Let God Take Everything

do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, 
as though something strange were happening to you. 
But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, 
that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 
1 Peter 4:12-13  

It is in these strange times that we find ourselves.  But, let us take counsel from the Prince of the Apostles, in his first Epistle to the Church, for it is there that we will find the wisdom we need:

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, 
for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 
so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions 
but by the will of God.
1 Peter 4:1-2 

The Church acknowledges and teaches, both in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, that suffering is tied to sin and can be embraced as reparation for sins, both those which we ourselves have committed and those which have been committed by others.

In her prayers and Rituals, the Church clearly teaches that the sufferings mankind endures is an expression of God's anger at sin.  Acts of charity, generosity, worship, and penance have been called for, in the Old Testament and in the New, by Moses and by the Church, to avert God's anger and make satisfaction for the injustice of sin, thus bringing peace upon our lands.

When Our Lord entered the Holy City of Jerusalem, He punished those who disobeyed the commands regarding the Temple, making a whip and turning over the tables of the money-changers.  He had long known of their sins, but waited, out of mercy, before punishing them.

When Our Lord looked upon this Holy City, He lamented its infidelity, and proclaimed:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, 
killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! 
How often would I have gathered your children together 
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, 
and you would not! 
Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.”
Matthew 23:37-39

When Our Lord discussed certain local calamities that had befallen the Jews in His time, He made it clear that punishments come from God as a result of sin:

And he answered them, 
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, 
because they suffered thus? 
I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Silo′am fell and killed them, 
do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? 
I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Luke 13:2-5

What are some of the reasons that God permits us to suffer?
- to purify us from the effects of sin
- to make us depend more heavily on Him
- to make us holier, by embracing our cross in imitation of the Son of God
- to warn us of the consequence of sin, which is eternal death and suffering
- to punish us for pushing Him away and glorifying ourselves instead 

In this context, let us recall a few things:
- God made the world as the place for us to come to know, love, and serve Him, that, by His grace, we may come to live with Him forever in Heaven.
- Man chose to reject God and do as he saw pleasing in his own eyes.
- As a loving Father, God punished man to wake him from his slumber in sin and rouse him to right reason and right action.
- The world in which we, personally, now live is fallen - a realm of darkness and temptation, into which the Light of Christ has been cast, that the realm of darkness may behold this great Light and return to grace and Truth.

We live in this fallen world, where the Light of Christ is like sparks scattered about in the night.  This Light, sadly, does not burn blazing in many parts of the earth, for man serves himself and seeks what is pleasing in his own eyes.

We live in a land of decadence and relativism.  We have regarded ourselves as the giver of every gift and the arbiter of truth and justice.  We, as a whole, and as our actions reveal, do not have any practical need for God, it would seem.

Despite this dark and bleak diagnosis, the One True God is still God and still loves us the same as He did the moment He foresaw every one of us in Adam and Eve.  He still pursues our hearts and seeks that all men will come to know Him and be saved.

God does not give up on man, but man can give up on God, dying in sin after a life of selfishness and conceit.

Here, in this time of pandemic, we are confronted with two harsh realities:
- the worldwide spread of a new and dangerous virus, which threatens to kill a great number of people, and
- the potential for a worldwide, and locally-impacted, economic collapse and societal destabilization.

In the face of these two awe-inspiring and foreboding realities, we are forced to ponder where God is in the midst of this.  The idea that God is punishing the world is now, in this generation, which has suffered from a grave deficiency in catechesis, seen as a foreign concept.

Most desire to dismiss it as a natural occurrence, something that happens every one hundred years or so, or as something that mankind is destined to be able to control once we become sophisticated and advanced enough in our technology.

Yet, if the Lord Jesus Christ truly is the One True God, then He who warned us of sin and the punishment that will come in response to it, will indeed mete out a just punishment to the world.  Our Lord chastises His children all the time - but the chastisement of the whole world must cause us great pause.

But recall, too, that the whole purpose of punishment from God is the same as that from a parent:  amendment of life, not injury.

As I have reflected on this present situation, I have asked myself many questions:
- How deeply has the secularism of this culture infected the lives and practices of Christians?
- How peripheral has Our Lord become, and have Christians themselves made Him?
- Is God now just an "add-on," an "extra," a "nice to have" but not necessary?
- Are we truly grateful for the material blessings that God has allowed us to accumulate?
- Have we become so materially focused and materially fulfilled that we no longer feel we need God?

It is the last two questions that have hit a nerve or, perhaps, have been sent by the Holy Spirit.  

This age of technology and progress has been accompanied by a shocking rise in sin and disregard for religion and worship.  We have embraced a new destiny, introduced new moralities and foreign and totally novel views of human nature.  We have struck out on our own and have become masters of our lives and our futures.  We have begun to adore our own creations, ignoring the blessings of God.

In this pandemic, we are forced to consider the possibility that the culture and society as we know it could pass away.  Historians have longed warned us that, like all great societies, a collapse is not only a potential but a likely reality at some point, particularly given the moral and material decadence which characterizes a culture like ours today.

But, as followers of Christ, as His servants, and as children of God, are we willing to embrace, without complaint or loss of trust in God, whatever He sends us, even unto the collapse of our society?

God is permitting this virus to bring the world to a halt - it is His will.

How would we react if He were to allow it to go further?  What if the internet went down - for good?  What if the supply chains were not simply disrupted but were broken?  What if electricity went out?  What if the economy completely collapsed and the functioning of government went with it?

We must remember that all of the blessings of nature, supplied as they are by God, are still fragile and temporary.  They exist, and are sustained, by the will of God who allows these things to be.

All things depend on God - on His creative act, His will to create, and His will to sustain life as it is.  Thus,
1) If we have begun to think that we don't really need God, and
2) if God really loves us,
then we should both expect, and see this coronavirus as, a chastisement.

Truly, then, it is a gift.

It would be a gift for us to lose all things.
It would be a gift for us to be brought to our knees before Him.
It would be a gift for us to be humbled, to be brought low from our thrones of self-exaltation.
It would be a gift to be reminded that we are mere creatures, who owe thanks to God every second of every day, for our life, breath, heat, food, clothing, shelter, and, above all else, the gift of grace.

The only problem will be if, when we are brought low, we have no love for God in our hearts.

Consider your own readiness if God were to treat you like Job.  

Would you regard it as unfair?  Would you be angry with God?   Would you, truly, be justified in issuing any complaint against God?

Behind our resistance to His purification, His pruning, His chastisement for sin, is the practical manifestation, by the manner in which we carry ourselves, that we believe we have no sin.

Do we regard ourselves as without flaw, in a moral sense?
Do we see ourselves as owing God nothing?
Do we believe that we are but bodies that will perish in the end and drift away like dust, never to live again?


...do we believe in One God, the Father, the Almighty, the maker of Heaven and earth?
...do we believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, 
rose again from the dead 
and is seated at the right hand of the Father? ...do we believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church,
 the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
 the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

If we do, then we must take up this Holy Week as a moment to ready ourselves for God's potential request, that we forsake all things and follow Him, for His words to the rich young man are everlasting:

If you would be perfect, 
sell what you possess
 and give to the poor, 
and you will have treasure in heaven; 
and come, follow me. 
Matthew 19:21

Therefore, we must look about our possessions and, at least in our hearts, say goodbye to them.  Let them go.  Tell them you do not serve them, but they serve you, and you serve the Good and Gracious God, whose grace is sufficient.  Release your reliance on them.  Cut your attachments to them.  Ask the Holy Spirit to slay your vices and kindle the virtues of your soul which He first infused there at your Baptism. 

Stare out at this bleak world, which serves a grueling master, and is a slave to its possessions.  See how that world cowers in the face of this chastisement.  

But you, a son of God, cling only to Him.  Therefore, you are even more in a spirit of rejoicing in God, for you are being called to rely on Him more fully than before, as the world is being shaken to remember its true God before it is too late.

As Sara said, in the book of Tobit, so let us all heed:

But this every one is sure of that worshippeth Thee, 
that his life, if it be under trial, shall be crowned: 
and if it be under tribulation, it shall be delivered: 
and if it be under correction, it shall be allowed to come to Thy mercy.
For Thou art not delighted in our being lost: 
because after a storm 
Thou makest a calm, 
and after tears and weeping 
Thou pourest in joyfulness.
Be Thy name, O God of Israel, blessed for ever.
Tobit 3:21-23

What was Our Lord's disposition toward the Cross that His Father presented to Him?  From a popular Stations of the Cross booklet, we read:

"When our divine Saviour beheld the cross, He most willingly stretched out His bleeding arms, lovingly embraced it, and tenderly kissed it, and placing it on His bruised shoulders, He, although almost exhausted, joyfully carried it."

This is the manifestation of Our Lord's willingness, and desire, to suffer that we might be saved:

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that made us whole,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:5-6 

St. Paul teaches, stating this to be a "faithful saying":

If we have died with him, we shall also live with him;
 if we suffer, we shall also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:11-13

To us, the Master says, 
"Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple....So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has, cannot be My disciple."
Luke 14: 27, 33 

Let us all respond to His grace and His call, and be His true and devoted disciples.


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