mardi 10 mars 2015

I - Letter 82 from Padre Pio to Raffaelina Cerase




Pietrelcina, 7 September 1915(1).



Trust in God: a twofold basis; two biblical narratives. The victory obtained by humility, tears and prayers. The secret of the Christian life. Never to despair of receiving divine assistance. "Embracing and kissing Jesus. " Effects ofthis kiss. A most fortunate state. An exhortation. A reproof. Her sister's illness. Requests.



J.M.J.D.F.C.

Beloved daughter of Jesus,

May the grace of the divine Spirit be always with you to console you in all your trials. 
I am more than a little consoled to hear that you continue to trust in the Lord. Well, then, always place your confidence in Jesus and He will know how to comfort your soul even when it is tossed about in a stormy sea. Never be afraid of the enemy's enticements, for no matter how strong they may be they will never avail to sweep you into his nets, as long as you remain faithful to the Lord and on your guard, while you build up your strength by prayer and holy humility. God has promised that He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble(2); that those who watch and pray will not enter into temptation(3). 


What are you afraid of, then? Is our God not faithful to His promises? We read in the Old Testament that when the patriarch Jacob returned to Mesopotamia(4), fearing for his own safety and that of his family because of the inveterate hatred of his brother Esau who lived there with great forces behind him, he crossed a stream with his eleven children, then withdrew from his family to pray for them to the Lord who had given him this family. And while Jacob was praying for his posterity and for the entire Jewish nation of which his family there on the spot was a figure, an angel appeared to him in the form of a man to wrestle with him and prevent his prayer from succeeding.

This angel assured Jacob of his blessing for himself alone. As for his descendants, the deicide Jewish nation, he showed him that it would be cursed and destroyed for it would one day repudiate the Messiah and put him to death.

The holy patriarch was horrified by this revelation of what the future held in store for his people. But full of faith he seized the heavenly messenger at very close quarters, clasped him in his arms and wrestled with him all through the night, telling him that he would not let him go until he had obtained his promise that the Jewish people, even though guilty of deicide, would be cherished and would one day be blessed and saved.



Then in order to overcome Jacob's resistance the angel struck him on the thigh, so that his thigh-bone was put out of joint and the sinew of his hip which gives athletes their strength was numbed. Then he made him powerless, crippled him and knocked him down. But who would believe it? Weakened though Jacob was, he became even stronger. He clasped his heavenly adversary even closer and finally obtained his blessing. He asked for his people that they too might reap the benefit of the Messiah's blood, unworthily shed by their forefathers and that by the end of the world they too would have become Christians and would be sanctified and saved: All Israël will be saved(5).

A similar account is found in the New Testament with regard to the body of our Redeemer. When Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane and went apart from his disciples in order to pray to his Father(6), after the first hour of prayer and after the second, according to the Fathers of the Church the same angel who had appeared to Jacob many centuries earlier also appeared to Jesus Christ in the Garden.

He made known that to remove the curse which hung over the heads of the sons of Adam, to allow His merits to be applied to sinners and their ignominy to fall on the head of the Saint of saints, to permit innocence to be punished while crime was spared, was such an excessive act of mercy that He would be unable to obtain it unless by immense prayers and a most difficult combat.

This was the comfort the angel brought him. At this announcement by the angel, Jesus' love for us received a new stimulus, while His fears and apprehensions lest we should be lost were redoubled. Redoubled also was His strength to enter into combat with the justice of God, so that He continued his prayer with greater force and spiritual power. So great was the agony and the struggle which the Redeemer endured against God's justice that He then began to sweat blood from His entire holy body. This sweat was so heavy that according to the sacred historian, not only was His whole body bathed in it and, as it were, baptized in His own blood, but all around Him the vegetation of that garden was so fortunate as to be sprinkled with it also(7).

Meanwhile God's justice, severe and unyielding, the first and second time Jesus prayed, seemed to say to Him: "separate your cause from that of sinners. Allow me to vent my anger on the proscribed posterity of a guilty father." At this third prayer of the Redeemer in which He wrestled with God's justice and continued to pray at greater length and more intensely, combining petitions of deepest humility with His prayers of most fervent love, tears of the heart with those which fell from His eyes, the shriller cries of the blood with those which His voice sent up, He obtained what He asked for us, namely, the divine blessing. 

By this completely new prayer He obtained miraculous deliverance for the Jews also and ensured that they too would one day profit by His blood unworthily shed by His forefathers and that by becoming Christians themselves they would be sanctified and saved just as the apostle tells us: All Israël will be saved(8).


Now who could ever have imagined, Raffaelina, in the combat between Jacob and the angel, between God and mankind represented by our Redeemer, that God and the angel would not have been the victors? Yet this did not happen. Through Jacob, man vanquished an angel and in Jesus Christ the whole of mankind vanquished God: You have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed(9).



What was the secret of such an immense triumph by which the patriarch Jacob overcame an angel? One of the prophets has told us: humility, tears and prayer: She besought him with tears(10). Saint Paul has also disclosed to us the secret of the strength by which Jesus Christ who took on Himself our miserable human flesh, vanquished God in all His glory, that is, by humbling Himself, by prayer, weeping and loud cries: With loud cries and tears and he was heard for his godly fear".



Here, then, Raffaelina, we are faced with a twofold scriptural fact. Here we find disclosed to us a great mystery in his own person and in what he stood for. When a man engages in a fight with another man, the one who is afraid of his adversary, the one who is wounded, who falls to the ground and sheds his blood is considered to have lost the fight, to have been defeated. However, in the battles of life, he who trembles before this same God against whose strength nothing is of any avail, for everything yields to His word, everything vanishes at a mere sign of His will, he, I say, who is bowed beneath the weight of tribulation, who is crushed by the sight of the wounds produced by his own failings and drags himself along face downwards in the dust, who humbles himself, weeps, sighs and prays, this man triumphs over God's justice and obliges God to show him mercy: She besought him with tears and was powerful(12).

No matter how great the trial to which the Lord is to subject you, no matter how unbearable your spiritual desolation at certain moments of your life, never lose heart. Have recourse with more childlike trust to Jesus who will never be able to resist bestowing on you some little solace and comfort. Turn to Him at all times even when the devil tries to cast a pall over your life by showing you your sins. Lift up your voice loudly to Him and let it express your spiritual humility, your heartfelt contrition and your vocal prayer.

It is impossible, Raffaelina, for God not to welcome these demonstrations of goodwill and not to give way and surrender to you. It is true that God's power triumphs over everything, but humble and suffering prayer prevails over God Himself. It stops His hand, extinguishes His lightning, disarms Him, vanquishes and placates Him and makes Him almost a dependant and a friend.

Oh, if all men who share this great secret of the Christian life which Jesus taught us by words and deeds were to imitate the publican in the temple, Zaccheus, Mary Magdalen, St. Peter and many illustrious penitents and pious Christians and were to go through this same experience, what abundant fruits of holiness would be theirs! They would very soon come to understand this secret and by this means would very soon be able to overcome God's justice, to appease Him when He was more angry with them, to change His justice into loving mercy and obtain everything they needed, forgiveness of their sins, grace and holiness, eternal salvation and the power to fight and overcome themselves and all their enemies.

Why, then, Raffaelina, should you get lost in vain fears which steal our time, upset our peace of mind and make us almost diffident of God himself? For pity's sake, let us flee from these useless fears the moment they rise up in us. Let us never despair of the divine assistance. Would this not be an offence against the divine mercy? When these fears well up in you, remember the true Jacob who prayed in the garden, remember that he discovered there the true ladder that connects earth with heaven(13); he showed us that humility, contrition and prayer abolish the distance between man and God, bring God down to our level and raise man up to God by causing the immense distance of which the royal prophet sang to disappear: Because you have made the Lord your refuge, you have made the Most High your habitation(14). So, in the end, we arrive at mutual understanding, love and possession.

Take heart, then, my beloved daughter, even when you feel oppressed by the great number and the atrocity of your offences. Then more than ever should you come to the feet of Jesus Christ who is fighting and enduring agony for us in the Garden. Humble yourself, weep, entreat with Him and like Him. Ask with loud cries for God's mercy, His forgiveness of your faults, for help to walk all the time in His sight. Do this and have no doubt that this merciful and clement God will stretch out a compassionate hand as He has always done, to lift you up out of your poverty and spiritual desolation.

(à suivre)

Notes


1 From the postmark. 
2 Jas 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5. 
3 Cf. Mt 26:41; Mk 14:38. 
4 Gen 32:22 ff 
5 Cf. Rom 11:26.
6 Cf. Lk 22:43.
7 Cf. Lk 22:44.
8 Rom 11:26.
9 Gen 32:38 
10 Est 8:3.
11 Heb 5:7.
12 Est 8:3; Gen 32:28.
13. Gen 28:12