Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Our readings today show two stories of evil perpetrated. The question on many of our minds is how is there evil and suffering in the world, when we believe in an all-good, all-powerful, and all-loving God. It's really the most tangible and the only legitimate argument against the existence of God, and it has been around forever. St. Thomas Aquinas' answer follows St. Augustine before him, and he states, " As Augustine says (Enchir. xi): Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil. This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good."* We experience evil and suffering in the world, but we also experience in our lives how God brings about good from it; not just good but a greater good.
Look at our saint today, the evil and suffering that St. Patrick endured for love of God became the transformation of an island of pagan druids. This island became a powerful hub of Christian evangelization for centuries to come. Joseph in our first reading endured suffering and evil at the hands of his brothers and God brought about through him the salvation of his brothers and the whole empire from famine. Our Gospel is a parable that tells the story of Jesus. The greatest evil committed and the greatest suffering endured was Jesus, the God-Man, dying on the Cross. God, from this greatest of evils brings forth the salvation of the world, the opening of Heaven, and the reconciliation of sinful man with the God of Love.
As St. Paul writes, "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." Will we keep our eyes on Heaven and trust in the God who is love, to bring about in our daily suffering and struggle the good of our salvation, the grace of our sanctification, and the salvation of others?
*Thomas Aquinas. (I q.2 a.3 ad 1). Summa theologica. (Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Trans.). London: Burns Oates & Washbourne.
In whom do you place your trust? Our first reading from Jeremiah shows us that those who trust in the Lord are like trees planted beside waters with roots stretching to the stream. That is for us a picture of grace. Trust in the Lord places us next to the living stream of His grace. The tentacles of our heart plunge into this grace and deepens that trust.
I'm convinced that trust is the name of the game when it comes to living the spiritual life well. Since the garden of paradise when our first parents sinned and then hid from God; God has been trying for all of salvation history to get us to trust Him. We are skittish creatures. It is so important to God to get us to trust Him and His ways that He even became one of us, and offered Himself for us on the Cross as expiation for our sins. Then He conquered sin and death by His resurrection. What keeps you from trusting more deeply in God?
If you want to grow in trust, then make acts of trust to God each day. When you notice anxiety or doubt or fear creep into your life, immediately close your eyes and pray, "Jesus, I Trust in You," a few times. Pray each morning for a deeper trust. Each day, entrust yourself to the God who loves you enough to give His life for yours. See if your trust doesn't deepen.
Pride goeth before the fall. C.S. Lewis says that humility is looking more at God than at ourselves. The Pharisees were more interested in how they are in other's peoples eyes instead of how they are in God's eyes. How often we too care more about how we appear to others than how we really are in God's eyes. It is not prideful to acknowledge our gifts. It is prideful to imagine they have been given to us in order to make us better off than others. They have been given to us in order to serve others - God leaves that to our choice. Should we choose to exalt ourselves we will be humbled. But if we humble ourselves, God will exalt us.
All our gifts are from God, everything is grace, and our gifts must be used to build up others and the Kingdom of God. We begin to be fully alive when we use our gifts wisely for giving glory to God. We are able to escape the trappings of ego-comparison, which never leads to true happiness. We can focus on how we can use our gifts to build others up and the Kingdom of God, and not to tie up heavy burdens. This is what it means to live humbly and to experience true freedom. It matters not what others think of us, but only what God knows of us, which is the truth. The more we keep our eyes fixed on Christ and put our gifts at the service of God and others, the more free, humble, and happy we will be.
Daily Lenten reflections by Father Browning.