Dear Father Angelo,
In the fourth week of the Ignatian Month in preparation for the ritual of the Clothing, I would like to ask you a question that has arisen from some reflections of the preacher of the exercises…
The Jesuit Father often contrasted the offer of suffering with the acceptance of suffering… Could you please give me clarification on this?
A warm greeting in Christ and a prayer
Answer from the priest
1. I think the Jesuit Father was discussing the distinction between active purifications and passive purifications.
Active purifications are those acts that we decide to undergo. Passive purifications are those that come from God.
2. The active ones are expressed in small sacrifices, in practices and penances that we do willingly.
Such practices may carry the hidden risk of pride and feeling good about themselves.
The passive ones are more effective because pride is burned directly by the Lord.
3. Stated that, it would seem that active purifications are to be regarded with suspicion and are even to be avoided because they involve hidden risks.
But this is a deception.
Because it is precisely through them, which are born of the desire inside Christians to cooperate with Christ in the redemption of the world, that one receives strength and readiness in accepting the passive ones.
4. This is why Thomas of Kempis, or whoever else is the author of the Imitation of Christ, said: ama nesciri et pro nihilo computari (“Love to be unknown and to be judged as nothing”).
We have to take care of the first part, by avoiding the temptation to appear to receive the praise from the world.
In the second part, we must accept that others – almost as if they are sent by God – “prune us”.
5. However, it is not a question of simple resignation because, as we heard in the second reading of last Sunday’s Mass (22° of ordinary time, year a) we must “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12,1).
And we must offer this sacrifice in deep communion and symbiosis with Christ, who “freely offered himself to his passion, took the bread and gave thanks, broke it and said: this is my body offered as a sacrifice for you”.
6. So we too freely take the crosses that are sent to us and we say, as the venerable Girolamo Savonarola when they told him that they had come to arrest him, to take him to trial and to sentence him to death: “Thank you Lord for calling me to be in your similitude at this moment”.
And just like Christ broke the bread to give it to us, so too, after having taken up our crosses, instead of rejecting them, we offer them to God and to the world.
And we say: “This is my body offered as a sacrifice for you”, “This is my blood shed for you for the remission of sins”.
7. The Jesuit Father did well in making that distinction to remember that God’s work is more precious than ours.
But then the acceptance of God’s work is necessarily turned into an offering. Otherwise it remains in vain.
8. I wish you all the best in this very important moment of your life, at the beginning of a new journey in which the Lord is calling you to become a priest and an apostle following the footsteps of St. Dominic.
With your entry into the Order, I am happy to have received another brother and I praise the Lord’s fidelity in fulfilling what He said: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19,29).
I gladly remind you to the Lord and I bless you.