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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

The Interior Witness

From the Moral Reflections on Job by Saint Gregory the Great

 
The interior witness

 
A weak-minded person is frequently diverted toward pursuing exterior happiness when the breath of popular favor accompanies his good actions. So he gives up his own personal choices, preferring to remain at the mercy of whatever he hears from others. Thus, he rejoices not so much to become but to be called blessed. Eager for praise, he gives up what he had begun to be; and so he is severed from God by the very means by which he appeared to be commendable in God.

But sometimes a soul firmly strives for righteousness and yet is beset by men’s ridicule. He does what is admirable but he gets only mockery. He might have gone out of himself because of man’s praise; he returns to himself when repelled by their abuse. Finding no resting-place without, he cleaves more intensely to God within. All his hope is fixed on his Creator, and amid all the ridicule and abuse he invokes his interior witness alone.

One who is afflicted in this way grows closer to God the more he turns away from human popularity. He straightway pours himself out in prayer, and, pressured from without, he is refined with a more perfect purity to penetrate what is within.

In this context, the words of Job apply: Whoever is mocked by his friend, as I am, shall call upon God, and He shall hear him. For while the wicked reproach the just, they show them whom they should look to as the witness of their actions. Thus afflicted, the soul strengthens itself by prayer; it is united within to One who listens from on high precisely because it is cut off externally from the praise of men. Again, we should note how appropriately the words are inserted: as I am. There are some people who are both oppressed by human mockery and are yet deprived of God’s favorable hearing. For when the mockery is done to a man’s own sin, it obviously does not produce the merit that is due to virtue.

The simplicity of the just man is laughed to scorn. It is the wisdom of this world to conceal the heart with stratagems, to veil one’s thoughts with words to make what is false appear true and what is true appear false. On the other hand it is the wisdom of the just never to pretend anything for show; always to use words to express one’s thoughts; to love the truth as it is and to avoid what is false; to do what is right without reward; to be more willing to put up with evil than to perpetrate it; not to seek revenge for wrong; and to consider as gain any insult for truth’s sake. But this guilelessness is laughed to scorn, for the virtue of innocence is held as foolishness by the wise of this world. Anything that is done out of innocence, they doubtless consider to be stupidity, and whatever truth approves of, in practice is called folly by their worldly wisdom.

—Saint Gregory the Great, pope
(Office of Readings, Friday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

 


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