Saturday, October 1, 2011

Excerpts: Thanking God for Crosses

“Excerpts” is a feature of Sky View which takes passages from old and dusty books because of some insight they offer or light they shed on the daily circumstances of our lives.

The following excerpt is taken from the book, “My Changeless Friend” written by Francis P. LeBuffe, S.J. 1949 The title of the chapter is called: Thanking God for Crosses.

Giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God the Father. Ephesians 5:29

He was a hard-headed specialist, one of the greatest authorities in his line. He had seen service at a leper colony and had cared for four thousand patients there. While there, a Jesuit chaplain was stricken with the dreaded disease.

“When I told him, Father, of his condition, he looked at me and then slowly lifted his eyes to Heaven, saying: ‘Thanks be to God!’ I just couldn’t make that out- and I can’t make it out yet. Thanks be to God for leprosy?!”

It did seem strange; and it didn’t seem to make sense. Thank God for leprosy! Thank God for the “gray death” that is so feared by man!

Yet, once we have caught the real inner meaning of life and the full providence of God over us, we know how to thank Him for everything. Anyone can thank Him for health and wealth and happiness and success. Anyone, even most casually acquainted with Him, can thank Him for bright days and joys and a road through life that is broad and smooth and sunny. Even a dog will bark and a cat will purr when food is given them.

But when the hard things of life come, and the days are dark, and every road leads steeply uphill- then it is that only a strong faith can bring a “Thank You” to our lips.

Yet if we believe in God’s Providence, we know that nothing happens to us without His knowledge and consent. It is not correct to say that all that is hard and painful is sent to us directly by God. No, much of it comes from our own mistakes or perverseness, or the mistakes and perverseness of other men. In those instances, God merely permits hard things to happen to us. Thus, when they actually do come upon us, they come with His full knowledge and permission, and we can, therefore, accept them as His will. He could have disposed things otherwise, but in His wisdom He did not; and thus here and now I bear my cross because it is His will.

But to a Christian there is a higher reason. Christ could have come upon earth and never have suffered a pain, and never have suffered any opposition. He could have had all the wealth He wanted and made Himself the honored ruler of all mankind. Certainly all that lay easily within His omnipotence. But instead He came in want; He met opposition and enmity throughout His life; He knew hunger; and often had not whereon to lay His head; and He died in the worst form of agony man’s cruelty has yet invented.

So when we are in want, when we are in pain, when crosses weigh us down, we can accept them- yes, and will accept them- with a heartfelt “Thank You.” They are hard to bear- of course they are; and our nature will rebel- of course it will. But we will realize as the great Catholic poet realized that it is “shade of His hand outstretched caressingly.” He knows what is best, and if He hurts or allows us to be hurt, He does it as the surgeon does, to heal. And we thank the surgeon, don’t we? And we thank that doctor that gives us bitter medicine or restricts our food, don’t we? And we are more like the Man of Sorrows in our days of darkness and our hours of pain. We love Him, don’t we? Well, “love either finds or makes alike.” Surely then a real “Thank You” will spring from our hearts and hang jubilant upon our lips for each untoward thing that makes us more like Him.

Dear Jesus, let me learn to say “Thank You” for everything that comes to me in life. It is easy to be grateful for what is pleasant and to my liking. But it is hard, very hard, to be at all thankful for pain and disappointments and crosses. You know it; You Yourself found it hard. Yet You were thankful nonetheless. So give me much grace to say “Thank You” for everything.