It seems that the fate of those whom the Lord really holds close to His heart is to suffer the cross. The life of St. Teresa of Avila showed that she was persecuted even by Church authorities. She was misunderstood and maligned by her own confreres. She was distressed, she suffered dryness in her prayers for so many years. Finally, in prayer, she asked the Lord, “Why do You allow all these trials? Why do you allow all these persecutions to come to me?” And the Lord appeared to Teresa of Avila and said, “Teresa, that is how I deal with my friends.” And Teresa responded, “That is why You have few friends. To be Your friend means to suffer with You.”
Very clearly in the Gospel, the Lord tells us that His disciples, the first followers of the Lord, had to suffer the same fate. Because they were followers of Jesus, they had to be persecuted. Why? For only one reason, they were friends of Jesus.
That is why it really distresses me, and really bothers me, that some of our countrymen, especially the non-Catholics, jump to conclusion that Pinatubo, the earthquake, the calamities besetting our country, happened because we sinned. This is unfortunate because they are missing the whole point.
If it is true that all those who suffer do so because of their sins, I ask you one question, “Christ suffered, Christ carried the cross, Christ was nailed to the cross. Does that mean that Christ sinned? Does that mean that the Father was punishing Jesus because Jesus had sinned?”
If you say that Jesus had sinned, then, you are a heretic. Jesus is holy; Jesus never sinned. When we suffer, it is not necessarily because God is punishing us. When we suffer persecutions, we are hailed to court, there is only one basic reason: We cannot be above our Master.
The servant cannot be above the Master. Every trial, every difficulty we have to face is not because God is punishing us. It is only because God wants to share with us His very special possession. And what is that special possession? His cross.
The Lord holds the cross very precious to His heart. And, therefore, He only gives His precious jewel to His precious friends. Unfortunately, His precious friends are us, so we have to suffer the consequences of our friendship with God.
The friends of God cannot avoid persecution. We will be persecuted for following the Lord. We will be persecuted for venerating the Mother of our Lord. But, keep in mind, the cross is the most precious possession of our Blessed Lord. And He only shares it with those He loves.
There was a Malaysian Bishop who shared with Cardinal Sin his insights about what is happening in the Philippines now. He says, “When it is winter time, the leaves of our trees start to fall. But that is also the time when the roots of our trees sink more deeply into the earth.”
The Filipinos are suffering their winter time. They have no leaves. In the eyes of the skeptics we are an ugly people. But as the trees lose their leaves, they also sink their roots more deeply into the earth.
Let us thank God that our leaves are gone. Because of this reality, our roots sink more deeply into the heart of God.
THE CROSS IS OUR HOPE
Only Jesus, Always Jesus