Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tribulation and Struggle

Tribulation and Struggle

It’s amazing to see just how many people seek an easy out of any tough situation these days. Whether’s its held under the banner of being “non-confrontational” or a genuine attempt at apathy, no one seems to try anymore. Sadly, many Christians have succumbed to this but, this is nothing new under the sun. Since the very first centuries, Christians have been finding ways to shrug off struggle and tribulation for comfort and ease. But Christ did not promise us a life free of suffering, free of strife. In Saint John’s Gospel, Christ speaks frankly on this matter, saying, we are to endure all manner of pain in this life, but in Hope, and Faith. This is a mark of a Christian, to bear the world’s scorn in Peace.

John 16:33
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

This seems like an impossible task for anyone, when our natural inclination is to kick the dust in front of us, complain, and be miserable in our endurance of whatever unpleasant ness may come our way. Some of us may even just call it quits (God forbid by taking our own life but, it can be as casual as numbing ourselves by frivolous entertainment).
The first step is accepting that we are called to face our afflictions and not avoid them (Baby steps, even the Desert Fathers would endorse). In doing this, we have done probably the hardest part, and have begun to open our heart and minds to the Holy Spirit.

A man of our day, Saint Padre Pio the Wonderworker was no stranger to the struggles of this life. He fought demons, he endured scorn and envy, was afflicted by physical pain, and bore unnumbered sorrows of the heart. But his teaching to those around him was very clear. Our life, as little imitators of Christ, is to endure in humility, everything the world has to throw at us, to our full measure. Whether it is the slander from lips of our brothers and sisters, the effects of disease and imperfection from the fall, or the assaults of the enemy.

However hard it may be, the seeking of worldly comfort and avoidance of pain is not congruent with a Life in Christ as Padre Pio explains:
“We must humble ourselves on seeing how little self-control we have and how much we love comfort and rest. Always keep Christ before your gaze; He did not come to rest nor to be comfortable either in spiritual or temporal matters, but to fight, to mortify Himself and to die.”

In order to sanctify ourselves, and climb the Divine Ladder, we must endure struggle:
“The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain.”

The more afflictions we bear and pass through in faith and hope, the greater we grow in our relationship with Christ. We enjoin ourselves further and further into His life, by suffering as He did:
"The more you are afflicted, the more you ought to rejoice, because in the fire of tribulation the soul will become pure gold, worthy to be placed and to shine in the heavenly palace.”

Only at our death will we be freed of struggle. Until then we must never give up the fight. As Saint Anastasius the Persian said to the Sassanian Shah Khoserau before his death, “We Christians fall, and we get up, and we fall and get up again, and we do this until our deaths, praying that we die standing on our feet.” May we struggle to the end in Hope and Joy.

Advent is upon us, let us look again at our relationships with Christ and His Body, preparing ourselves rightfully for the coming feast of the Word made Flesh, by taking up our crosses with a renewed vigor.

God Keep You All!

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