Obedience during Crisis
At our last FOSJ meeting we discussed the value of crisis. Faith cannot be proven without a crisis and a crisis cannot be endured without faith. A crisis usually involves both risk and danger in the form of temptation, while also providing an opportunity to prove who we are, who our faith is in, who we have allegiance to – God or ourselves – God or evil. In the midst of a personal crisis, temptations come in a belligerent, overwhelming, nearly relentless manner. The evil one sniffs out our weakness and hammers on us, attempting to drive us from our vocational post as fathers and husbands. These temptations are the moment of truth. Our decision at that moment indicates who we really are and whose we really are. It is vital that we continually be conformed to the truths of our faith, lest we be caught off guard when temptations and crises come. The evil one, as in the beginning, strives to convince us that God is not Father, not generous, does not want to bless us. JPII said that, “original sin attempts to abolish fatherhood.” During crisis, the evil one is intent on abolishing your fatherhood by abolishing your belief in the Father. During such trials we must have what is called “obedience of faith.” God desires that we be blessed by Him, experience His glory, His peace and His joy. God wants us to be successful. But our success demands our obedience. When we obey God it is as though we are in a bubble of grace, a spiritual force-field, which the devil cannot truly penetrate. However, if we break out of that force field we are on our own, without a defense system, and become extremely vulnerable to the enemy. Obedience to God, His Church, His truths keep us safe, protected, defended and blessed. To remain within the bubble of grace we must humble ourselves and listen to His truths as transmitted by the Church and obey. “Rebellion is as divination (devil worship)” while, “obedience is better than sacrifice.” During a crisis we are faced with the challenge to remain obedient, but if we do, God will bless us and reward us.
Abraham’s Crisis-Abraham’s Faithful Obedience
It was amidst an intense personal crisis, concerning his wife and her condition of infertility, that Abraham;’s faith was tested and his obedience proven. Abraham was 86 years of age and Sarah, his wife, had bore him no children. Though the condition of Sarah’s infertility was distressing to the couple, more perplexing was the meaning of the promise God had given to Abraham, “Your own son shall be your heir.” (Gen 15:5) Abraham experienced the personal tension between believing in what was seen – Sarah’s barrenness, and having faith in what was unseen, the divinely promised heir. Within the heart of Abraham, the visible obstacles and the unseen grace of God clashed in a battle for faith. Precisely within this battle for faith, Abraham was granted the opportunity to re-discover his essential role as a man – as a husband. Rather than leaving Sarah, Abraham denied himself and his desires and remained yoked to Sarah. Abraham bore Sarah’s burden as his own, rather than condemning her for her condition. From Abraham we learn that to become a true husband, a true man of God, a man must suffer with his spouse, bearing her burden as his own – even when such burdens become obstacles to fulfilling personal desires.
Faith in what in Unseen promises over Seen Obstacles
As He did with Abraham, God has made promises to us. God has promised unseen, intangible graces as rewards for our obedience to Him. Some of these are: “Joy to the full” , “Peace beyond all understanding”, “His presence within us” , “All things granted unto us” , “Glorifying us.” Yet, when a crisis occurs, we are not only tempted to doubt God’s unseen promises because of seen obstacles, but are humiliated by our inability to remedy the situation. We are helpless. Men don’t like being helpless. A friend of mine, a member of our FOSJ, got married. They had difficulty becoming pregnant. Finally, his wife conceived a daughter She was diagnosed, within the womb, with anencephaly, a serious birth defect caused by a deficiency of folic acid in the mother’s body at the time of conception. Doctors urged the parents to abort the child. They remained obedient to God’s ways and did not abort the child. My friend lived from his true masculine essence, becoming a guardian of the garden of his wife’s womb. He refused to let Satan enter her garden. His wife gave birth to their daughter whose skull did not completely form, causing the brain stem to be fully exposed. My wife and I visited the couple at the hospital shortly before their baby’s death. I’ll never forget his words, “look at my beautiful baby daughter. He said this with the most authentic smile. For years afterward the couple would pray outside the abortion clinic in Bettendorf. Long story short, a college student became pregnant but did not want the child. My friend and his wife intervened and adopted their beautiful daughter. This man spiritually adopted this baby girl, stepped in the breech like Joseph did for Jesus, and became a father, in the truest sense, to her. He was obedient in faith to God – and God rewarded him.
Defending the Fortress
Men, Jesus said that if the strong man is bound, then his house can be plundered. Today, Satan is binding the human father, plundering his house, having his way with men’s wives and children. Imagine a fortress, set upon a great hill. Many marvel at its strength, and beauty. The enemy desires to penetrate the fortress and knows that if he can locate a weak spot in its surrounding walls he can gain access and overtake the fortress from within. We fathers are that fortress – a city set on a hill. We are under the scope of admirers and the enemy. The enemy is always looking for our weak spots, and knows that if he can gain access to the inside of us, he can cause severe damage, chaos, and even destruction – to us and our families. he accomplishes this amidst a crisis. He offers us illicit comforts, man-made- not God-made solutions, he distracts us. In the end, he tells us that we need comfort and pleasure over sacrificial love. He wants access to your interior person. If he has already penetrated our fortress, we must starve him out. Often, when a group wanted to take over a castle, city or fortress, they would starve out those inside, until they surrendered. We must starve the devil out. How do we do this? By killing our pride. Our pride tells us that we “deserve” or “don’t deserve” certain things. We starve out this pride by denying ourselves little pleasures, and by also by denying ourselves by bearing the burdens of our loved ones without complaining – by accepting moments of humiliation
Humiliations the path to Greatness
Notice that Abraham’s situation and Tom’s crisis has an associated temptation, but also a particular humiliation. We want to avoid the humiliation and save our ego. But God has a different plan. He wants us to glorify Him and glorifying Him we are glorified by Him. This is the method, the path to glory: Humiliations if embraced, bring forth humility, and if we become humble, we will be more capable of rising from humiliations in fortitude, and pressing on in fortitude leads to greatness. Remember, “God exalts the humble, but the proud he oppresses.” Fr. Cajetan said, “There are people in heaven who were beautiful and not beautiful on earth, intelligent and unintelligent, priests and nuns, and not priests and nuns. But there is not one in heaven, who wasn’t humble on earth.” Humiliations are the pivotal moment for becoming great. They are essential. Our greatness and glory is dependent upon how we embrace them. Marriage and family life, rather than being a refuge from humiliations, is the very crucible whereby we receive humiliations. That means that family life and marriage is the best means for us to become saints! Jesus at the last supper did something unthinkable, nearly scandalous: He stripped Himself of His clothes in front of His comrades, placed a towel around His loins, and began washing the grime, the dirt, the animal feces from his disciples feet. Where did the dirt, grime and feces go? On Him. On His towel. He took their dirt upon Himself. This is what Jesus does: He takes our sins, our dirt, our feces upon His perfect self, so that we can become clean, pure, good. This is love. Our Lord’s action is a symbol of confession, but also a symbol of a perfect Bridegroom bearing the burdens of His bride. We wash our wives and children’s feet, by entering into the crisis before us, bearing their burdens, problems, even addictions as our own – even upon us. If you don’t express Christ’s love to your wife, who really will? And would you want another man to express that love in place of you? You are the one – You are Christ to her. Humiliations, as with Jesus, as with Abraham, as with my friend, if embraced, becomes a testimony of glory.