Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Prisoner for Christ: Lessons for the Unemployed II

For thirteen years, Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van was a prisoner for Christ; a prisoner in the unforgiving environment of a Vietnamese prison. Yet, he did not wait to be released so much as he waited on the Lord for his peace and strength to carry him through each day. Scripture is full of waiting: "I waited, waited for the LORD; who bent down and heard my cry." (Psalm 40:2) "Wait for the LORD, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the LORD!" (Psalm 27:14) Waiting on God is His instrument of purification, of spiritual progress and of sharing the sufferings of Christ (cf. Colossians 1:24/Romans 8:17)

For Cardinal Nguyen Van waiting was transformed into actively accepting God’s will. And that meant seeing the disagreeable circumstances of his daily existence as that which God willed for him. As such, he gave it his all. “All prisoners,” he said,” myself included, constantly wait to be let go. I decided then and there that my captivity would not be merely a time of resignation but a turning point in my life. I decided I would not wait. I would live the present moment and fill it with love. For if I wait, the things I wait for will never happen.”

It is inevitable for the unemployed, even in the midst of actively looking for a job, that there be waiting involved. Waiting after that first interview; waiting after sending out your resume; and waiting to hear about the final decision an employer is going to make; all of these forms of waiting is a cross the unemployed have to carry. Yet, there is good waiting that involves trust in God’s providence and thereby benefiting from its accompanying peace. There is also a bad waiting riddled with anxiety and sometimes idleness. Here are a few spiritual insights, many of which are from the Saints, which can better ensure the trust and peace previously mentioned.

With the exception of sin, everything that happens to us, favorable or unfavorable, is willed by God. The spiritual classic, Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis, says that there is not a leaf that falls from a tree without his permission. It can also be said that no man loses his job without the consent Divine Providence. It comes more naturally to Christians to view the meeting of his or her spouse, finding a house or even the success in one’s career as having meaning and reason by behind, as if inspired by the Lord. Nevertheless, we find in Scripture and in the writings of the Saints that so-called failures, suffering and even death fall within the same Providence that occasions the many blessings of life. Adversity, just as much as prosperity, has the power of bringing about our greater good. As a matter of fact, Jesus emphasizes that real beatitude and true happiness in the long-term is to be occasioned by spiritual poverty, mourning, persecution, hunger and being hated. To put it another way, bad things are supposed to happen. When they do, Pope Leo XIII reminded Catholics not to believe in those false promises which say that life ought to be paved with ease and comfort. No, we should bear our troubles in faith, trusting that they will come to a happy issue. In the meantime, we are to seek solace and strength from Heaven:

“[T]he other pains and hardships of life will have no end or cessation on earth; for the consequences of sin are bitter and hard to bear, and they must accompany man so long as life lasts. To suffer and to endure, therefore, is the lot of humanity; let them strive as they may, no strength and no artifice will ever succeed in banishing from human life the ills and troubles which beset it. If any there are who pretend differently -- who hold out to a hard-pressed people the boon of freedom from pain and trouble, an undisturbed repose, and constant enjoyment -- they delude the people and impose upon them, and their lying promises will only one day bring forth evils worse than the present. Nothing is more useful than to look upon the world as it really is, and at the same time to seek elsewhere, as We have said, for the solace to its troubles.” (On Capital and Labor, art. 18)

Therefore, we shouldn’t grow despondent when troubles beset us. Quite often, it is a necessary piece to the larger puzzle of life. Unemployment is no exception. Indeed, our Lord cautioned us that we must travel down the narrow and difficult road to heaven. Every vocation and every mission is paved with setbacks and delays. Those who achieved great things, either for the Church or for society, had to look beyond what seemed like a hopeless situation. So that we would not get discouraged, Jesus assured us that when we make the necessary sacrifices to follow him we will be compensated- not only heaven –but in this life as well.