Sunday, March 4, 2012

Changing Our Outlook on Life’s Trials

Changing Our Outlook on Life’s Trials
Matthew James Bellisario 2012

“Our present life is given only to gain the eternal one and if we don't think about it, we build our affections on what belongs to this world, where our life is transitory. When we have to leave it we are afraid and become agitated. Believe me, to live happily in this pilgrimage, we have to aim at the hope of arriving at our Homeland, where we will stay eternally. Meanwhile we have to believe firmly that God calls us to Himself and follows us along the path towards Him. He will never permit anything to happen to us that is not for our greater good. He knows who we are and He will hold out His paternal hand to us during difficulties, so that nothing prevents us from running to Him swiftly. But to enjoy this grace we must have complete trust in Him.” (Saint Padre Pio)

    We all have trials and disappointments in life. Our plans often go awry in the midst of our day to day lives. Things we have worked hard for, are sometimes denied us by the unjust acts of others. People who we have thought to be friends turn out to be only passing acquaintances and sometimes later our enemies. Our jobs often seem to be more stressful day by day. On the other side of the coin there are many who long to be employed who are not able to find employment. We or our loved ones experience illnesses or suffering and there comes a time when we lose our loved ones. It seems that we have no shortage of hardships, disappointments and challenges that we must deal with throughout our lives. Most of the time we think that our situation is worse than it actually is, while sometimes it is quite justified to be dismayed at the situation we find ourselves in. The key however is not that we must contend with such things, but it is how we contend with them that matters. This can be done in one of two ways. It can be done in bitterness, anger and contempt, often bringing out the worst in us, or it can be done in the manner of Our Divine Savior Jesus Christ, which is in humility.

    It may be true that we have been treated unjustly by someone. Yet, how is it that we expect to be treated any different than how Christ was treated by others? Are we better than the master? Do we somehow think that life will always be fair for us? The fact is first and foremost that we are not even worthy of comparing ourselves with Our Lord, given the fact that we are mere prideful and sinful men, who even when wronged by others, have often been on the other side of the act of wronging. Do we forget that God, the creator of mankind actually gave Himself over to the whims of men? How could The Savior humble Himself to the wretched ungrateful men who spit in His face, whipped him like a criminal and then cruelly nailed Him to a cross only to be mocked further by more insolent, arrogant and foolish men? Would not any one of us have given ourselves over to revenge? Would we not have come down off of that cross and cursed everyone one of them to the fires of hell with one wave of our hands if we had such power? Of course we would have. When I was a child watching the TV series ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ I could never figure out why Jesus did not just come down off of that cross and strike everyone of those arrogant men down with a flurry of lighting bolts. The humility of Christ was something that I could not understand until much later in life. Yet, at times even today, I find myself wanting to strike down those who I have perceived to have wronged me, rather than follow the path that Christ desires. Most surely, the gates of heaven would never have been open had it been left to the malice and arrogance of men such as myself.

    As Christians we are able to access this humble type of love that Christ demonstrated on the cross, through His grace. We are able to pray, receive Him in the Sacraments, and imitate His life as our own. In Christ we are able to expel our animosity towards those who have metaphorically spit in our faces or have maliciously stepped on our backs for personal gain. Is our plight so bad compared to what Christ allowed Himself to be put through? The words of Our Lady to Saint Bernadette come to mind, and we would do well to remember them, "I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but in the next." We are not put on this earth by God to get everything we want or seemingly deserve. I recall the words of a sermon I heard when I was only about 5 or 6 years old, “Not everything comes to us in nice neat little packages with a pretty red bow on top!” In the end, if we face reality, the only thing that each of us deserves in the grand scheme of things is eternal damnation. We must realize that every injustice or trial that we receive is really a blessing in disguise. The trials that we go through, if we allow them to, bring us closer to God, and closer to our time of salvation.

    If we change the way we look upon life’s trials and challenges, we will be able to live in the peace of Christ Our Lord. The image of Christ being betrayed by those who called themselves His friends will come to resonate deeper with us. His closest friends all bolted on Him when His time of final trial came to Him. Could anyone have more deserved to have loyal friends than Our Savior, who gave His life over for each of them? How sad He must have been to see them all abandon Him. Yet, we who often treat others with contempt or a lack of charity, and then have the audacity to complain when others treat us with the same attitude? We must forgive and move on in the grace and joy of Christ, or die in our own hate and contempt. There is a choice before us each day when we rise. We can either curse the darkness and the trials that face us, or we can turn our hearts to God and carry our tiny crosses behind His. And, if we look closely enough with grace filled hearts, we will find that Christ is really dragging all of us and our tiny crosses behind His. When we keep our eyes on the Savior, we begin to loose our anger, animosity and resentments. Joy, peace, zeal, and confidence is ours when we place ourselves in the light of Christ. We know not how much time we have left in our lives. Let us not pass up the opportunity to grow closer to God in our trials. Let our lives be in constant prayer and thanksgiving to Christ Our Lord. “And that knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed.”
(Romans 13:11)

“Whenever you are seized by melancholy, let your thoughts dwell on that fateful night on which the Son of God began the work of redemption in the solitude of Gethsemane and offer your own sufferings to the Divine Father, along with the sufferings of Jesus." (Saint Padre Pio)

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