Archbishop Leonard P. Blair
Let me share with you some spiritual wisdom from a great bishop, St. Francis de Sales. When we face some trial or tribulation, he says this:
The everlasting God has in his wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that he now presents to you as a gift of his inmost heart. The cross he now sends you he has considered with his all-knowing eyes, understood with his divine mind, tested with his wise justice, warmed with loving arms, and weighed with his own hands to see that it is not one inch too large nor one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with his holy name, anointed it with his grace, perfumed it with his consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.
Only Easter and the faith it inspires make it possible to view the sufferings of life from this perspective. That is why we need to pray as the apostles did: “Lord, increase our faith!” (Lk 17:5)
We cannot stop there, however. Our sufferings are meant to draw us into greater solidarity with one another. Experiencing life’s crosses makes it possible for us to be compassionate. When our faith is strengthened as a result, then we have something precious to share with our neighbor.
Today, our neighbor is very much in need. A modern spiritual writer puts it this way: Our contemporaries are weary of weavers of words, of projects and promises, and of programs. They are looking for prophets and saints. Even when they do not articulate it in this way, they are thirsting. They are asking who will speak to them of God from a heart overflowing with the light and love of the Holy Spirit.
Many of the people we brush shoulders with every day are hungry and thirsty for “light and love.” They are looking for the compassion of “prophets and saints.” If we truly love our neighbor, we cannot be satisfied with providing only for their material needs, as essential as that is. As Pope Benedict pointed out in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est, “Often the deepest cause of suffering is the very absence of God … [A] pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in whom we believe and by whom we are driven to love.” (no. 31) This is echoed in Pope Francis’ description of the Church as “a field hospital for the wounded.”
How important it is for us to share our faith with others to help them in their struggles and sufferings! This “spiritual charity” can be a simple word or gesture of kindness, sympathy, comfort or hospitality inspired by faith. It can be a promise of our prayers, or even an invitation to pray or worship with us. In a larger context, “prophets and saints” also have something to say about the life of society and the way we treat one another.
When it comes to “speaking of God from a heart overflowing with the light and love of the Holy Spirit,” the responsibility rests with all of us. By virtue of baptism and confirmation, each and every member of the Church not just clergy and religious are sent into the world as witnesses to Christ. We are all on a mission of love and compassion, rooted in our strong faith that to rise with Christ we must also be prepared to carry a cross with him. This is an essential part of a Catholic understanding of “evangelization.”
Recently, we celebrated Pentecost, the great feast of the Holy Spirit. May it serve to strengthen us to take up life’s crosses with faith, to renew our awareness of our mission of solidarity and compassion, and to recommit ourselves to that mission with enthusiasm from a heart overflowing with the light and love of the Holy Spirit.