Rejoice always, pray constantly
and give thanks in all situations,
for this is the will of God
for you in Christ Jesus.”
SINCE I wrote you last, our lives have descended into chaos as we have begun the move from one province to another. On top of that, unexpected expenses and repairs have cropped up amidst the usual struggle with contractors, deadlines, and broken supply chains. Yesterday, I finally blew a gasket and had to go for a long drive.
After a brief pouting session, I realized I had lost perspective; I have been caught up in the temporal, distracted by details, dragged into the vortex of others’ dysfunction (as well as my own). As tears streamed down my face, I sent a voice message to my sons and apologized for losing my cool. I had lost the one essential thing — that thing that the Father has repeatedly and quietly asked of me for years:
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [that you need] will be given you besides. (Matt 6:33)
In truth, the past few months I have observed how living and praying “in the Divine Will” has brought a tremendous harmony, even amidst trials.cf. How to Live in the Divine Will But when I begin the day in my will (even if I think my will is crucial), everything seems to slide downhill from there. What a simple directive: Seek first the Kingdom of God. For me, that means beginning my day in communion with God in prayer; it then means doing the duty of each moment, which is the express will of the Father for my life and vocation.
THE PHONE CALL
As I was driving, I received a phone call from the Basilian priest Fr. Clair Watrin whom many of us consider a living saint. He was very active in grassroots movements in Western Canada and spiritual director to many. Whenever I went to confession with him, I was always moved to tears just by the presence of Jesus in him. He is over 90 years old now, confined in a senior’s home (they won’t let them visit others now because of “Covid”, the flu, etc., which is frankly cruel), and thus living in an institutionalized prison, bearing his own struggles. But then he said to me,
…and yet, I am amazed at how God has been so good to me, how much He loves me and has given me the gift of the True Faith. All we have is the present moment, right now, as we talk to each other on the phone. This is where God is, in the present; this is all we have since we may not have tomorrow.
He went on to speak of the mystery of suffering, which made me recall what our parish priest said on Good Friday:
Jesus did not die to save us from suffering; He died to save us through suffering.
And here we come then to St. Paul’s Little Way. Of this scripture, Fr. Clair said, “Trying to live this Scripture has changed my life”:
Rejoice always, pray constantly and give thanks in all situations, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1Thessalonians 5:16)
If we are to “seek first the Kingdom of God”, then this scripture is the way…
ST. PAUL’S LITTLE WAY
How does one rejoice over suffering, whether it is physical, mental, or spiritual? The answer is two-fold. The first is that nothing happens to us that is not the permissive Will of God. But why would God allow me to suffer, especially when it’s really, really painful? The answer is that Jesus came to save us through our suffering. He told His Apostles: “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me…” John 4:34 And then Jesus showed us the way through His own suffering.
The strongest thing which binds the soul is to dissolve her will in Mine. —Jesus to Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta, March 18th, 1923, Vol. 15
The second answer to this mystery is perspective. If I focus on the misery, injustice, inconvenience or disappointment, then I’m losing perspective. On the other hand, I can also surrender and accept that even this is the Will of God, and thus, the instrument of my purification.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
This is what we call “the cross.” In fact, I think surrendering control over a situation is sometimes more painful than the situation itself! When we accept the Will of God “like a child” then, indeed, we can rejoice in the rain without an umbrella.
In the beautiful teachings on prayer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says,
In the New Covenant, prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Kingdom is “the union of the entire holy and royal Trinity . . . with the whole human spirit.” Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him. This communion of life is always possible because, through Baptism, we have already been united with Christ. (CCC, n. 2565)
In other words, God is always present to me, but am I present to Him? While one can’t always meditate and formulate “prayers”, we can do the duty of the moment — “small things” — with great love. We can wash the dishes, sweep the floor, or speak to others with deliberate love and attention. Have you ever done a menial task like tightening a bolt or taking out the trash with love for God and neighbour? This, too, is prayer because “God is love”. How can love not be the highest offering?
Sometimes in the car when I’m with my wife, I just reach over and hold her hand. That is enough to “be” with her. Being with God does not always require doing “ie. saying devotions, going to Mass, etc.” It is really just letting Him reach over and hold your hand, or vice versa, and then keep driving.
All they need to do is fulfill faithfully the simple duties of Christianity and those called for by their state of life, accept cheerfully all the troubles they meet and submit to God’s will in all that they have to do or suffer—without, in any way, seeking out trouble for themselves… What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us. —Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence, (DoubleDay), pp. 26-27
“Give thanks in all circumstances”
But there is nothing more disruptive to dwelling peacefully in God’s presence than unexpected or prolonged suffering. Trust me, I am Exhibit A.
Fr. Clair has been in and out of the hospital lately, and yet, he spoke to me in all sincerity of the many blessings he has such as being able to walk, to still write emails, to pray, etc.. It was beautiful to hear his heartfelt thanksgiving flow from an authentic child-like heart.
On the other hand, I had been rehashing the list of problems, obstacles, and frustrations we’ve been facing. So, here again, St. Paul’s Little Way is one of regaining perspective. One who is constantly negative, talking about how bad things are, how the world is against them… ends up being toxic to those around them. If we are going to open our mouths, we ought to be deliberate about what we say.
Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
And there is no more beautiful and pleasing way to do this than to give praise to God for all the blessings He has bestowed. There is no better and powerful way to remain “positive” (ie. a blessing to those around you) than this.
For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come. Through him [then] let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. (Hebrews 13:14-15)
This is St. Paul’s Little Way… rejoice, pray, give thanks, always — for what is happening in the present moment, right now, is God’s Will and food for you.
…do not worry anymore… Instead seek his kingdom
and all your needs will be given you besides.
Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
(Luke 12:29, 31-32)
I am grateful for your support …
To journey with Mark in The Now Word,
click on the banner below to subscribe.
Your email will not be shared with anyone.
Now on Telegram. Click:
Follow Mark and the daily “signs of the times” on MeWe:
Listen on the following: