Thursday, May 29, 2014

Daily Thought For May 29, 2014

Don't Let People Rob You of God's Joy

     Sometimes we are particularly worried about things that are not going well around us, in our community, our family, or our church circle. We are tempted to get discouraged and give up. That is when we have to tell ourselves: whatever happens, whatever mistakes and faults are committed by this person or that, it robs us of exactly nothing. Even though we lived among people who were committing mortal sins from morning till night, that could not prevent us from loving God and serving our neighbor, or deprive us of any spiritual gift, or stop us from tending toward the fullness of love. The world could collapse around us, but it wouldn’t rob us of the possibility of praying, placing all our trust in God, and loving.
     That doesn’t mean shutting ourselves in an ivory tower and being indifferent to what is going on around us, or remain passive. When there are problems, we should want them solved, and try to see what God is asking of us. Should we intervene? Can we do something positive? If the answer is yes, it would be a sin of omission to do nothing.
     But if everything seems to be going wrong around us, it is all the more necessary to preserve our freedom to hope in God and serve him joyfully and enthusiastically. The devil often tries to discourage us and make us lose our joy in serving God. One means he uses particularly is to make us worry about everything that is not going well around us. Suppose, for example, we are living in community. To make us lose dynamism and spiritual energy, the devil will lead us to notice a host of negative things—the unfair attitudes of the people in charge, our brothers’ and sisters’ mistakes and lack of fervor, their faults (sometimes even serious ones), and so on. The weight of worry, insecurity, sadness, and discouragement will weaken our spiritual verve. What use it is to make such an effort to pray and be generous, when there are all these problems? It is a short step to lukewarmness. We must unmask this temptation and say: “No matter what happens, I’ve got nothing to lose. I need to maintain my fervor, continue to love God and pray with all my heart, and love the people I’m living with, even if I don’t know how things will turn out. I won’t be wasting my time, and it’s not wrong to try to love. Love will never be in vain.” St. John of the Cross said, “Where there is no love, put love, and you will harvest love.”
     If problems cause us to become sad and lose our fervor, we’ve solved nothing, but only added another problem to the rest. If the sins of those around us leads us to become upset and discouraged, we are helping to spread the evil more rapidly. Evil is only overcome by good, and we can only put a stop to the spread of sin by fervor, joy, and hope, doing all the good we can today without worrying about tomorrow.
     At times of struggle we need also to recall the conversion we should be concerned about is not our neighbor’s but our own. Only if we take our own conversion seriously do we stand any chance of seeing our neighbor converted too. This point of view is realistic and encouraging. We have little real influence on other people, and our attempts to change them have only a very slight chance of success, since most of the time we want them to change in line with our criteria and aims more than God’s. If we are concerned first with our own conversion, however, we have more hope of making a difference. It does more good to seek to reform our hearts than to reform the world or the Church. Everyone will benefit.
     Let us ask ourselves this question: “To what degree can the evil in my surroundings affect me?” With apologies to those I am going to scandalize, I say that the evil around us—the sins of others, of people in the Church, or society—does not become an evil for us unless we let it penetrate our hearts.
     The point isn’t that we should become indifferent. Just the opposite. The holier we are, the more we will suffer due to the evil and sin in the world. But external evil only harms us to the degree that we react badly to it, by fear, worry, discouragement, sadness, giving up, rushing to apply hasty solutions that don’t solve anything, judging, fostering bitterness and resentment, refusing to forgive, and so on.

From  Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe pp. 72-75