Excerpts from Uniformity with God’s Will by St. Alphonsus de Liguori

Here are two lovely passages from St. Alphonsus de Liguori for Wednesday’s (11/9) Ex Libris session at 7PMA printable version of this reading can be found at tinyurl.com/uniformitywill

Section 2. Uniformity in all things

The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God’s will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God. St. John of Avila used to say: “One ‘Blessed be God’ in times of adversity, is worth more than a thousand acts of gratitude in times of prosperity.”

Furthermore, we must unite ourselves to God’s will not only in things that come to us directly from his hands, such as sickness, desolation, poverty, death of relatives, but likewise in those we suffer from man—for example, contempt, injustice, loss of reputation, loss of temporal goods and all kinds of persecution. On these occasions we must remember that whilst God does not will the sin, he does will our humiliation, our poverty, or our mortification, as the case may be. It is certain and of faith, that whatever happens, happens by the will of God: “I am the Lord forming the light and creating the darkness, making peace and creating evil.” From God come all things, good as well as evil. We call adversities evil; actually they are good and meritorious, when we receive them as coming from God’s hands: “Shall there be evil in a city which the Lord hath not done?” “Good things and evil, life and death, poverty and riches are from God.”

It is true, when one offends us unjustly, God does not will his sin, nor does he concur in the sinner’s bad will; but God does, in a general way, concur in the material action by which such a one strikes us, robs us or does us an injury, so that God certainly wills the offense we suffer and it comes to us from his hands. Thus the Lord told David he would be the author of those things he would suffer at the hands of Absalom: “I will raise up evils against thee out of thy own house, and I will take thy wives before thy face and give them to thy neighbor.” Hence too God told the Jews that in punishment for their sins, he would send the Assyrians to plunder them and spread destruction among them: “The Assyrian is the rod and staff of my anger . . . I will send him to take away the spoils.” “Assyrian wickedness served as God’s scourge for the Hebrews” is St. Augustine’s comment on this text. And our Lord himself told St. Peter that his sacred passion came not so much from man as from his Father: “The chalice which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”

When the messenger came to announce to Job that the Sabeans had plundered his goods and slain his children, he said: “The Lord gave and the Lord taketh away.” He did not say: “The Lord hath given me my children and my possessions, and the Sabeans have taken them away.” He realized that adversity had come upon him by the will of God. Therefore he added: “As it hath pleased the Lord, so is it done. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” We must not therefore consider the afflictions that come upon us as happening by chance or solely from the malice of men; we should be convinced that what happens, happens by the will of God. Apropos of this it is related that two martyrs, Epictetus and Atho, being put to the torture by having their bodies raked with iron hooks and burnt with flaming torches, kept repeating: “Work thy will upon us, O Lord.” Arrived at the place of execution, they exclaimed: “Eternal God, be thou blessed in that thy will has been entirely accomplished in us.”

Cesarius points up what we have been saying by offering this incident in the life of a certain monk: Externally his religious observance was the same as that of the other monks, but he had attained such sanctity that the mere touch of his garments healed the sick. Marveling at these deeds, since his life was no more exemplary than the lives of the other monks, the superior asked him one day what was the cause of these miracles.

He replied that he too was mystified and was at a loss how to account for such happenings. “What devotions do you practice?” asked the abbot. He answered that there was little or nothing special that he did beyond making a great deal of willing only what God willed, and that God had given him the grace of abandoning his will totally to the will of God.

“Prosperity does not lift me up, nor adversity cast me down,” added the monk. “I direct all my prayers to the end that God’s will may be done fully in me and by me.” “That raid that our enemies made against the monastery the other day, in which our stores were plundered, our granaries put to the torch and our cattle driven off —did not this misfortune cause you any resentment?” queried the abbot.

“No, Father,” came the reply. “On the contrary, I returned thanks to God—as is my custom in such circumstances—fully persuaded that God does all things, or permits all that happens, for his glory and for our greater good; thus I am always at peace, no matter what happens.” Seeing such uniformity with the will of God, the abbot no longer wondered why the monk worked so many miracles.

Section 4. God wills our Good.

O the supreme folly of those who resist the divine will! In God’s providence, no one can escape hardship: “Who resisteth his will?” A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life: “Who resisteth him and hath had peace?” The screaming rage of the sick man in his pain, the whining complaints of the poor man in his destitution—what will they avail these people, except increase their unhappiness and bring them no relief? “Little man,” says St. Augustine, “grow up. What are you seeking in your search for happiness? Seek the one good that embraces all others.” Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next.

God wills only our good; God loves us more than anybody else can or does love us. His will is that no one should lose his soul, that everyone should save and sanctify his soul: “Not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance.” “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” God has made the attainment of our happiness, his glory. Since he is by his nature infinite goodness, and since as St. Leo says goodness is diffusive of itself, God has a supreme desire to make us sharers of his goods and of his happiness. If then he sends us suffering in this life, it is for our own good: “All things work together unto good.” Even chastisements come to us, not to crush us, but to make us mend our ways and save our souls: “Let us believe that these scourges of the Lord have happened for our amendment and not for our destruction.”

God surrounds us with his loving care lest we suffer eternal damnation: “O Lord, thou hast crowned us as with a shield of thy good will.” He is most solicitous for our welfare: “The Lord is solicitous for me.” What can God deny us when he has given us his own son? “He that spared not even his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how hath he not also, with him, given us all things?” Therefore we should most confidently abandon ourselves to all the dispositions of divine providence, since they are for our own good. In all that happens to us, let us say: “In peace, in the self same I will sleep, and I will rest: Because thou, O Lord, hast singularly settled me in hope.”

Let us place ourselves unreservedly in his hands because he will not fail to have care of us: “Casting all your care upon him, for he hath care of you.” Let us keep God in our thoughts and carry out his will, and he will think of us and of our welfare. Our Lord said to St. Catherine of Siena, “Daughter, think of me, and I will always think of you.” Let us often repeat with the Spouse in the Canticle: “My beloved to me, and I to him.”

St. Niles, abbot, used to say that our petitions should be, not that our wishes be done, but that God’s holy will should be fulfilled in us and by us. When, therefore, something adverse happens to us, let us accept it from his hands, not only patiently, but even with gladness, as did the apostles “who went from the presence of the council rejoicing, that they were accounted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus.” What greater consolation can come to a soul than to know that by patiently bearing some tribulation, it gives God the greatest pleasure in its power? Spiritual writers tell us that though the desire of certain souls to please God by their sufferings is acceptable to him, still more pleasing to him is the union of certain others with his will, so that their will is neither to rejoice nor to suffer, but to hold themselves completely amenable to his will, and they desire only that his holy will be fulfilled.

If, devout soul, it is your will to please God and live a life of serenity in this world, unite yourself always and in all things to the divine will. Reflect that all the sins of your past wicked life happened because you wandered from the path of God’s will. For the future, embrace God’s good pleasure and say to him in every happening: “Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in thy sight.” When anything disagreeable happens, remember it comes from God and say at once, “This comes from God” and be at peace: “I was dumb and opened not my mouth, because thou hast done it.” Lord, since thou hast done this, I will be silent and accept it. Direct all your thoughts and prayers to this end, to beg God constantly in meditation, Communion, and visits to the Blessed Sacrament that he help you accomplish his holy will. Form the habit of offering yourself frequently to God by saying, “My God, behold me in thy presence; do with me and all that I have as thou pleasest.” This was the constant practice of St. Teresa. At least fifty times a day she offered herself to God, placing herself at his entire disposition and good pleasure.

How fortunate you, kind reader, if you too act thus! You will surely become a saint. Your life will be calm and peaceful; your death will be happy. At death all our hope of salvation will come from the testimony of our conscience as to whether or not we are dying resigned to God’s will. If during life we have embraced everything as coming from God’s hands, and if at death we embrace death in fulfillment of God’s holy will, we shall certainly save our souls and die the death of saints. Let us then abandon everything to God’s good pleasure, because being infinitely wise, he knows what is best for us; and being all-good and all-loving—having given his life for us—he wills what is best for us. Let us, as St. Basil counsels us, rest secure in the conviction that beyond the possibility of a doubt, God works to effect our welfare, infinitely better than we could ever hope to accomplish or desire it ourselves.

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