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[1.]"
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