I KNOW many of you—according to your letters—are going through tremendous battles right now. This seems consistent with just about anyone I know who is striving for holiness. I think it is a good sign, a sign of the times… the dragon, thrashing his tail at the Woman-Church as the final confrontation enters its most pivotal moments. Although this was written for Lent, the meditation below is likely as pertinent now as it was then… if not more.
First published February 11th, 2008:
I want to share with you a portion of a letter I just received:
I’ve been feeling destroyed over recent weaknesses… Things have been going great and I was excited with joy in my heart for Lent. And then as soon as Lent began, I felt unworthy and undeserving to be in any relationship with Christ. I fell into sin and then self-hatred set in. I was feeling that I might as well do nothing for Lent because I am a hypocrite. I drove up our driveway and was feeling this emptiness…
Why are you surprised that you are being attacked with temptation in this way? St. Paul said if you wish to follow Christ religiously, you will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12). And who persecutes us more than the devil himself? And how does he persecute us? With temptation, and then with accusation.
He sees your joy, and hates it. He sees your growth in Christ, and fears it. He knows you are a son of God, and despises it. And the devil wants to stop you from going any farther, to neutralize you. And how does he do this? Through discouragement and guilt.
My dear friend, you must not fear Jesus if you sin. Didn’t He die for you? He has already done everything for you and is ever ready to do even more. This is love—a living, indestructible love which never gives up on you. Yet if you give up then, and only then, will you have much to fear. Judas gave up. Peter did not. Judas is likely separated from our Lord; Peter is reigning with Christ in heaven. Both betrayed. Both failed. But the latter threw himself completely upon God’s mercy. He did not give up.
On God’s mercy, that is.
TRUST IN HIS MERCY!
Your sin is not a stumbling block for God. It is a stumbling block for you, but not for God. He can remove it in an instant if you sincerely call out His name:
Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me!
Do you know how to defeat Satan in this battle? If you think you can outwit him, you have already lost. If you think you can outsmart him, then you are already deceived. If you think you can outpower him with your will, then you have already been crushed. The only way you can defeat him is to draw upon a weapon he does not have: humility. When you sin, you must lay flat upon the ground before God and expose your heart to Jesus saying, "See Lord, I am a sinner. See, once again I have fallen greatly. I truly am weakness incarnate. I am the smallest in your kingdom."
And Jesus will say to you, "
For such a sinner as you, I died. You have fallen into the depths and thus I descended to the dead to find you. You indeed are weakness incarnate, and thus I incarnated your human weakness… I knew failure and fatigue and sorrow and all manner of grief. You are the smallest in my Kingdom because you have humbled yourself; but the least in my Kingdom are the greatest. Rise up, my child, and let me love you! Stand up my child, for the Father has a new robe to clothe you in, a ring for your finger, and sandals for your tired feet! Come my beloved! For you are the fruit of my Cross!
THE DIFFICULT DESERT
Lent is the time to enter the desert—the desert of temptation. Do not be surprised that you will be buffeted by the hot winds of sensuality, the thirst of your appetites, and the stinging sands of your spiritual poverty. Gold is not purified by cool water, but by fire. And you, friend, are precious gold in the Father’s eyes.
But you are not alone. In the desert you will find Jesus Himself. There He was tempted. And now you, His body, will be tempted also. But you are not a headless body. You have Christ, who was tempted in every way, as your help—especially when you fail. We think that because He was sinless that He will walk away disgusted when we fall into the snare of lust, anger, and greed. But it is precisely because He has tasted our human weakness that He has such compassion on us when He sees us suffocating in the quick sands of sin. He can, because He’s God.
SEE IT COMING
This temptation is coming to you now, not as punishment, but as a means to purify you. It is a gift to make you more holy. To make you more like Him. To make you happier! For the more you are purified of self in the crucible of trial, the more Christ lives in you—the more Life and Joy and Peace lives in you. I must decrease… He must increase so that it is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me.
Jesus is demanding because he wishes your happiness. —POPE JOHN PAUL II
Let me leave you with wiser words than mine. Cling to these. Keep them before you in times of discouragement, especially the words of Jesus above.
The sinner thinks that sin prevents him from seeking God, but it us just for this that Christ has descended to ask for man. —Matthew the Poor, The Communion of Love
The sinner who feels within himself a total deprivation of all that is holy, pure, and solemn because of sin, the sinner who in his own eyes is in utter darkness, severed from the hope of salvation, from the light of life, and from the communion of saints, is himself the friend whom Jesus invited to dinner, the one who was asked to come out from behind the hedges, the one asked to be a partner in His wedding and an heir to God… Whoever is poor, hungry, sinful, fallen or ignorant is the guest of Christ. —Ibid.
Every person, no matter how "enmeshed in vice, ensnared by the allurements of pleasure, a captive in exile… fixed in mire… distracted by busyness, afflicted with sorrow… and counted with those who go down into hell—every soul, I say, standing thus under condemnation and without hope, has the power to turn and find it can not only breath the fresh air of the hope of pardon and mercy, but also dare to aspire to the nuptials of the Word." —St. Bernard of Clarivaux