The First Point
“When temptations and interior trials have been endured patiently, God ordinarily encourages a pure soul with spiritual consolation.” While it can be difficult to find ourselves being tempted, when we respond to God’s grace by resisting temptation we receive a certain benefit from God.
For this reason we find the pattern of every two Sundays of Lent. The First Sunday of Lent is always an account of the Temptation of Jesus. And the Second Sunday of Lent is always an account of the Transfiguration.
We resist temptation, and we receive consolations. This is the pattern we see in the readings for Lent. Last week Saint John Baptist de la Salle provided how it is that temptations provide us the opportunity to respond to God’s grace. This week we see how God shows his love to us by providing us spiritual consolations.
To be sure, those great saints went long periods of time without spiritual consolations. Saint Teresa of Kolkata, known as Mother Teresa, has long periods of spiritual dryness. So too did Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross. For the greatest mystics, there were periods of long dryness as they sought the deepest of relationships with God.
But for most of us, we are not at that spiritual level, and we really need spiritual consolations. I know I do! I find it most difficult if I happen to be in a period of spiritual dryness. This would be especially true if it went on for years.
And yet, at the same time, we cannot expect spiritual consolations, especially on a regular basis, if we do not pray on a regular basis. If we are not seeking to place ourselves in experiences where we can encounter God, in prayer, then we should not be surprised we do not encounter God. We must seek God, or at the very least be open to seeking God in our lives.
The Second Point
To grow more deeply in the spiritual life, it is not the case we constantly receive these spiritual consolations. This is because if we were constantly receiving these spiritual consolations, we could find ourselves attached not to a relationship with God, but to the consolations themselves.
And it is the case that God, Jesus, must always be sought for His own self. The relationship we should desire is the relationship that helps us to grow closer to God. When we seek God for His own sake, we grow closer and closer to the God who saves.
But it is also the case that life is difficult. Just as those who exercise need periods of rest, so too do we need refreshment from the difficulties of our life. We gain this refreshment in the form of these spiritual consolations give to us by God.
But the apostles who accompany Jesus, do not understand this idea that we must not be constantly seeking these consolations, writes de la Salle. They want to cling to this by erecting booths to make this experience permanent.
Moreover, when we seek to make permanent these spiritual consolations, we can be tempted to believe that is is something that we have done, that it is some accomplishment of ours. And so it is the case the vision is fleeting, says de la Salle, lest the apostles be overcome by pride and fall into sin.
The Third Point
It is the case these consolations are short. They help us to endure difficult times, and to prepare us for the next difficult time. They are short lest we think there is some accomplishment of ours that brings them about. The danger is that we can then look at people who suffer as somehow responsible for the suffering they endure.
Furthermore, these consolations are designed to be the type of rest that enables us to face the next difficulties in our life. Remember that de la Salle lived in a difficult time in France. Just as Jesus, in his humanity, needed courage to face his passion, so too do we.
Questions to Ponder
Have you experienced periods of dryness, and if so, how have you discovered the presence of God to help you face them?
How is it that a constant stress on the presence of God can help us to get through difficult times?
In what ways can we guard against seeing religion only as a way to make us always happy and peaceful?