On Learning Patience
THE DISCIPLE. O Lord God, I know that I need patience above all else,(Heb.10:36)for in this life there are many trials. For however earnestly I seek peace, I cannot escape struggle and sorrow.(Ps. 31:10)
CHRIST. This is true, My son. But My will is that you do not try to find a place free from temptations and troubles. Rather, seek a peace that endures even when you are beset by various temptations and tried by much adversity. (James 1:2) If you say that you cannot endure much, how will you endure the fires of Purgatory? Of two evils, always choose the lesser. Endeavor patiently to endure for God's sake all the ills of this life, that you may escape eternal punishment. Do you imagine that worldly men suffer little or nothing? Ask the most wealthy, and you will not find it so.
But, you may say, they enjoy many pleasures, and follow their own desires; in this way they make light of any troubles. Yet, even if they enjoy whatever they desire, how long will this last? The rich of this world will vanish like smoke, (Ps. 68:2) and no memory of their past pleasures will remain. But even in their lifetime they do not enjoy them without bitterness, weariness and fear, for the very things whence they derive their pleasures often carry with them the seeds of sorrow. And this is but just; for having sought and followed pleasures to excess, they may not enjoy them without shame and bitterness. Ah, how short-lived and false, how disorderly and base are all these pleasures! Yet so besotted and blind are such persons that, like dumb beasts, they bring death to their souls for the trivial enjoyments of this corruptible life! My son, do not follow your lusts, and do not be self-willed. (Ecclus.18:30) Delight in the Lord, and he will grant your heart's desire. (Ps.37:4)
If you would taste true pleasure and receive the fullness of My consolation, know this: that in the despising of worldly things and in the shunning of base delights shall be your blessing, and you shall win abundant consolation. The more you withdraw yourself from the comfort of creatures, the sweeter and more potent will be the consolations that you will find in Me. But you will not find these at once, or without sorrow, toil and effort. Old habits will stand in your way, but by better (habits) they will be overcome. (S. Augustine, Confessions VIII, 11,25) The body will complain, but by fervor of the spirit it can be disciplined.
The Old Serpent, (Rev.12:9) will goad and disturb you, but by prayer he will be put to flight; and by profitable labor you will bar the wide path by which he comes to attack you.
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