by Father Lasance, Peace, Not as the World Gives
Nothing happens in this world but by the direction or permission of God. “Nothing,” says St. Augustine, “occurs by chance in the whole course of our life. God overrules all.”
“Good things and evil, life and death, poverty and riches, are from God” (Ecclus. xi. 14).
It may, perhaps be said that this holds good in sickness and in death, in cold and in heat, and in all the events of inanimate nature, but not in what depends upon the free will of man.
You say, “if someone speaks evil of me, defrauds me, persecutes and ill-treats me, is that the will of God? How can I see God’s will in that? Does He not forbid such actions? Consequently I can ascribe them only to the evil designs, to the wickedness or to the ignorance of men.”
But, I answer, God Himself speaks clearly and distinctly on this point. On His own Holy Word, we must believe that even what appears to be left to the caprice of men must be attributed to God’s permission.
The Jews imputed their captivity to other causes than the dispensation of Providence. The prophet Jeremias says: “Who is he that hath commanded a thing to be done, when the Lord commandeth it not? Shall not both evil and good proceed out of the mouth of the Most High?” (Jeremias iii. 37).
Therefore, when we are robbed of our good name, despoiled of our wealth, abused or otherwise wronged, we must ascribe it to the will of God. It is His hand that is visiting us; all is the work of His providence.
But, again, you object, “All such actions are sinful. How can God will them? How can He take part therein? God’s essence being holiness itself, He can have nothing in common with sin.”
I answer: In every evil deed two things must be clearly demonstrated; namely, the action itself, or the exterior movement; and the straying of the will from the Divine Law.
Does your neighbor strike you, or calumniate you? You must, on the one hand, distinguish the motion of the arm or of the tongue; and, on the other, the evil intention that directs the movement.
The movement itself is not sinful; therefore God can be the Author of it. And this He really is, for no creature has life or motion of itself; all receive it from God, who works in them and by them.
The evil intention, on the contrary, is entirely the work of the human will, and it alone makes the sin. In this God takes no part. He permits the evil act in order not to do violence to the free will of men.
Accordingly, God shares in the deeds of men only insofar as He contributes to the exterior movement. The bad intention underlying the act proceeds from our will; and in this God has no part.
You have abused your honor, your riches—God wills that you should lose the one or the other; but He takes no part in the sin of either the robber or the calumniator.
Patient endurance should characterize our conduct towards those to whom God has given command over us. We should neither judge their intentions nor harbor aversion against them. We should rest satisfied that, however hostile or inimical they may be toward us, they are only instruments of salvation in the hands of an All-good, All-wise, All-powerful God.
He will give them no more power over us than is for our good. Creatures can do us no harm, unless power is given them from on high. All enlightened souls have been firmly convinced of this truth.
The history of Job presents a beautiful illustration of it. Job is bereft of his children and stripped of all his wealth; from the pinnacle of human happiness he falls to the depths of earthly misery, and what does he say? ‘The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away: as it hath pleased the Lord, so is it done: blessed be the name of the Lord.”
“Behold,” says St. Augustine, “how this holy man understood the great mystery of God’s providence! He did not say: ‘The Lord hath given me children and riches, and the devil hath taken them from me.’ But he said: ‘The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken. As it has pleased the Lord, and not as it has pleased the devil, also is it done.’
Not less striking is the example of the Egyptian Joseph. His brothers, actuated by hatred and envy, sold him; but he ascribed all to God’s providence.
“God,” he said, ‘sent me before you into Egypt for your preservation, that you may be preserved upon the earth, and may have food to live. . . . Not by your counsel was I sent hither, but by the will of God” (Gen. xiv, 5-8).
Tobias, that faithful servant of God, was made blind while engaged in acts of charity. As we read in the Book of Tobias: ‘This trial the Lord permitted to happen to him, that an example might be given to posterity of his patience, as also of holy Job.
For whereas he had always feared God from his infancy, and kept his commandments, he repined not against God because the evil of blindness had befallen him. But continued immovable in the fear of God, giving thanks to God all the days of his life.
For as the kings insulted over holy Job: so his relations and kinsmen mocked at his life, saying: Where is thy hope, for which thou gavest alms, and buriedst the dead?
But Tobias rebuked them, saying: “Speak not so: For we are the children of saints, and look for that life which God will give to those that never change their faith from Him.”
David, pursued and insulted by Semei, sees the hand of Providence in the insolent behavior of his unruly subject. Twice did he restrain his indignant servant who wished to avenge him, with the words, “Let him alone and let him curse: for the Lord bath bid him curse David” II Kings xvi. Io).
And Jesus Christ Himself, the Holy of Holies, Our Lord and Savior, who came down from heaven to teach us by His word and example, did He not say to Peter, who with inconsiderate zeal urged Him to avert His sufferings and deliver Himself from the hands of His enemies: “The chalice which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” (John xviii. ii).
Jesus attributed the ignominy and pain of His bitter torments, not to their immediate authors, not to the Jews that accused Him, not to Judas who betrayed Him, not to Pilate who condemned Him, not to the executioners who, with most horrible treatment, dragged Him to death, not to the devil, the instigator of the shocking deed: but only to God, in whom He saw, not a cruel Judge, but a loving Father.
We must not attribute our losses, our misfortunes, our sufferings, our humiliations, to the evil spirit or to man; but to their true author, God.
Let us not venture to say: “This one or that one is the cause of my misfortune, my ruin.” No, our trials are not the work of man. They are God’s own work.
This will redound to our greater tranquility, for all that God, the best of fathers, does is full of infinite wisdom; all is subservient to His highest and holiest purposes.
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