On perfection, tribulations, and the plan of God: Joseph of Egypt
St.Joseph in the Old Testament prefigures Christ. Like Christ, he was most beloved of his father. Like Christ, he was betrayed by his own people. Like Christ, he was taken into Egypt. Like Christ, he was unfairly accused. Like Christ, he was imprisoned unfairly. Like Christ, he was given supernatural gifts and insight. Like Christ, he was raised up. Like Christ, he saved his people. Like Christ, he forgave those who hated him.
He could be called the patron saint of tribulation. As we shall see in the quotation below, God forestalls granting us the answers to our prayers in order to make us perfect. God knows what we need to do and endure in order to have all the nooks and crannies of our hearts and minds purified.
Joseph mourning the death of his father, the Patriarch Jacob
This happens again in the Illuminative State. It happened to St. Joseph, the Patriarch.
This is the hardest part of the road to heaven-trials. And, the worst are those over which we have no control.
Severe illness, serious financial difficulties, the death of a loved one, even losing years of work in a job left incomplete can cause terrible stress. Stress comes from fear, the fear that God does not love us or will not help us.
Stress is not a sin but it is an imperfection.The more we trust, the less stress we experience and overcome. If we truly have confidence in God, we no longer have doubting stress, but we do have suffering. It does not matter how we feel, but how we believe.
If God allows terrible suffering, here are some words from St. Claude de la Columbiere to help us..
There is a mystery of Faith here in suffering.
If you would be convinced that in all He allows and in all that happens to you God has no other end in view but your real advantage and your eternal happiness, reflect a moment on all He has done for you; you are now suffering, but remember that the author of this suffering is He who chose to spend His life suffering to save you from everlasting suffering, whose angel is always at your side guarding your body and soul by His order, who sacrifices Himself daily on the altar to expiate your sins and appease His Father's anger, who comes lovingly to you in the Holy Eucharist and whose greatest pleasure is to be united to you. We must be very ungrateful to mistrust Him after He has shown such proofs of His love and to imagine that He can intend us harm. But, you will say, this blow is a cruel one, He strikes too hard. What have you to fear from a hand that was pierced and nailed to the cross for you? -- The path I have to tread is full of thorns. If there is no other to reach heaven by, do you prefer to perish forever rather than to suffer for a time? Is it not the same path He trod before you out of love for you? Is there a thorn in it that He has not reddened with His own blood? -- The chalice He offers you is a bitter one. But remember that it is your Redeemer who offers it. Loving you as He does, could He bring Himself to treat you so severely if the need were not urgent, the gain not worthwhile? Can we dare to refuse the chalice He has prepared for us Himself?
Reflect well on this. It should be enough to make us accept and love whatever trials He intends we should suffer. Moreover it is the certain means of securing our happiness in this life quite apart from the next.
Joseph was sold into slavery and thrown into prison. If he had felt aggrieved at these apparent misfortunes, he would really have been feeling aggrieved at his happiness for they were the steps to the throne of Egypt.
Let us imagine our confusion when we appear before God and understand the reasons why He sent us the crosses we accept so unwillingly. The death of a child will then be seen as its rescue from some great evil had it lived, separation from the woman you love the means of saving you from an unhappy marriage, a severe illness the reason for many years of life afterwards, loss of money the means of saving your soul from eternal loss. So what are we worried about? God is looking after us and yet we are full of anxiety! We trust ourselves to a doctor because we suppose he knows his business. He orders an operation which involves cutting away part of our body and we accept it. We are grateful to him and pay him a large fee because we judge he would not act as he does unless the remedy were necessary, and we must rely on his skill. Yet we are unwilling to treat God in the same way! It looks as if we do not trust His wisdom and are afraid He cannot do His job properly. We allow ourselves to be operated on by a man who may easily make a mistake -- a mistake which may cost us our life -- and protest when God sets to work on us.
If we could see all He sees we would unhesitatingly wish all He wishes. We would beg Him on bended knees for those afflictions we now ask Him to spare us. To all of us He addresses the words spoken to the Sons of Zebeedee: You know not what you ask -- O blind of heart, your ignorance saddens me. Let me manage your affairs and look after your interests. I know what you need better than you do yourselves.
Let us now suppose that by these reflections and the help of God you have freed yourself from all worldly desires and can now say to yourself: All is vanity and nothing can satisfy my heart. The things that I so earnestly desire may not be at all the things that will bring me happiness. It is difficult for me to distinguish what is good from what is harmful because good and evil are nearly always mixed, and what was good for yesterday may be bad for today.
My desires are only a source of worry and my efforts to realize them mostly end in failure. After all, the will of God is bound to prevail in the end. Nothing can be done without His command, and He cannot ordain anything that is not for my good.
After this let us suppose that you turn to God with blind trust and surrender yourself unconditionally and unreservedly to Him, entirely resolved to put aside your own hopes and fears; in short, determined to wish nothing except what He wishes and to wish all that He wishes. From this moment you will acquire perfect liberty and will never again be able to feel troubled or uneasy, and there is no power on earth capable of doing you violence or giving you a moment's unrest.
You may object that a person on whom both good and evil make the same impression is a pure fiction. It is nothing of the kind. I know people who are just as happy if they are sick or if they are well, if they are badly off or they are well off. I know some who even prefer illness and poverty to health and riches.
Moreover it is all the more remarkable that the more we submit to God's will, the more He tries to meet our wishes. It would seem that as soon as we make it our sole aim to obey Him, He on His part does His best to try and please us.Not only does He answer our prayers but He even forestalls them by granting the very desires we have endeavored to stifle in our hearts in order to please Him, and granting them in a measure we had never imagined.
Finally, the happiness of the person whose will is entirely submitted to God's is constant, unchangeable and endless. No fear comes to disturb it for no accident can destroy it. He is like a man seated on a rock in the middle of the ocean who looks on the fury of the waves without dismay and can amuse himself watching and counting them as they roar and break at his feet. Whether the sea is calm or rough, whichever way the waves are carried by the wind is a matter of indifference to him, for the place where he is is firm and unshakeable.
That is the reason for the peaceful and untroubled expression we find on the faces of those who have dedicated themselves to God.
This calm and perfect trust comes in the Illuminative State. To be continued....