THE Church, I believe, is in an hour of temptation.
Temptation to fall asleep in the Garden. Temptation to slumber as the stroke of midnight nears. Temptation to console ourselves in the pleasures and trappings of the world.
Beloved, Christ desires your joy. But as real joy grows within you, the pleasurable distractions and pseudo or false joys of this world will seem more like poison to the soul; will bring more sorrow than succor; more restlessness than rest. The joy of Jesus is infinitely deeper, and is released when the soul experiences a resurrection from the death of sin and the sorrow of self-love.
Now is the hour in which Satan has asked to sift us like wheat. For some, it will be intense temptations and disturbances in the soul. For others, the temptations will come in the form of no trouble at all… to lull the soul to sleep. And yet for others, it will be temptation to distrust and doubt God, even His very existence. But do not be afraid, as if something strange were happening to you. Such temptations are bound to come, and through them God has but one goal: to purify your soul for deeper union with Him. It is not always the devil who causes us these troubles. What we perceive as God’s punishment or abandonment is really His purifying love, burning away that which actually keeps us from happiness. The Flame of Love seems to hurt rather than warm, at first; Its brightness blinding rather than illuminating.
In all this, dear brothers and sisters, stand fast. The way has been shown us: remain little and small before Him—and before the truth of yourself. The harder it gets, the more you must throw yourself at His feet in absolute trust. The more you see the truth of your soul: the corruption within, the attraction to sin, the desire to rebel—the more you should entrust yourself to God’s Mercy, which is unfathomable and infinite. God knows your weakness, and so it is precisely for you that He sent Jesus to save you. The way through this hour is to live in the present moment, knowing that God’s will—this place you are in—is precisely the spiritual food you need for today (cf. John 4:34).
The Apostles fell asleep because they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. But you have received the Spirit through your Baptism, through the other Sacraments, and through the myriad ways in which God has spoken His word into your soul. So beloved, you have the strength of the Spirit for these very days. Yes, in fact, you were created for these days, and so God will also supply all your needs. All that is required of you is absolute trust in your heavenly Father, and perseverance. If you have neither, then ask for these gifts.
Ask, and you will receive.
And ask through the spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Mother. As her intercession helped bring the Holy Spirit into the upper room of Jerusalem, so too will her prayers bring about a new Pentecost within the upper room of your heart. You may feel tempted to give up prayer because it is too dry, too difficult. But it is precisely now that your prayer will bring about its greatest fruit, though you may not taste of the Vine until later.
It is the hour of temptation. Faith is the oil which must fill your lamps while this time of grace lasts. And faith is simply abandonment to God.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you… Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:5-13)
Why do you sleep? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation. (Luke 22:45)
First published March 14th, 2007.