Thursday, January 26, 2012

Devotion for today: fighting desolation

Now that we have defined desolation and discovered what causes it, it is time to arm ourselves and fight!

Scripture meditation: Philippians 1:6
 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Christ tells us: Mark 10:51-52
Then Jesus spoke, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Rabbuni,” the blind man said to him, “Master, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has saved you.” And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

Continuing with Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, (Consoling the Heart of Jesus, Marian Press, 2010): 
Again, apart from being a wake-up call regarding sin in our lives, God may allow desolation to help us grow in humility or help us become better soldiers. I say “better soldiers” because engaging in the battle for spiritual joy trains us in the soldier-like virtues of patience, perseverance, and especially trust…. In order to grow in patience and perseverance as we fight desolation, we need to be anchored in hope…. Without hope, all is lost. Yet, with hope, we’re strong, and as hope grows, so does our ability to be patient and persevering in the midst of battle…. To help us fortify our hope against the enemy’s attacks, St. Ignatius gives three important instructions before battle begins. First, he says, we should consider that God never allows more than we can take. In other words, even though we don’t feel it, God’s grace upholds us during times of desolation…. Ignatius’s second instruction for helping us to fortify our hope is as follows: During desolation we should be patient, knowing that the time of consolation will return soon. This is great hope…. To prevent the birth of such renewed hope, the bad spirit tries to hide from us the fact that reinforcements are racing toward us. In other words, he makes us think our desolation will never end…. What a tragedy it would be to give up right on the verge of winning the battle. To prevent such a terrible mistake, we need to keep a look out for consolation. Curiously, we do this primarily by looking back, which is Ignatius’s third instruction for helping us to fortify our hope. Thinking back to times of consolation, as we fight desolation not only aids our hope but sometimes even wins the battle right then and there. Because of the effectiveness of this tactic, many people find it helpful to write in a journal during times of particularly strong consolation….one can then read from his journal as an aid to jogging his memory to recall past times of consolation. Such recalling of consolation in one’s life often increases hope….This is one truth we can always cling to: God’s mercy; that God is Mercy, and that no one who trusts in his mercy has ever been disappointed.

Prayer: Psalm 22:20-22
But you, O Lord, be not far from me; O my help, hasten to aid me. Rescue my soul from the sword, my loneliness from the grip of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth: from the horns of the wild bulls, my wretched life.

My thoughts: By using St. Ignatius’s three points, Fr. Gaitley reminds us that God never gives us more than we can handle. So even though we may feel like the psalmist, God is never very far away. Of course, we have to choose to hold onto hope and believe that God will send reinforcements of grace to pull us out of this desolation. If we don’t have the faith of the blind man in our gospel passage, and if we don’t cling to hope, and trust in God’s mercy, then we can be defeated by this desolate state. We now know what it is, how it comes, and how we can fight it. What is left? Read tomorrow and find out!

(Please remember that I am reducing a large amount of very valuable information into a paragraph, which is why I recommend reading the book Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley.)

Our prayer to God: Fr. Gaitley recommends writing a journal when we are in consolation. To me, it is the same as looking at a photo album when I miss my grown children. Seeing all we did in the fun times when they were home with me brings me great joy and consolation!  Tonight, take pen in hand or keyboard to fingertips, and make a list of the times you felt close to God: the day you heard you got the job; the time you were in desperate need of a friend and one showed up; anything that really, truly felt like the answer to your prayer. Then, thank God for relieving your desolation, even if it isn’t already gone. By thanking him, you are acknowledging that you know he will be faithful to his promises. “Jesus, I trust in You.”­

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