulations. The Lord sends them to us, not because He Wished our Misfortune, but because He Desires our Welfare. Hence, when they come-upon us, we must Embrace them with-Thanksgiving, and must not only Resign ourselves to the Divine Will, but must also Rejoice that God Treats us, as He Treated His Son Jesus Christ, Whose Life upon this Earth, was always Full-of Tribulation. I shall now show, in the First (1st) Point, the 'Advantages' we derive-from Tribulations; and in the Second (2nd), I shall point-out the manner in which we ought to 'Bear' them.

 

First Point
On the Advantages we Derive from Tribulations

"What doth he know, that hath not been tried? A Man that hath much Experience, shall think of many things: and he that hath Learned many things, shall show forth Understanding". - Sirach 34:9. They who Live-in Prosperity, and have no experience-of Adversity, know nothing of the State-of their Souls. In the First (1st) Place, Tribulation opens the Eyes, which Prosperity had kept-shut. Saint Paul remained Blind after Jesus Christ appeared to him, and during his Blindness, he Perceived the Errors in which he had Lived. During his Imprisonment in Babylon, King Manasses had recourse-to God, was convinced-of the Malice of his Sins, and did Penance for them. "And after that, he was in Distress, he Prayed to the Lord his God: and did Penance exceedingly before the God of his Fathers" - 2Chronicles 33:12. The Prodigal, when he found himself under the Necessity-of feeding Swine, and Afflicted-with Hunger, exclaimed: "I will Arise and go to my Father" - Luke 15:18.

Secondly, Tribulation takes-from our Hearts, all Affections-to Earthly Things. When a Mother wishes to Wean her Infant, puts 'Gall' on the Paps, to excite his Disgust, and Induce him to-take Better Food. God treats us, in a Similar Manner: to Detach us from Temporal Goods, He Mingles them with 'Gall', that by Tasting their Bitterness, we may Conceive a Dislike-for them, and place our 'Affections' on the Things-of Heaven. "God", says Saint Augustine, "mingles Bitterness with Earthly Pleasures, that we may seek another Felicity, whose Sweetness does not Deceive".

Thirdly, they who Live-in Prosperity, are Molested-by many Temptations of Pride, of Vain-glory, of Desires-of Acquiring greater-'Wealth', greater-'Honors', and greater-'Pleasures'. Tribulations Free us from these Temptations, and make us 'Humble' and 'Content', in the State in which the Lord places us. Hence the Apostle says: "We are Chastised by the Lord, that we be not Condemned, with this World" - 1Corinthians 11:32.

Fourthly, by Tribulations, we Atone-for the Sins we have Committed, much better than by Voluntary Works-of Penance. "Be assured", says Saint Augustine, "that God is a Physician, and that Tribulation is a Salutary Medicine". Oh! how great is the Efficacy-of Tribulation in Healing the Wounds caused-by our Sins! Hence, the same Saint rebukes the Sinner who Complains-of God, for sending him Tribulations. " Why", he says, "do you Complain? What you Suffer is a Remedy, not a Punishment". Job called those Happy, whom God corrects-by Tribulations, because He Heals them with the very Hands, with-which He Strikes and Wounds them. "Blessed is the Man whom God Correcteth . . . For He Woundeth and Cureth. He Striketh, and His Hands shall Heal" - Job 5:17-18. Hence, Saint Paul, glorified-in his Tribulations: "Gloriamur in tribulationibus" - Romans 5:3.

Fifthly, by Convincing us that God alone, is Able and Willing-to Relieve us in our Miseries. Tribulations remind us of Him, and Compel us to have Recourse-to His Mercy. "In their Affliction, they will Rise Early to Me" - Hosea 6:1. Hence, addressing the Afflicted, the Lord said: "Come to Me, all you that Labor, and are Burdened, and I will Refresh you" - Matthew 11:28. Hence He is called "a Helper in Troubles". "When", says David, "He Slew them, then they Sought Him: and they Returned" - Psalm 77:34. When the Jews were Afflicted, and were Slain by their Enemies, they Remembered the Lord, and Returned-to Him.

Sixthly, Tribulations enable us to-Acquire great Merits before God, by giving us Opportunities-of Exercising the Virtues of Humility, of Patience, and of Resignation-to the Divine Will. The Venerable John d'Avila used to say that a Single (1) "Blessed be God", in Adversity, is Worth-more than a Thousand (1000) 'Acts of Thanksgiving', in Prosperity. "Take away", says Saint Ambrose, "the Contests of the Martyrs, and you have taken away their Crowns". Oh! What a Treasure of Merits is Acquired, by Patiently bearing Insults, Poverty, and Sickness. Insults from Men, were the great Objects-of the Desires-of the Saints, who Sought to be Despised, for the Love of Jesus Christ, and thus to be made, Like-unto Him.

How Great is the Merit, gained-by bearing-with the Inconvenience of Poverty. "My God and my All", says Saint Francis of Assisi: in Expressing this Sentiment, he Enjoyed more-of True Riches, than all the Princes-of the Earth. How Truly has Saint Teresa said that: "the Less we have here, the More we shall Enjoy hereafter" Oh! how Happy is the Man who can say from his Heart: My Jesus, Thou alone art Sufficient for me! If, says Saint Chrysostom, you Esteem yourself Unhappy, because you are Poor, you are indeed Miserable, and Deserving-of Tears; not because you are Poor, but because, being Poor, you do not Embrace your Poverty, and Esteem yourself Happy. "Sane dignus es lachrymis ob hoc, quod miserum te existimas, non ideo quod pauper es".

By bearing Patiently with the Pains of Sickness, a Great, and perhaps the Greater, Part-of the Crown, which is Prepared-for us in Heaven, is completed. The Sick sometimes complain, that in Sickness, they can do nothing; but they Err, for in their Infirmities, they can do all things, by accepting their Sufferings with Peace and Resignation. "The Cross of Christ", says Saint Chrysostom, "is the Key of Paradise".

Saint Francis de Sales used to say, "To Suffer constantly-for Jesus, is the Science of the Saints; we shall thus soon become Saints". It is by Sufferings, that God 'Proves' His Servants, and finds them 'Worthy'-of Himself. "Deus tentavit es, et invenit eos dignos se" - Wisdom 3:5. "Whom", says Saint Paul, "the Lord Loveth, He Chastiseth; and He Scourgeth every Son whom He Receiveth" - Hebrews 12:6. Hence Jesus Christ once said to Saint Teresa: "Be Assured, that the Souls dearest to My Father, are those who Suffer the greatest Afflictions". Hence, Job said: "If we have received Good Things at the Hand of God, why should we not receive Evil?" - Job 2:10. If we have Gladly Received from God, the Goods of this Earth, why should we not Receive more Cheerfully, Tribulations, which are far-more Useful-to us, than Worldly Prosperity? Saint Gregory informs us that as Flame, fanned-by the Wind, increases, so the Soul is made Perfect when She is Oppressed-by Tribulations. "Ignis flatu premitur, ut crescat".

To Holy Souls, the most-severe Afflictions are the Temptations by-which the Devil Impels them to Offend God; but they who bear these Temptations, with Patience, and Banish them by Turning-to God for Help, shall Acquire great Merit. "And", says Saint Paul, "God is Faithful, Who will not Suffer you to be Tempted above that which you are able, but will make Issue, with the Temptation, that you may be able to bear it" - 1Corinthians 10:13. God Permits us to be Molested-by Temptations, that by 'Banishing' them, we may Gain greater Merit. "Blessed", says the Lord, "are they that Mourn, for they shall be Comforted" - Matthew 5:5. They are Blessed because, according-to the Apostle, our Tribulations are 'Momentary' and 'Very Light', compared-with the Greatness-of the Glory which they shall obtain-for us, for Eternity (∞) in Heaven. "For that which is at Present, Momentary and Light of our Tribulation, worketh for us above Measure, Exceedingly an Eternal Weight of Glory" - 2Corinthians 4:17.

It is necessary then, says Saint Chrysostom, to bear Tribulations in Peace; for if you Accept them with-Resignation, you shall Gain great Merit; but if you Submit-to them with Reluctance, you shall Increase, instead of Diminishing, your Misery. "Si vero gre feras, neque calamitatem minorem facies, et majorem reddes procellam". If we wish to be Saved, we must Submit-to Trials. "Through many Tribulations, we must enter into the Kingdom of God" - Acts 14:21. A Great Servant of God used to say that Paradise is the Place of the Poor, of the Persecuted, of the Humble and Afflicted. Hence, Saint Paul says: "Patience is necessary for you; that, doing the Will of God, you may Receive the Promise" - Hebrews 10:36. Speaking of the Tribulations of the Saints, Saint Cyprian asks: "What are they to the Servants of God, whom Paradise invites"? Is it much for those, to whom the Eternal Goods of Heaven are Promised, to Embrace the short Afflictions of this Life?

In 'Fine', the Scourges of Heaven are sent not for our Injury, but for our Good. "Let us Believe that these Scourges of the Lord, with which, like Servants, we are Chastised, have happened for our Amendment, and not for our Destruction" - Judith 8:27. "God", says Saint Augustine, "is Angry, when He does not Scourge the Sinner". When we see a Sinner, in Tribulation in this Life, we may Infer-that God Wishes-to have Mercy on him in the Next, and that He exchanges Eternal (∞) for Temporal Chastisement. But, Miserable the Sinner whom the Lord does not Punish in this Life! For those whom He does not Chastise here, He Treasures-up His Wrath, and for them, He Reserves Eternal (∞) Chastisement.

"Why", asks the Prophet Jeremiah, "doth the Way of the Wicked, Prosper?" - Jeremiah 12:1. Why, O Lord, do Sinners Prosper? To this, the same Prophet answers: "Gather them together as Sheep for a Sacrifice, and prepare them for the Day of Slaughter" - (ibid verse 3). As on the Day of Sacrifice, the Sheep intended-for Slaughter are gathered-together, so the Impious, as Victims of Divine Wrath, are destined-to Eternal (∞) Death. "Destine them", says Du Hamel, in his commentary-on this Passage, "as Victims of Thy Anger on the Day of Sacrifice".

When, then, God sends us Tribulations, let us say with Job: "I have Sinned, and indeed I have Offended, and I have not received what I have Deserved" - Job 33:27. O Lord, my Sins merit far-greater Chastisement, than that which Thou hast Inflicted on me. We should even Pray with Saint Augustine, "Burn - Cut - Spare not in this Life, that Thou mayst Spare for Eternity". How Frightful is the Chastisement of the Sinner, of whom the Lord says, "Let us have Pity on the Wicked, but he will not learn Justice" - Isaiah 26:10. Let us Abstain-from Chastising the Impious: as long as they remain in this Life, they will continue to live-in Sin, and shall thus be Punished with Eternal (∞) Torments. On this Passage, Saint Bernard says, "Misericordiam hanc nolo, super omnem iram miseratio ista". Lord, I do not wish for such Mercy, which is a Chastisement that Surpasses all Chastisements.

The Man whom the Lord Afflicts in this Life, has a 'Certain Proof' that he is Dear-to God. "And", said the Angel, to Tobias, "because thou wast Acceptable to God, it was necessary that Temptation should Prove thee" - Tobit 12:13. Hence, Saint James pronounces Blessed, the Man who is Afflicted; because after he shall have been Proved-by Tribulation, he will Receive the Crown of Eternal (∞) Life. "Blessed is the Man that endureth Temptation; for when he hath been Proved, he shall receive a Crown of Life" - James 1:12.

He who Wishes-to Share-in the Glory of the Saints, must Suffer in this Life, as the Saints have Suffered. None of the Saints has been 'Esteemed' or 'Treated-well' by the World - all of them have been Despised and Persecuted. In them have been 'Verified' the Words-of the Apostle, "All that will Live Godly in Christ Jesus, shall Suffer Persecution" - 2Timothy 3:12. Hence Saint Augustine said that they who are unwilling-to Suffer Persecutions, have not as yet begun to be Christians. "Si putas non habere persecutiones, nondum coepisti esse Christianus". When we are in Tribulation, let us be Satisfied-with the Consolation-of Knowing that the Lord is then near us, and in our company. "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a Contrite Heart" - Psalm 33:19. "I am with him in Tribulation" - Psalm 90:15.

 

Second Point
On the Manner in which we should bear Tribulations

He who Suffers Tribulations in this World, should, in the First Place, Abandon Sin and Endeavor-to Recover the Grace of God; for as-long-as he remains in Sin, the Merit of All his Sufferings is Lost. "If", says Saint Paul, "I should deliver my Body to be Burned, and have not Charity, it Profiteth me Nothing" - 1Corinthians 13:3. If you Suffered all the Torments of the Martyrs, or Bore-to-be Burned Alive, and were not in the State of Grace, it would Profit you nothing.

But, to those who Suffer with God, and with Resignation for God's Sake, all their Tribulations shall be a Source-of Comfort and Gladness. "Your Sorrow shall be turned into Joy" - John 16:20. Hence after having been Insulted and Beaten by the Jews, the Apostles departed-from the Council, full-of Joy, because they had been Maltreated for the Love of Jesus Christ. "And they indeed went-from the Presence of the Council, Rejoicing that they were accounted Worthy to Suffer Reproach, for the Name of Jesus" - Acts 5:41. Hence when God visits us with any Tribulations, we must say with Jesus Christ: "The Chalice which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" - John 18:11. It is necessary to know that every Tribulation, though it may come-from Men, is sent-to us by God.

When we are surrounded on all sides with Tribulations, and know not what to do, we must turn-to God, Who alone can Console us. Thus King Josaphat, in his Distress, said to the Lord: "As we know not what to do, we can only turn our eyes to Thee" - 2Chronicles 20:12. Thus David, also in his Tribulation, had Recourse-to God, and God Consoled him: "In my Trouble, I cried to the Lord: and He heard me" - Psalm 119:1. We should Turn-to God and Pray to Him, and never-Cease to Pray, till He hears us. "As the Eyes of the Handmaid, are on the Hands of her Mistress: so are our Eyes unto the Lord our God, until He have Mercy on us" - Psalm 122:2. We must keep our Eyes continually raised to God, and must continue to Implore His Aid, until He is Moved-to Compassion, for our Miseries. We must have Great Confidence in the Heart of Jesus Christ, and ought not to Imitate certain Persons, who Instantly Lose Courage, because they do not feel that they begin to Pray. To them may be applied the Words-of the Savior to Saint Peter: "O thou of Little Faith, why didst thou Doubt?" - Matthew 14:31. When the Favors which we ask are Spiritual, or can be Profitable to our Souls, we should be Certain-of being Heard, provided we Persevere in Prayer, and do not Lose Confidence. "All things, whatsoever you ask when ye Pray, Believe that you shall Receive; and they shall come unto you" - Mark 11:24. In Tribulations, then, we should never cease to Hope with Confidence, that the Divine Mercy will Console us; and if our Afflictions continue, we must say with Job: "Although He should Kill me, I will Trust in Him" - Job 13:15.

Souls of Little Faith, instead of Turning-to God, in their Tribulations, have recourse-to Human Means and thus Provoke God's Anger, and remain-in their Miseries. "Unless the Lord Build the House, they Labor in Vain that Build it. Unless the Lord keep the City, he watcheth in Vain that Keepeth it" - Psalm 126:1. On this Passage, Saint Augustine writes: "Ipse aedificat, ipse intellectum aperit, ipse ad finem applicat sensum vestrum; et tamen laboramus et nos tanquam operarii, sed nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem". All Good - all Help, must come-from the Lord. Without Him, Creatures can give us no Assistance.

Of this, the Lord Complains by the Mouth-of His Prophet: "Is not the Lord in Zion? . . . Why then have they Provoked Me to Wrath, with their Idols? . . . Is there no Balm in Gilead? or is there no Physician there? Why then is not the Wound of the Daughter of My People, Closed?" - Jeremiah 8:19-22. Am I not in Zion? Why then do Men Provoke Me to Anger, by Recurring-to Creatures, which they Convert-into Idols, by placing in them all their Hopes? Do they seek a Remedy for their Miseries? Why do they not seek it in Gilead, a Mountain, full-of Balsamic Ointments, which Signify the Divine Mercy? There they can find the Physician and the Remedy-for all their Evils. Why then, says the Lord, do your Wounds remain 'Open'? Why are they not 'Healed'? It is because you have Recourse, not to Me, but to Creatures, and because you Confide-in them, and not in Me.

In another Place, the Lord says: "Am I become a Wilderness to Israel, or a Lateward Springing Land? Why then have My People said: We are Revolted, we will come to Thee no more? . . . But My People hath Forgotten Me, Days without Number" - Jeremiah 2:31-32. God Complains and says: Why My Children, do you say that you will have Recourse-to Me, no more? Am I become to you a Barren Land, which gives no Fruit, or gives it too-Late? Is it for this Reason, that you have so Long-forgotten Me? By these Words, He Manifests to us His Desire that we Pray to Him, in order that He may be able to give us His Sweet Graces; and He also gives us to Understand, that when we Pray to Him, He is not Slow, but Instantly begins-to Assist us.

The Lord, says David, is not Asleep when we Turn-to His Goodness, and Ask the Graces which are Profitable-to our Souls; He Hears us Immediately, because He is Anxious-for our Welfare. "Behold, He shall neither Slumber nor Sleep, that keepeth Israel" - Psalm 120:4. When we Pray for Temporal Favors, Saint Bernard says that God "will give us what we ask, or something more useful". He will Grant us the Grace which we Desire, whenever it is Profitable-to our Souls; or He will give us a more useful Grace, such as the Grace to Resign ourselves to the Divine Will, and to Suffer with Patience, our Tribulations, which shall Merit a great Increase-of Glory in Heaven.

 

- End of Liguori Sermon -

 

Think of how much Suffering there is in Hospitals, among the Poor, and the Bereaved.

Think also of how much of that Suffering Goes-to-Waste!

How many of those Lonesome, Suffering, Abandoned, Crucified Souls are saying with Our Lord at the Moment of Consecration, "This is my Body. Take it"? And yet that is what we all should be saying at that Second:

 

eucharis.gif (12459 bytes)

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) I give myself to God.
Here is my body. Take it.
Here is my blood. Take it.
Here is my Soul, my Will, my Energy, my Strength,
My Property, my Wealth - all that I have. It is Yours.
Take it! Offer it! Offer it with Thyself to the Heavenly Father
In order that He, looking down on this Great Sacrifice,
May see only Thee, His Beloved Son, in Whom He is Well Pleased.
Transmute the Poor Bread of my Life into Thy Divine Life;
Thrill the Wine of my Wasted Life into Thy Divine Spirit;
Unite my Broken Heart with Thy Heart;
Change my Cross into a Crucifix.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Let not my Abandonment, and my Sorrow, and my Bereavement go to Waste.
Gather up the Fragments,
And as the Drop of Water is Absorbed by the Wine at the Offertory of the Mass,
Let my Life be Absorbed in Thee;
Let my little-Cross be Entwined with Thy Great Cross,
so that I may Purchase the Joys of Everlasting Happiness in Union with Thee.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Consecrate these Trials of my Life which would go Unrewarded, unless United with Thee;
Transubstantiate me so that like Bread which is now Thy Body,
And Wine which is now Thy Blood, I too may be Wholly Thee.
I care not if the Species Remain, or that, like the Bread and the Wine,
I Seem to all Earthly Eyes the Same as before.
My Station in Life, my Routine Duties, my Work, my Family -
All these are but the Species of my Life which may Remain Unchanged;
But the Substance of my Life, my Soul, my Mind, my Will, my Heart -
Transubstantiate them, Transform them Wholly into Thy Service,
So that through me all may know how Sweet is the Love of Christ.

Amen

by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Ph.D., D.D., LL.D., Litt.D.

 

Concise Thought on Tribulation

No Pain . . . . . . No Gain
No
Guts . . . . . . No Glory
No
Cross . . . . . No Crown