CONFORMITY TO THE WILL OF GOD
V. HAPPINESS THAT COMES FROM PERFECT CONFORMITY
A holy man continueth in wisdom as the sun, but a fool is changed as the moon (Ecclus. xxvii. 12). The fool — that is to say the sinner — is ever changing, changing like the moon. Today you will see him laughing, tomorrow weeping; today quiet, tomorrow furious like the tiger. And why so? Because his peace depends on the prosperity or the adversity that comes to him; and, therefore, he varies as circumstances vary. Whereas the just man is like the sun, ever uniform in his serenity however circumstances may vary; because his contentment lies in his conformity to the Divine will, and therefore he enjoys a peace that nothing can disturb: And on earth peace to men of good will (Luke, ii. 14), said the Angel to the Shepherds. And who can these men of good will be but those whose wills are at all times in union with the will of God, which is supremely good and perfect? The will of God is good, delightful, and perfect (Rom. xii. 2). Yes, because God wills only that which is best and most perfect.
The Saints, through their conformity to the Divine will, enjoyed in this world a paradise in anticipation. St. Dorotheus tells us that it was thus that the ancient Fathers kept themselves in profound peace, receiving all things from the hands of God. When St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi heard only mention of the will of God, she used to experience so intense consolation that she fell into an ecstasy of love. And although the blow of adverse circumstances will not fail to make itself felt, yet it will touch only our lower nature; for in our higher nature, in the soul, there will reign peace and tranquillity for the will remains in union with that of God. Your joy, said the Redeemer to the Apostles, no man shall take from you … That your joy may be full (John, xvi. 22-24). He who is ever in conformity with the Divine will possesses a full and perpetual joy — full, because he has all that he wishes for; perpetual, because it is a joy of which no one can deprive him, for he wills what God wills, and no one can prevent that which God wills from coming to pass.
Father John Tauler relates of himself that after having for many years prayed the Lord to send some one to instruct him in the spiritual life, he one day heard a voice saying to him: “Go to such a church, and you will find what you ask for.” On reaching the church, he found at the gate a beggar, barefooted and with scarcely a rag to cover him. He saluted him: “Good day, my friend.” The poor man replied: “Sir, I do not remember ever to have had a bad day.” The Father rejoined: “God grant you a happy life!” To this he answered: “But I have never been unhappy.” And then he goes on to say: “Listen, my Father; it is not without reason that I have told you that I have never had a bad day; because, when I suffer hunger, I praise God; when it snows or rains, I bless God; if I am treated with contempt or repulsed, or experience misfortunes of any other kind, I always give glory to my God for it. I said, besides, that I have never been unhappy, and this also is true; because it is my habit to desire, without reservation, all that God desires; therefore, in all that happens to me, whether it be pleasant or painful, I receive it from God’s hands with joy, as being what is best for me; and herein lies my happiness.” “And if it should ever happen,” says Tauler, that God willed you to be damned, what would you do then?” “If God were to will this,” replied the beggar, “I would, with all humility and love, lock myself so fast in my Lord’s embrace, and hold Him so tight, that if it were to be His will to cast me down into hell, He would be obliged to come with me; and thus, with Him, it would then be sweeter to me to be in hell than, without Him, to possess all the enjoyments of Heaven.” “Where was it that you found God?” said the Father. “I found Him where I took leave of creatures,” was the reply. “Who are you?” The poor man answered: “I am a king.” “And where is your kingdom?” “It is within my soul, where I keep everything in due order; the passions are subjected to the reason, and the reason to God.” In conclusion, Tauler asked him what it was that had led him on to so high a degree of perfection? “It was silence,” he said, “observing silence with man, in order to hold converse with God; and also the union with my God which I have always maintained, and in which I have found, and still do find, all my peace.” Such, in short, had this poor man become through his union with the Divine will; and certainly he was, in all his poverty, more wealthy than all the monarchs of the earth, and in his sufferings more happy than all the men of the world in the midst of their earthly pleasures.