Many people are wondering, while a pandemic is afflicting humanity, where God is in all this. The following writing by Chiara Lubich invites us to believe that nothing we experience, even if it is very painful, escapes his love and that behind everything there is a positive purpose, even if for the time being we cannot see it.
We talk about a Holy Journey and encourage each other to live our life as a Holy Journey, … and we often think of it as a series of days in which we want to make each day more perfect than the last: doing our work well, studying, resting, spending time with the family, attending gatherings and meetings, doing sport and relaxing, and all of this done in an orderly and peaceful way. That’s how we think of it and both humanly and instinctively we are inclined to expect it to be like that, because life is a continual tending towards order and harmony, health and peace. … We act like this because everything else is of course unforeseeable, but also because there is always hope in the human heart that things will go like that and not any other way.
In reality our Holy Journey turns out differently, because God wants it to be different. He himself brings other factors into our programme that are either wanted or permitted by him so that our existence may acquire its true meaning and reach the goal for which it was created. This is where physical and spiritual sufferings come in, the illnesses and the thousand other sufferings which speak more of death than of life. Why is this? Is it perhaps because God wants death? No, on the contrary, God loves life, but a life that is full and fruitful in a way we could never have imagined, even with all our efforts towards all that is good and positive, and towards peace. A Word of Life explains it: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24).
If the grain of wheat does not die, it stays nice and healthy, but remains alone; if it dies it multiplies. God wants that during our life we experience a kind of death, or sometimes many kinds of death. It’s because for him the Holy Journey means bearing fruit, doing works that are worthy of him and not just of us simple people. For him this is the meaning of our life, a life that is rich, full and superabundant; a life that can be a reflection of his.
So we have to expect these deaths and get ready to accept them in the best possible way.
Therefore, the choice of Jesus forsaken that we renew every day, and our preferential love for him, is wise and indispensible and nothing other than genuine Christianity. It prepares us … to accept these deaths, whether great or small, but also to see that all we had planned to achieve has been far exceeded, strengthened and made fruitful. …
They are passive purifications: illnesses, the death of people dear to us, the loss of goods or of our reputation, problems of all kinds. They are dark nights of the senses and dark nights of the spirit, where body and soul are purified in a thousand ways through temptations, spiritual dryness, doubts, a sense of being abandoned by God; and it’s when the virtues of faith, hope and charity waver in us. They are real anticipations of purgatory if not almost of hell.
What should we do? Give up the holy journey, thinking that by living a more ordinary life, in the way of the world, we could avoid many or at least some of these trials? No, we cannot turn back! Here, I have only listed the purifications; we’ve also got to look at the consolations, the “beatitudes” (cf. Mt 5:3-11) that life lived as a Holy Journey already brings to this earth. Jesus’ death actually calls for the resurrection. The death of the grain of wheat calls for “much fruit.” In a way, “resurrection” and “much fruit” stand for an anticipation of paradise, the fullness of joy, the joy that the world does not know.
And so, let’s go ahead! Let’s look beyond every suffering. Let’s keep going rather than stopping when things are uncertain, when there is anguish, illness or other trials. Let us look forward to the harvest that will come from it … foreseeing and having a foretaste of the abundant fruit which is on our doorstep.
(From a telephone conference call, Rocca di Papa, 25the February 1988)