“IN MUCH TRIBULATION WITH JOY OF THE HOLY GHOST.” (Epistle of Sunday. 1 Thess. 1, 2-10)
“The Cross of Christ,” says St. John Chrysostom, “is the key of Paradise.” Crux Christi clavis Paradisi. But it is necessary, says the Saint, to bear tribulations in peace. If we wish to be saved we must submit to trials. Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts xiv. 21).
It is necessary, says St. John Chrysostom, to bear tribulations in peace; for if you accept them with resignation you shall gain great merit; but if with reluctance, you will increase instead of diminishing your misery. If we wish to be saved we must submit to trials. To holy souls the most severe afflictions are the temptations by which the devil impels them to offend God: but they who bear these temptations with patience, and banish them by turning to God for help, shall acquire great merit. And, says St. Paul, God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able, but will make also with the temptation issue that you may be able to bear it (1 Cor. x. 13). God permits us to be molested by temptations, that, by banishing them, we may gain greater merit. Blessed, says the Lord, are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matt. v. 5). They are blessed, because, according to the Apostle, our tribulations are momentary and very light compared with the greatness of the eternal glory, they shall obtain for us in Heaven. For that which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. iv. 17). A great servant of God used to say, that Paradise is the home of the poor, of the persecuted, of the humble and afflicted. Hence, St. Paul says: Patience is necessary for you, that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise (Heb. x. 36). Speaking of the tribulations of the Saints, St. Cyprian asks: “What are they to the servants of God, whom Paradise invites?” Is it much for thee, to whom the eternal goods of Heaven are promised, to embrace the short afflictions of this life?
When, then, God sends us tribulations, let us say with Job: I have sinned, and indeed I have offended, and I have not received what I have deserved (Job xxxiii. 27). O Lord, my sins merit far greater chastisement than that which Thou hast inflicted on me. We should even pray with St. Augustine: “Here burn, here cut: spare not here that Thou mayest spare in eternity.” How frightful is the chastisement of the sinner of whom the Lord says: Let us have pity on the wicked, but he will not learn justice (Is. xxvi. 10). Let us abstain from chastising the impious: as long as they remain in this life they will continue to live in sin, and shall thus be punished with eternal torments. On this passage St. Bernard says: “Lord, I do not wish for such mercy, for such commiseration is worse than Thy anger!”
The man whom the Lord afflicts in this life has a certain proof that he is dear to God. And, said the Angel to Tobias, because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptations should prove thee (Tob. xii. 13). Hence, St. James pronounces the man blessed who is afflicted; because after he shall have been proved by tribulation, he will receive the crown of life (James i. 12).
He who wishes to share in the glory of the Saints, must suffer in this life as the Saints have suffered. None of the Saints have been esteemed or treated well by the world — all of them have been despised and persecuted. In them have been verified the words of the Apostle: All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution (2 Tim. iii. 12).
Great, indeed, are the advantages of tribulations. Indeed, as St. John Chrysostom says, “The Cross of Christ is the key of Paradise.” Crux Christi clavis Paradisi. For all these afflictions, sorrows, persecutions and tears will one day have an end, and will, if we save our souls, become to us sources of joy and happiness in the Kingdom of Bliss.