Meditation for Wednesday of Holy Week from St Alphonsus Liguori:
Some people think they are beloved of God when all their affairs go prosperously with them and they have no troubles. But St. James says: Blessed is the man that suffereth temptation; for when he is tried, he will receive the crown of life which God hath promised to them that love him. The faithfulness of soldiers is tried, not in repose, but in battle.
The faithfulness of soldiers is tried, not in repose, but in battle. This earth is our battlefield, where every one is placed to fight, and to conquer, in order to be saved: if he conquers not, he is lost forever. Therefore, said holy Job, Every day I now fight; I wait until my change cometh. (Job. xiv. 14). Job suffered in struggling with many a foe, but he comforted himself with the hope that, in conquering and rising from the dead, he would change his whole state. Of this change St. Paul spoke, and rejoiced in speaking of it: The dead shall rise again incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. xv. 52). Our state is changed in Heaven, which is a place not of toil, but of rest, not of fear, but of security; not of sorrow or weariness, but of gladness and joy eternal. With the hope, then, of so great a joy, let us inspire ourselves, and fight till death, and never give ourselves up conquered to our enemies until our change comes; until the end of our struggle is attained, and we possess a blessed eternity.
The patient man will endure for the time, and then shall gladness be restored to him. Blessed is he who suffers for God in this life; he suffers for the time, but his joy will be eternal in the country of the Blessed. This will end the persecutions, the temptations, the infirmities, the annoyances, and all the miseries of this life; and God will give us a life full of satisfaction which will never end. Now is the time for pruning the vine, and for cutting off everything that hinders its growth towards the promised land of Heaven. But the cutting off produces pain, so that we have need of patience; and then comes the restoration of gladness, when the more we have suffered, the more we shall be filled with consolations. God is faithful; and to him who suffers on earth for His love’s sake, with resignation, He promises that He Himself will be his reward; a reward infinitely greater than our sufferings: Behold, I am thy exceeding great reward. (Gen. xv. i.).
Nevertheless, before we receive the crown of eternal life, the Lord wills that we should be tried with sufferings. Blessed is the man that suffereth temptation; for, when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him. (James i. 12). Blessed, then, is he who is faithful to God in adversity. Some people think they are beloved of God when all their affairs go prosperously, and they have no troubles; but they complain because God does not try the patience and faithfulness of His servants by prosperity, but by adversity, in order to give them that crown which fadeth not away, as all the crowns of this life do fade away. This will be a crown of eternal glory, as St. Peter writes: Ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. (1 Peter v. 4). To whom, then, is this crown promised? St. James says: He shall receive the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him. (i. 12). God has promised it again and again to those that love Him, because Divine love makes us fight with courage and win the victory.
To the love of God we must also join humility. The Preacher says, Gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. (Ecclus. ii. 5). It is in humiliation that Saints are revealed, in which it is made known whether they are gold or lead. Such a one has been counted a Saint; but when he receives an injury from another, he is all in agitation; he complains of it to everyone; he says he will make him repent of it. This is a sign of what he is; it is a sign that he is lead. The Lord said, In thy humility have patience. (Ecclus. ii. 4). The proud man, whatever humiliation he receives, considers it a great injustice, and therefore cannot endure it; but the humble man, accounting himself deserving of every evil treatment, suffers all with patience. Let him who has committed a mortal sin cast a glance upon the hell that he has deserved, and thus he will suffer with patience every contempt and every pain.
Let us, then, love God, and be humble; and whatever we do, let us do it, not to please ourselves, but only to please God. O cursed self-love, which intrudes itself in all our works. Even in our spiritual exercises, in meditation, in works of penance, and in all our pious works, it goes about seeking its own interests. Few are the devout souls who do not fall into this defect: Who shall find a valiant woman? Far and from the uttermost coasts, is the price of her. (Prov. xxxi. 10). Where shall we find a soul so brave that, despoiled of every passion, and of all concern for its own interests, continues to love Jesus Christ in the midst of sighs, pains, desolation of spirit, and weariness of life? Solomon said that these are gems of great price; they come from the very ends of the world, and therefore are most rare.
O my crucified Jesus, I am one who, even in my devotions, have been seeking my own pleasure and satisfaction, all so unlike Thee, Who, through love of me, passed a life of sorrow and deprived of every alleviation. Give me Thy help that henceforward I may seek only Thy pleasure and Thy glory. I would love Thee without any other reward; but I am weak, and Thou must give me strength to accomplish this. Behold, I am Thine! Dispose of me as Thou pleasest. Make me love Thee and I ask for nothing more. O Mary, my Mother, by thy intercession, obtain for me fidelity to God. Amen.