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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Suffering and Holy Consolation

From a letter by Saint John of Avila

 
The life of Jesus revealed in us

 
Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercy and God of all consolation who consoles us in all our trials and enables us to console others who are being tried, for we urge them on as God urges us on. As we share generously in the sufferings of Christ, so do we share generously in his consolation.

The words are those of Saint Paul the Apostle. He was beaten with rods three times, flogged five times, stoned once and left for dead; he suffered every persecution men can inflict, his body was twisted by pain and toil. And all this was his lot not just on one or two occasions, for he writes: We are constantly being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in us.

In all these tribulations he does not murmur or complain about God, as weaker men do. He is not saddened as those who love status and pleasure are. He does not beg God to be relieved of them, as men do who are unaware of their true value and therefore will have no part of them. He does not make light of them, as men do who set little value upon them. On the contrary, fully aware of the value of these tribulations and rising above his own weakness, Paul blesses God amid his sufferings and thanks him as though he had bestowed a fine reward. He thinks it an honour to be able to suffer for him who subjected himself to so very much shame in order to free us from the dreadful effects of sin; who exalted us by giving us his Spirit and making us adopted sons of God; and who gave us, in his own person and through his own efforts, a proof and pledge of heavenly joy.

Dear brothers and sisters, I pray God may open your eyes and let you see what hidden treasures he bestows on us in the trials from which the world thinks only to flee. Shame turns into honour when we seek God’s glory. Present affliction becomes the source of heavenly glory. To those who suffer wounds in fighting his battles God opens his arms in loving, tender friendship, which is more delightful by far than anything our earthly efforts might produce. If we have any sense, we shall yearn for these open arms of God.

If you long for these festivals of heavenly joy, if you want to behold them and take part in them, be assured that there is no better way to reach them than the way of suffering. This is the way Christ and his disciples have always travelled. He calls it a narrow way, but it leads straight to life. That is why he tells us that if we want to join him, we shall travel the way he took. It is surely not right that the Son of God should go his way on the path of shame while the sons of men walk the way of worldly honour: The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the servant greater than his master.

God grant that our hearts may find no rest and seek no other food in this world, save in hardship and suffering beside the Lord’s cross.

Saint John of Avila, priest
Office of Readings, May 18:
John I, Pope and Martyr

 


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