Se da Dio accettiamo il bene, perché non dovremo accettare anche il male?

Dal «Commento al Libro di Giobbe» di san Gregorio Magno, papa

(Lib. 3, 15-16; PL 75, 606-608)
Se da Dio accettiamo il bene, perché non dovremo accettare anche il male?

    Paolo, osservando in se stesso le ricchezze della sapienza interiore e vedendo che all’esterno egli era corpo corruttibile, disse: «Abbiamo questo tesoro in vasi di creta» (2 Cor 4, 7).
    Ecco che nel beato Giobbe il vaso di creta sentì all’esterno i colpi e le rotture, ma questo tesoro internamente rimase intatto. Al di fuori si screpolò a causa delle ferite, ma il tesoro della sapienza all’interno rinasceva inesauribilmente, tanto da manifestarsi all’esterno in queste sante espressioni: «Se da Dio accettiamo il bene, perché non dovremmo accettare il male?» (Gb 2, 10).
    Chiama beni i doni di Dio sia temporali che eterni; mali invece i flagelli presenti, dei quali il Signore dice per bocca del profeta: «Io sono il Signore e non c’è alcun altro; fuori di me non c’è dio. Io formo la luce e creo le tenebre, faccio il bene e provoco la sciagura» (Is 45, 5a. 7).
    «Io formo la luce e creo le tenebre», perché, mentre con i flagelli si creano all’esterno le tenebre del dolore, si accende all’interno la luce delle grandi esperienze spirituali. «Faccio il bene e provoco la sciagura», perché alla pace con Dio veniamo riportati quando le cose create bene, ma non bene desiderate, si mutano, per noi, in flagelli e sofferenze. Noi entrammo in conflitto con Dio a causa della colpa. È giusto dunque che torniamo in pace con lui per mezzo dei flagelli. Quando infatti ogni cosa creata bene si volge per noi in sofferenza, siamo ricondotti sulla retta via, e l’anima nostra è rigenerata con l’umiltà alla pace del Creatore.
    Ma nelle parole di Giobbe bisogna osservare attentamente con quanta abilità di ragionamento egli sappia concludere contro le affermazioni di sua moglie, dicendo: «Se da Dio accettiamo il bene, perché non dovremmo accettare il male?».
    È certamente un grande conforto nelle tribolazioni richiamare alla memoria i benefici del nostro Creatore, mentre si sopportano le avversità. Né ciò che viene dal dolore ci può scoraggiare, se subito richiamiamo alla mente il conforto che i doni ci recano. Per questo è stato scritto: Nel tempo della prosperità non dimenticare la sventura e nel tempo della sventura non dimenticare il benessere (cfr. Sir 11, 25).
    Chiunque gode prosperità, ma nel tempo di essa non ha timore anche dei flagelli, a causa del benessere cade nell’arroganza. Chi invece, oppresso da flagelli, non cerca al tempo stesso di consolarsi con la memoria dei doni ricevuti, è annientato dai sentimenti di sconforto o anche di disperazione. Bisogna dunque unire assieme le due cose, in modo che l’una sia sempre sostenuta dall’altra: il ricordo del bene mitigherà la sofferenza del flagello; la diffidenza circa le gioie terrestri e il timore del flagello freneranno la gioia del dono.
    L’uomo santo perciò, per alleviare il suo animo oppresso in mezzo alle ferite, nella sofferenza dei flagelli consideri la dolcezza dei doni, e dica: «Se da Dio accettiamo il bene, perché non dovremmo accettare il male?».

RESPONSORIO        Gb 2, 10; 1, 21-22

 Da Dio accettiamo il bene; perché non accettare anche il male? * Il Signore ha dato, il Signore ha tolto; sia benedetto il nome del Signore.
 In tutto questo Giobbe non peccò, e non attribuì a Dio nulla di ingiusto:
 il Signore ha dato, il Signore ha tolto; sia benedetto il nome del Signore.

“We have left everything and followed you”

Daily Reading & Meditation

Tuesday (March 5): “We have left everything and followed you”

Scripture: Mark 10:28-31

28 Peter began to say to him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many that are first will be last, and the last first.”

Meditation: What’s the best investment you can make with your life? The gospel presents us with a paradox: we lose what we keep, and we gain what we give away. When we lose our lives for Jesus Christ, we gain a priceless treasure and an inheritance which lasts forever. Whatever we give to God comes back a hundredfold. Generosity flows from a heart full of gratitude for the abundant mercy and grace which God grants. Do you give freely and generously? And why do you give, for reward or for love?

The Lord Jesus rewards those who follow him
Right after a wealthy young man refused to follow Jesus, Peter, somewhat crudely wanted to know what he and the other disciples would get out of it since they had freely accepted Jesus’ offer to follow him unconditionally. Jesus spoke with utter honesty: Those who left all for him would receive a hundred times more now, even in this life, as well as unending  life in the age to come. Jesus’ disciples can expect opposition and persecution from those who are opposed to Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

The joy and treasure of God’s everlasting kingdom 
Should we be surprised if we lose favor and experience ridicule, intimidation, and injury when we take a stand for truth and righteousness? In place of material wealth, Jesus promised his disciples the blessing and joy of rich fellowship with the community of believers. No earthly good or possession can rival the joy and bliss of knowing God and the peace and unity he grants to his disciples. The Lord Jesus wants to fill our hearts with the vision of the heavenly kingdom – a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Do you know the joy of following the Lord Jesus and serving him? Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with the joy and peace of God which does not pass away and with the assurance of his personal love for you which never fails.

“Lord Jesus, I want to follow you as your disciple and to love you wholeheartedly with all that I have. Fill my heart with faith, hope, and love that I may always find peace and joy in your presence.”

Psalm 98:1-4

1 O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things!  His right hand and his holy arm  have gotten him victory. 
2 The LORD has made known his victory, he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. 
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.  All the ends of the earth have seen  the victory of our God. 
4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! 

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The spiritual sense of leaving the family, by Clement of Alexandria, 150-215 A.D.

“Do not let this passage trouble you. Put it side by side with the still harder saying Jesus delivered in another place in the words, ‘Whoever hates not father, and mother, and children, and his own life besides, cannot be my disciple’ (Luke 14:26). Note that the God of peace, who exhorts us to love our enemies, does not arbitrarily require us literally to hate or abandon those dearest to us. But if we are to love our enemies, it must be in accordance with right reason that, by analogy we should also love our nearest relatives… But insofar as one’s father, or son, or brother, becomes for you a hindrance to faith or an impediment to godly life, one should then not collude with that temptation. Attend to the spiritual, rather than the fleshly, meaning of the command.” (excerpt from SALVATION OF THE RICH MAN 22.13)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2019 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

“Give – and you will have treasure in heaven”

Daily Reading & Meditation

Monday (March 4): “Give – and you will have treasure in heaven”

Scripture: Mark 10:17-27

    17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: `Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” 21 And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. 
    23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” 

Meditation: What gives hope and satisfaction to our desire for happiness and security? A young man who had the best the world could offer – wealth and security – came to Jesus because he lacked one thing. He wanted the kind of lasting peace and happiness which money could not buy him. The answer he got, however, was not what he was looking for. He protested that he kept all the commandments – but Jesus spoke to the trouble in his heart. One thing kept him from giving himself wholeheartedly to God. While he lacked nothing in material goods, he was nonetheless possessive of what he had. He placed his hope and security in what he possessed. So when Jesus challenged him to make God his one true possession and treasure, he became sad. 

Misplaced hope and treasure
Why did he go away from Jesus with great sorrow and sadness rather than with joy? His treasure and his hope for happiness were misplaced. Jesus challenged the young man because his heart was possessive. He was afraid to give to others for fear that he would lose what he had gained. He sought happiness and security in what he possessed rather than in who he could love and serve and give himself in undivided devotion.

The greatest joy possible
Why does Jesus tell his disciples to “sell all” for the treasure of his kingdom? Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. The Lord himself is the greatest treasure we can have. Giving up everything else to have the Lord as our treasure is not sorrowful, but the greatest joy. [See Jesus’ parable about the treasure hidden in a field in Matthew 13:44.] Selling all that we have could mean many different things – letting go of attachments, friendships, influences, jobs, entertainments, styles of life – really anything that might stand in the way of our loving God first and foremost in our lives and giving him the best we can with our time, resources, gifts, and service.

The priceless treasure of God’s kingdom
Those who are generous towards God and towards their neighbor find that they cannot outmatch God in his generosity towards us. God blesses us with the priceless treasures of his kingdom – freedom from fear and the griping power of sin, selfishness and pride which block his love and grace in our lives; freedom from loneliness, isolation and rejection which keep his children from living together in love, peace, and unity; and freedom from hopelessness, despair, and disillusionment which blind our vision of God’s power to heal every hurt, bind every wound, and remove every blemish which mar the image of God within us. God offers us treasure which money cannot buy. He alone can truly satisfy the deepest longing and desires of our heart. Are you willing to part with anything that might keep you from seeking true joy with Jesus?

Why does Jesus issue such a strong warning to the rich (as well as to the rest of us who desire to be rich)? Was he really against wealth? We know that Jesus was not opposed to wealth per se, nor was he opposed to the wealthy. He had many friends who were well-to-do, including some notorious tax collectors! One even became an apostle! Jesus’ warning reiterated the teaching of the Old Testament wisdom: Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is perverse in his ways (Proverbs 28:6; see also Psalm 37:16). Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist (Proverbs 23:4).

Where do we find true security?
Jesus seems to say that it is nearly impossible for the rich to live as citizens of God’s kingdom. The camel was regarded as the largest animal in Palestine. The “eye of the needle” could be interpreted quite literally or it could figuratively describe the narrow and low gate of the city walls which was used by travelers when the larger public gate was locked after dark. A normal sized man had to “lower” himself to enter that gate. A camel would literally have to knell and crawl through it. 

Why is Jesus so cautious about wealth?  Wealth can make us falsely independent. The church at Laodicea was warned about their attitude towards wealth and a false sense of security: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing” (Revelation 3:17). Wealth can also lead us into hurtful desires and selfishness (see 1 Timothy 6:9-10). Look at the lesson Jesus gave about the rich man and his sons who refused to aid the poor man Lazarus (see Luke 16:19ff). They also neglected to serve God. 

We loose what we keep – we gain what we give away
The Scriptures give us a paradox: we lose what we keep and we gain what we give away. Generosity will be amply repaid, both in this life and in eternity (Proverbs 3:9-10, Luke 6:38). Jesus offers us an incomparable treasure which no money can buy and no thief can steal. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. Material wealth will shackle us to this earth unless we guard our hearts and set our treasure on God and his everlasting kingdom. Where is your treasure?

“Lord Jesus, you have captured our hearts and opened to us the treasures of heaven. May you always be my treasure and delight and may nothing else keep me from giving you my all.”

Psalm 111:1-2,5-6,9-10c

1 Praise the LORD. I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. 
2 Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who have pleasure in them. 
5 He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant. 
6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. 
9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant for ever.  Holy and awesome is his name! 
10 His praise endures for ever! 

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Seek the life that endures, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“The Lord said to a certain young man, ‘If you would enter life, keep the commandments’ (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18). He did not say ‘If you would have life’ but ‘If you would enter life,’ defining that life as eternal life. Let us first consider then the love of this life. For this life is loved, whatever its quality; and however troubled it is, however wretched, people are afraid to end it. Hence we should see, we should consider, how much eternal life is to be loved, when this miserable life that must at some time be ended is so loved. Consider, brothers, how much that life is to be loved when it is a life you never end. You love this life, where you work so much, run, are busy, pant. In this busy life the obligations can scarcely be counted: sowing, plowing, working new land, sailing, grinding, cooking, weaving. And after all this hard work your life comes to an end. Look at what you suffer in this wretched life that you so love. And do you think that you will always live and never die? Temples, rocks, marbles, all reinforced by iron and lead, still fall. And a person thinks that he will never die? Learn therefore, brothers, to seek eternal life, when you will not endure these things but will reign with God forever.” (excerpt from SERMON 84.1.9)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2019 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager