Thursday, April 8, 2010

What a Labor Camp Can Teach Us…(Part II):

What a Labor Camp Can Teach Us… continued:

Too often we associate God’s will as something yet to occur in the future. The trick is, as Fr. Walter Ciszek said so many times, is to see God’s will for us in the moment and in each day that he gives us. He writes, To predict what God’s will is going to be, to rationalize about what his will must be, is at once a work of human folly and yet the subtlest of all temptations. The plain and simple truth is that his will is what he actually wills to send us each day, in the way of circumstances, places, people, and problems. The trick is to learn to see that- not just in theory, or not just occasionally in a flash of insight granted by God’s grace, but every day.

The book and spiritual classic, Imitation of Christ, our Lord speaks to his disciple; the disciple representing us. He reminds him that to focus too much on the future is to be a slave of his imagination. “It is a vain and unprofitable thing,” he says, “to conceive either grief or joy for future things, which perhaps will never happen.”

God inspired a dream in Fr. Ciszek: to minister to the Russian people. However, what seemed to be an eternity in solitary confinement (close to five years) contradicted that he thought anyways. There was not a soul to talk to; no Russian people to minister whereby he could use his priestly gifts. Every day in that Moscow prison he had to conquer himself and die to self. The monotony of solitary confinement and the isolation he experienced tested his faith greatly.

Was his mission to Russia all in vain? Was the inspiration to preach the Word of God to the Russian people just a product of his imagination? Those thoughts alone could have crushed him if he did not exercise his faith in Christ on a continuous basis. Yet, it was this kind of exercise, a determined and deliberate trust in God’s providence that gave him the strength to minister to his prison mates in the Siberian labor camps. The labor camp's frigid and desperate conditions called for a man of God whose hope transcended and even defied those daily circumstances which seemed to be impossible and never ending.

Regarding those desperate conditions he endured in both the prison in Moscow and the gulags in Siberia, he learned a simple but profound truth about the will of God: The temptation is to look beyond these things, precisely because they are so constant, so petty, so humdrum and routine, and to seek to discover instead some other nobler “will of God” in the abstract that better fits our notion of what his will should be… We have to accept God’s will as the will of God as God envisions it and reveals it to us each day in the created situations with which he presented it to us.

The Saints lived according to this truth and as such, it gave them a profound peace that no one could take away. But it comes with a price: we must die to ourselves, die to what we think is best, and die to what we want for ourselves. And in that void we are to replace it with a trust that Jesus Christ knows exactly what we need and what is truly in our best interests. We may not have the answers to why this or that happens- good or bad –but we know the One who does have the answer.

Fr. Walter Ciszek teaches us in the book, He Leadeth Me, that what seems to be senseless suffering just might be the very thing we need to fulfill our mission and succeed in life. We do not have to grope for God’s will. God’s will is what he gives us today. And it’s what we do with those daily occurences which will merit our eternal reward in heaven.

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