Correspondence with grace: the ninth Sunday after Pentecost
By Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalene OCD | 3 August 2022
O Lord, grant that Your grace in me may not be void.
Today, the liturgy invites us to consider the grave problem of our correspondence with grace. It does this by showing us the sad picture of the sufferings of Israel, the chosen people, upon whom God had showered His benefits, whom He had surrounded with graces, protected with jealous care, and who, in spite of all this, were lost through their own infidelity. In the Epistle (1 Cor 10:6–13), St Paul, after mentioning certain points about Israel’s unfaithfulness, concludes: “Now all these things happened to them in figure, and they are written for our correction. … Wherefore, he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall.” This is a strong call to vigilance and humility.
If God has gone before us with His graces, if He has called us to a more intense interior life and to closer intimacy with Himself, all this, far from making us presumptuous, should deepen our humility of heart. God’s gifts are preserved beneath the ashes of humble mistrust of self. Woe to us if we consider ourselves henceforth free from the weaknesses which we meet — and perhaps condemn — in others! Rather let us humbly say: “Lord, help me, or I shall do worse.” At the same time that he exhorts us to be humble, St Paul also urges us to have confidence, because “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it.” The Apostle is telling us that the knowledge of our weakness should not discourage us, because God is always ready to sustain us with His grace. God knows our weaknesses, the struggles we have to undergo, and the temptations that assail us; and for each of them He gives us the measure of grace we need in order to triumph over them. It is very true that when the storm is raging we can feel only the impact of the struggle, and the grace that God is giving to help us remains completely hidden; nevertheless, this grace is there and we should be certain of it, because “God isfaithful.” “God has always helped me …” St Thérése of the Child Jesus said, “I count on His aid. My sufferings may reach even greater heights, but I am sure He will not abandon me.”
The Gospel (Lk 19:41–47) continues the same subject of the Epistle and shows us Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. The Creator, the Lord, the Redeemer weeps over the ruin of His creatures, the people whom He has loved with predilection, even choosing them as the companions of His earthly life, and whom He had desired to save at any price.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often would I have gathered together thy children as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not!” (Mt 23:37). This was the constant attitude of Jesus toward the holy city, but it always remained blind to every light, deaf to every invitation, and the Saviour, shortly before going to His Passion, broke forth into His last sorrowful admonition: “If thou also hadst known and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace!” But again the city resists, and Jesus, after having loved it so much, and after having wept over it as a mother weeps over her son who has gone astray, predicts its ruin: “Thy enemies … shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone, because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation.”
Do you know how to recognise the moments in which Our Lord visits your soul? A word read or heard, perhaps even by chance, an edifying example, an interior inspiration, a new light which makes you see your faults more clearly and opens new horizons of virtue and of good — all are visits from Jesus. And you, how do you correspond? Is your soul sensitive to these lights, to these admonitions? Do you not sometimes turn your gaze away, fearing that the light you have glimpsed may ask you for sacrifices which are too painful for your self-love?
Oh! if you had always recognised the moment in which the Lord visited you! If you had always been open to His action! Try then to begin again today, resolve to commence anew each time that you happen to give in to nature. “The things that are to your peace”, your good, your sanctification, are precisely here, in this continual adherence to the impulses of grace.
“As I have already confessed to You, O glory of my life, O Lord God, strength of my salvation, I have sometimes placed my hopes in my own virtue, which was no virtue; and when I attempted to run, thinking I was very strong, I fell very quickly and went backward instead of forward. What I expected to reach, disappeared, and thus, O Lord, in various ways You have tested my powers. With light from You, I now see that I could not accomplish by myself the things that I wanted to do most. I said to myself, ‘I shall do this, I shall finish that’, and I did not do either the one or the other. The will was there but not the power, and if the power was there, my will was not; this because I had trusted in my own strength. Sustain me then, O Lord, for alone I can do nothing. However, when You are my stability, then it is true stability; but when I am my own stability, then it is weakness.” (St Augustine)
“O Lord, teach me to be always docile to Your grace, to say ‘yes’ to You always. To say ‘yes’ to Your will as expressed in the commandments; to say ‘yes ’to the intimate inspirations by which You invite me to a more intense union, to more generous self-denial and more complete detachment. Grant that I may always be ready to open the door of my will to You, or rather, to keep it open always, so that You can enter there, and thus I shall not miss a single one of Your visits, a single one of Your delicate touches; not one of Your requests will escape me.
“Make me understand well that true peace does not consist in being exempt from difficulties or in following my own wishes, but in total adherence to Your will, and in docility to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.” (cf. Sr Carmela of the Holy Spirit OCD)