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in the present consideration, and in doing so I am but following out the plan of S. Ignatius, who wishes that the entire of the first day should be exclusively devoted to this subject.
L The first cause which renders this golden indifference so difficult to us is the dread of the labours, the slights, the annoyances, the sickness which must fall to our lot in such a particular place, or office, or degree of virtue, and so render our lives miserable. The removal then of this dread will help also to remove the obstacles which impede us in attaining this indifference.
1. To begin, then, with the dread of sickness ; tell me, pray, cannot the Lord punish you with sickness in that place also, and in that office which you desire so much? And is He not able to preserve you in health in that place, and in that office, which you would avoid through fear of illness? .... Why do you not fear rather that the vengeance of God would punish your repugnance precisely in this manner? .... And, on the other hand, is there not reason to hope that God would reward your indifference by preserving to you your health? . . . . And, finally, if God, the Arbiter of life and death, does wish that you should be ailing rather than in good health, who are you that you should wish to resist His Omnipotence? Is it not better to be ailing in conformity with God's will, than enjoying good health in opposition to it? Therefore, the alleged fear of sickness is an extremely weak excuse suggested to you by self-love. Nevertheless, it is not forbidden you to lay before your superiors any well-grounded fear you may have of losing your health, provided you be at the same time prepared to do afterwards, with a spirit of indifference, whatsoever they, with a knowledge of the case, shall impose upon you.
2. Next, as regards the labours, the inconveniences, the annoyances, the weariness, the cares, to avoid which you would not wish to be in that place, or in that office, cannot God recompense you abundantly for them by a more sublime gift of prayer, by heavenly consolations, by the happy success of your undertakings, by peace of soul, by purity of heart, and by removing you from greater troubles, afflictions, and calamities which you might have to endure elsewhere?
On the other hand, cannot God, for your punishment, afflict you in that place or in that office which you so eagerly desire, with innumerable trials—and ones much more difficult to bear than those which you would endeavour to escape 1 . . . . Nay, have you not just reason to fear that such trials would befall you? Be wise, then, and repose with indifference in the designs of Divine Providence.
3. Finally, what has been said of labours may be said also of those insults which you fear to encounter in any particular place, or office, or degree of virtue. If you endure them in peace, God will reward you with an abundance of graces, with robust health, with tranquillity of soul, and with the sweetness of heavenly consolations. On the other hand, oh ! how many have met with nothing but rebuffs and insults in the very place where they had hoped to be crowned with glory! Oh, how odious when elevated to the rank of superiors do they often become, who, had they remained in the position of equals, would have won the love of every person with whom they might be brought in contact!
Such persons, by a just judgment of God, meet with insults, sickness and labours in that very career in which they had hoped to find ease, honours, and health. Thus Aman, though holding a most honourable position, ended his life on the gibbet (a). Thus Lot, who had chosen for his residence the most pleasant places in Sodom, would have been destroyed by the fire which rained from heaven, had he not hastened to seek safety in flight (b). Thus Ochozias, while impatiently desiring to fly from sickness, met death, and was forced to hear from Elias that terrible announcement, " Thou shalt surely die" (c).
And then, what do you gain? Since even after enduring so many annoyances, and taking so much trouble to withdraw yourself from compliance with what obedience prescribes, it happens, as a general rule, that you must finally yield, and do under compulsion that which you now refuse to do of your own free will, For, whether you wish it or not, the will of God must always accomplish itself. God ordered Jonas to go to Ninive and preach there. Fearing that if God should afterwards pardon that people, he would himself be regarded as a false prophet, Jonas refused the office that had been assigned to him, and fled from that place. But who can escape from the hand of God 1 He is caught in the midst of the
(a) Esther vii. 10. (6) Gen. lix. 24.
(c) 4 Kings i. 16.
ocean, is buried in its waters, is swallowed by a fish, and is at length saved only when he has passed through many dangers and trials. What happens next?" The word of the Lord came to Jonas the second time," ordering him to proceed to Ninive. He obeyed; he went: but only after he had encountered many trials, which he would have escaped if he had only obeyed the first command (a).
II. Having removed, then, this chief impediment, let us next consider, for our greater encouragement, the happiness which is enjoyed in this world by a soul endowed with the spirit of indifference. While she covets nothing through self-love, and refuses nothing through fear, she enjoys a heavenly peace, precisely because she puts away from her those two passions which are the fount of all uneasiness, namely, a painful longing to obtain that which we desire, and the fear of losing what we already possess.
He who desires nothing is the richest person upon earth, because he is rich in himself, and is his own absolute master. He is independent of his superiors, because, being indifferent to everything, he seeks favours from no one. He abounds in every consolation, being always certain that he is in that place and in that office, in which God wishes him to be, and, hence, in all his difficulties, dangers, and trials, he has recourse to God with entire confidence, being certain of obtaining His assistance. His days are passed in tranquil repose on the bosom of Divine Providence, while he repeats with the prophet, " The Lord rideth me, and I shall ieant nothing" (b).
(a) Jonas iii. 1, et seq. (6) Ps. xxii. 1.
Finally, the rival of the angels, he lives a heavenly life, even while he is yet a sojourner upon earth. For, as the angels of the Lord are always prepared "to hearken to the voice of his orders" (a), are ready to guard alike a rich or a poor man, a Christian or an unbeliever; are indifferent to offer up in heaven the incense of the prayers of the saints (b), as well as to pour out upon the earth the "seven vials full of the wrath of God" (c); so this happy soul stands ever on the alert to execute, as do the angels, the slightest order of her Creator, which is the only goal of her actions. Hence, no one can fully estimate the happiness which she enjoys here upon earth.
On the other hand, the person who does not possess this beautiful virtue is like a tempest-tossed ocean—ever agitated by a thousand cares, a thousand troubles. He must sacrifice his independence, must humble himself, must become the base flatterer of other men in order that they may favour, or at least, not oppose his ambitious projects. Should adversity come upon him, he dares not, in the fulness of his remorse, to ask assistance from God; because he well knows that he has himself sought from the hands of his superior, through intrigue, that position which now causes him so much trouble. And he knows that for his punishment God turns into bitterness, that for the enjoyment of which he withdrew himself from following the Divine will. Perhaps you have yourself experienced this, .... and yet you have not learned wisdom 1
Imprudent man! do you not fear that, for your
(a) Ps. cii. 20. (b) Apoo. viii. 3. (c) Apoc. xv. 7.