Notes on Affirmation and Providence

1. Homily to Sisters on the Second Monday of Lent March 16, 1981 -- Luke 6:36-38 #231
Affirmation of Others

In brief passage from Luke which constitutes today's gospel, Jesus instructs us to do five things: a) be compassionate; b) avoid judging others; c) avoid condemning others; d) pardon those who offend; and, e) give gifts to others. Perhaps, we could sum up all five commands, using one word that is currently popular: "Affirmation." In his Lenten message, as we have seen, Pope John Paul II tells us that the Good Samaritan is the Church. Why? Because he practiced love. "And who was neighbor to the fallen victim?" Jesus asks at the conclusion of the parable? The one who showed him compassion is the apt response. By "affirmation," I mean that attitude that is open to others in love, in sympathy, in generosity, in pity, in compassion.

Everyone needs affirmation from others as much as he needs food, clothing, and shelter. Infants, toddlers, children, adolescents especially need it; and when they fail to receive it, they become adults with no selfesteem, no feeling of self-worth. In fact, they do not become adults at all except in the physical sense. But even those who are psychologically mature need affirmation from those closest to them, else they lapse into loneliness - the worst kind of suffering.

How do we affirm one another? How do we show one another that we are God's children, noble because of that, creatures born of God's love? Jesus tells us today in the gospel. These instructions are of very special importance in the monastery. Your unity in Christ is indispensable. But that unity is. not forged out of supernatural realities only. It must also be based on natural truths - even if these are elevated by the vision of faith. So consider Jesus' instructions carefully. Are you quick to forgive with kindness? Do you withhold judging your sisters' motives? Are you tender and compassionate with them? Do you give gifts to them? Gifts not of a material kind, but of your time, your service to them? Most of all, the gift of yourself? and! Do you allow them to give you gifts - which is sometimes the hardest gift of all to give! The Good Samaritan is the Church. He showed an absolute stranger that he was important. He affirmed him. Sisters, do likewise.

2. On Divine Providence

When Fr. Joubert (Lufkin) loaned me a car to come here, we both manifested our reliance upon divine providence. He because he never puts gas in a car - and never carries any money. (Story of the drive to the airport with me and my mother). 1, because I knew what to expect. There are six great instances of trust - absolute trust - in Divine Providence that we see in Dominic's life:

  1. The mission in the Midi (which was humanely speaking) a failure;
  2. The desire to finish founding the Order and to be off to the "foreign missions;"
  3. The dispersal of the brethren;
  4. The system of democracy in the Order;
  5. His refusal to hold property; mendicants;
  6. His attitude at his death.

But there is nothing more difficult to accept at certain times and nothing more obscure always than God's practical will for us. Sometimes the divine will for us appears terribly stern - perplexing in the extreme - quite in comprehensible. A pet project runs aground. A cherished plan stalemates. An unexpected trial comes. An inconceivable check to our plans is encountered. We can easily rebel. We forget that "if a son asks his father for bread, will he give him a stone?" God's wisdom which is unerring knows what is best for us now - and what is best for those others with whose lives ours are intermingledil Only the contemplative who lives on intimate terms with the Father can truly accept - and rejoice in the mystery of divine providence, that is, when that providence serves up a difficult medicine to swallow. Two important elements about divine providence, then:

  1. it offers us great freedom;
  2. in the moments when it imposes difficult demands on us, we can react "joyfully" only if we are on intimate terms with God.

And there is a postscript to the latter point. Sometimes, Providence treats us in a difficult manner to bring us back to divine intimacy. But there is more: The mystery of providence is one into which we enter the more we give ourselves to God. Young religious are easily tempted to think that by surrendering themselves generously, life will be simple and uncomplex. But that is never the case in practice. The more we surrender ourselves to God, the more he seems to ask of us! And what is there that is more difficult among his demands than that we acknowledge our blindness and, being blind to his will for us in so many concrete situations, we must go on. Through pains, doubts, betrayals, misunderstandings, failures - we stumble on blindly. For our God, we know, is Fatherly endlessly so. In your worst moments, dearest sisters, just remember on truth. God's will is always in our favor. It is often sudden. Frequently surprising. O Father, help me to reverence your surprises!

Sermons and Lectures by Damian Fandal, O.P.

Back Index Next