September 26, 2019

When Nothing Makes Sense and All Seems Useless - Pray

"In this world, you will have trouble" John 16:33. There are trials so severe that they seem to render prayer impossible. A soul might want to pray and may even try to pray, but the ability to actually pray seems frustrated -- drowning in discouragement and exhaustion. It would seem far fetched to such a person if one were to attempt to explain the greatness of the gift being offered in the midst of such a difficult crisis.  The gift is not seized in some great sensational feet.  Instead, by the frailest act of surrender to love, for love and by love one offers to the Lord the trial that besets and in this humble offering, in what seems of so little worth, that unfamiliar inflow of love untold springs forth. A naked, vulnerable act of faith makes space in time and space for the glory of God.  The threshold of this mystery is the foot of the Cross, and those who suffer are invited to cross over this threshold into a new kind of fruitfulness. 

To offer up one's own suffering to God seems useless. After all, it does not produce anything tangible. It does not lessen the suffering itself or shorten the length of the affliction to be endured.  No one, except God, ever knows whether the offering was accepted. It is never really known how God uses this difficult to give gift.  Yet it is our teaching that the suffering of the faithful is meant to participate in the redemptive work of Christ. Somehow, what seems utterly useless in the eyes of the world the Lord renders useful. He seems to love to endow what is meaningless with inexhaustible riches. What else is Christian death but our last offering of that which we have tried to offer all our lives? Yet, even the death of His beloved is precious in the eyes of God, and He counts it a no small gift when the faithful offer their afflictions in intercession for the salvation of the world. 

Dear Reader, if you have such a sacrifice to offer the Lord, please offer this oblation now on behalf of the Pope, the bishops and our priests. Offer it for those who are discouraged by scandal and who are confused by failures of leadership in the Church.  Offer it for those who attack the Church and her teaching authority. Offer it for families who are trying to hold together and for others that have fallen apart and need healing.  Offer it for the prodigal who has forgotten the way home and for the prideful whose indignation has driven them from their home. Offer it for all those beat up by bandits and passed by on the road of life. We need your prayers.

We need the glory of God that comes through your heroic effort to pray even when prayer seems not to come.  Entrust to Him all your struggles and failures, your hardships and renunciations, feelings of abandonment and loneliness, of fear and powerlessness, your humiliations, all the little sacrifices of love that you have made for others- even if not very successfully in your own eyes. Give all of this to Him in humble surrender -- this is our human poverty, and it is the only thing we really have to offer that is truly our own. Ask Him to join these sufferings to His sufferings so that His life and love flow through them even when your own love falls short. A great mystery is manifest in this - for when we implicate ourselves in Christ's work of redemption in this hidden and humble way, the hope of God for humanity is made manifest anew in ways that no one can contain. 
  

9 comments:

  1. Beautiful Dr. Lilles. You have written about this great mystery of suffering in a very understandable waythat helps reinforce what Holy Mother Church teaches. Thank you.

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  2. Thank you again, Anthony, for an excellent piece. This casts great light on my own ongoing experience in prayer and reminds me not to waste my suffering.

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  3. Isn't this a way thatChrist purifies us which appears to me to be a great gift?

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  4. Thank you for this essay; Much to reflect upon.

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  5. I thank you too for the encouragement and eye opening reminder that this vale of tears is the journey, not our destination and home. So beautifully written.

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  6. Thank you Dr Lillies! Our Good Lord gave me instructions on how to pray for a very special persons conversion...behind the scenes be a Spartan but to the person be like a lily. Its also interesting to note that when stepped on a lily has a most beautiful fragrance....Its no doubt that you Dr Lillies, must smell wonderful! Thank you again for the insight and encouragement. Mark 9:23!!

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  7. My spiritual direction sent me this link to your blog and though I intellectually understand the doctrine of redemptive suffering in union with Jesus and am totally dedicated to it I was discouraged by the feelings of resistance that surfaced every day. I now realize that even this state of imperfection is a moral suffering and I can offer this as well ....i.e. my nothingness, my lack of perfection, and not fear that it will work against me but rather help me embrace with humility that at the present moment this is the best I can muster and through Mary's intercession it will become sufficient, though flawed. As my heavenly Mother she will see to it that I grow "in spite" of the resistance and discouragement. God bless you for lifting up the flagging spirit with a deeper understanding.

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