“I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (Luke 11.8).
I found a precious story in a tiny booklet called Uniformity with God’s Will, written by a saint, Alphonsus de Liguori (1) . For years a priest had prayed God to send him someone who would teach him the secret of holiness. One day, at prayer, he heard a voice saying: “Go to such and such a church and you will have the answer to your prayers.” He went and at the door of the church, this priest found a homeless guy. He greeted the beggar saying: “Good morning, my friend.”
“Thank you, sir, for your kind wishes, but I do not recall ever having had a ‘bad’ morning.”
“Yes indeed”, the priest added, “Today is a beautiful day.”
“Very beautiful”, answered the homeless. “Well, sir, for me all days are beautiful.”
The priest was taken aback how this man could define all days good, all mornings beautiful when he himself, like everyone else, had good days and bad days, sometimes he felt up and sometimes he felt down. And so he asked the guy why is he saying that all days are good and all mornings are beautiful.
“Oh simple, sir. In life I have learnt to desire always what God gives me. This is my way of life. When I have nothing to eat, I say ‘fantastic’ a fine day to fast. When I am given lunch, I say to myself ‘Great! Just the food I wanted’. When it rains, I am happy because I realize I need a shower. When it is sunny, I give thanks to God for the sun tan he offers me. So I never have an unhappy day because I am accustomed to will unreservedly what God wills.”
The priest was really touched by this wisdom and asked him who he is.
“I am a king”, was the simple yet incisive answer of this homeless man sitting in front of the Church. A king because he rules over the events of life. He does not let circumstances dominate him. In his poverty he was richer than the mightiest king. In his sufferings, he was vastly happier than people amid their worldly delights.
God is a Father and so each morning he works out a plan for us. A fantastic plan. He wants us happy and so he makes sure that we get what we need. If we need motivation, he gives us events which please us. If we need correction, he sends us an event which lowers our ego. The problem is that many of us have other plans in mind for the day and so we clash. God presents to me the event – a phone call, an invitation to lunch, a headache, warm weather … and I, not realizing that it is God who is behind the events, resist and fight against the events which I do not like.
So many times, we are sad and angry. We become unbearable and grumpy. All this increases our unhappiness. Too bad, because God can only will our own good. God loves us more than anybody else can or does love us. So what he gives us is always good. Even sufferings are for own good. Even chastisements come to help us mend our ways and save our souls. God surrounds us with his loving care. As Saint Paul says, what can God deny us when he has given us his own Son? It is tough that we do not see the pearls which are just in front of our eyes and our noses!
How can we start uniting our will with the will of God so that we desire always what he gives us? How can we rejoice with our history? And this where Jesus Christ wants to help us.
He speaks of a guy who is very persistent, adamant in his requests. Friends arrive at his home late at night. He has nothing to feed them and so goes to his friend to get what he wants. He does not mind waking the whole family of his friend, shouting, getting his friend out of bed. And why does he do it? Obviously, because he want to treat his friends which came from afar well. Hospitality is important for him.
This is perhaps the first question – is it important for you? Is happiness important for you? Do you believe that happiness is desiring whatever God wants to give you every day? Even if you do not like or not understand what God is giving you now? This husband? This wife? These children? This health? Or you believe that happiness consists in having some pleasure in life, watching a movie and not having any problems?
If you agree that harmonizing yourself to whatever God wants to give you every day is the only way to happiness, then – Jesus Christ is telling you – shout for it. Insist. Demand. Persist. Plod along. Keep knocking. Keep asking. Keep searching. Keep after him. Wake up God. Persistence is the name of the game – Jesus Christ is saying.
Like Abraham, bargain with God! God will yield. Our Lord said to St. Catherine of Sienna, “Daughter, think of me, and I will always think of you.” Abba Nilus (2) says : ” St. Paul teaches us to continue “instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12), grounding ourselves in it by long perseverance (Collossians 4:2, Ephesians 6:18). He also commands us to “pray everywhere” (I Timothy 2:8) so that no idle one can excuse himself because he lives far from the house of prayer. Any place is suitable for prayer. God accepts those who call to Him with a pure heart and righteous deeds, and seeing their disposition, listens to their supplication, even if the place whence they call to Him has nothing special to distinguish it.”
Seeing that you really want him, He will give you the Holy Spirit. And your life will blossom.
There was a monk who was famous because people were healed simply if they touched his garments. The superior was mystified because he was a very normal monk living the same life as others. He could not understand why this special charisma. One day speaking with him, the only point which seemed to be different from the others was his constant willing to do only what God willed. “Prosperity does not lift me up, nor adversity cast me down. I direct all my prayers to the end that God’s will may be done fully in me and by me.” “But the raid that our enemies made against the monastery the other day, in which our stores were plundered, our granaries put to the torch and our cattle driven off — did not this misfortune cause you any resentment?”, queried the abbot.
“No, Father,” came the reply. “On the contrary, I returned thanks to God — as is my custom in such circumstances — fully persuaded that God does all things, or permits all that happens, for his glory and for our greater good; thus I am always at peace, no matter what happens.”
As simple as ABC.
Footnote 1 : St. Alphonsus Ligouri was born in Naples, Italy in 1696. In his early life, he was renowned as a doctor of both Canon and Civil Law, but he left his profession to enter the priesthood. As a priest, he concentrated his life on pastoral efforts, parish missions, hearing confessions and forming Christian groups. In 1732, St. Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, also known as Redemptorists. This order was made up of priests and brothers living in common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in parish missions for parishes in rural areas. Much of Alphonsus’ life was spent doing pastoral reform. He gained renown as a compassionate and simple confessor and preacher. At the age of 66 Alphonsus was made bishop and continued his pastoral reform on a diocesan level. Alphonsus died in 1787. He is known now for his moral theology and his many writings. He is the patron saint of theologians.
Footnote 2: St. Nilus of Sinai, a contemporary of St. John Chrysostom is a desert father. His writing on prayer are considered among the finest available. From a wealthy and illustrious family, his noble birth and personal gifts resulted in his being appointed prefect of the capital city of Antioch. This illustrious position, and the fame and social life the position attracted, conflicted with his spiritual aspirations. Therefore, St. Nilus reached an agreement with his wife, with whom he already had two children, and renounced the world in order to follow the path of salvation in solitude. He took his son, Theodul, and departed Antioch for Mount Sinai, while his wife and daughter entered a convent in Egypt. Nilus and Theodul lived a very austere life in the desert of Sinai. They dug a cave with their bare hands to use as a cell and subsisted on bitter wild plants growing in the area. They spent all their time in prayer, study of the Bible, meditation, and labors.
Like Abraham and Isaac before, God tested Nilus and Theodul in the following way. Raiders from Arabia invaded the Sinai, pillaged everything, slaughtered many, and led others away into captivity. Among those captured was Theodul, much to the distress of St. Nilus. A couple of days after the raid, St. Nilus heard that the pagans were about to sacrifice Theodul to Venus, the morning star, but the report did not indicate whether the barbarous act had been carried out. After some time had passed, Nilus learned that Theodul was not sacrificed, but instead had been sold into slavery in the town of Elusius where the bishop had bought him, along with some other captives, and was preparing him for the service of the Church. When Nilus arrived in Elusius to get his son back, the bishop tried to persuade him to enter the service of the Church, too. However, his love of solitude prevented him from doing that. The bishop then ordained both of them to the priesthood, blessed them to return to the Sinai, and they remained there for the rest of their lives. St. Nilus entered the desert in 390 and departed this world in 450 after spending some sixty years in the desert.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.