From the Franciscan Minims
Mexico • Vergel -- March • April 2001 -- No. 3–4
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For you, Lord God, are all excelling,
High and mighty, sweet, consoling,
noble, glorious, fair and loving
brimming full and self-approving."
For you, Lord God, are all excelling,
Our Cover: Imitation,Book 3, Ch. 21
We Must Rest in God Above All Good Gifts
ABOVE all things and in all things you shall rest for ever in the Lord, my soul, for he is the eternal repose of the Saints. Most sweet and loving Jesus, grant me to rest in you above every creature;
Beauty, security, honor and glory,
Power and dignity, science and subtlety,
riches and skills, joy, exultation,
sweetness and comfort, praise, reputation,
hope of inheriting,
yearning and meriting,
gifts and rewards to be given and rained,
jubilant mirth that is hardly contained;
angels, archangels, the host of the sky,
whatever meets or does not meet the eye:
above the lot
that you, My God, are not.
For you, Lord God, are all excelling,
high and mighty, sweet, consoling,
noble, glorious, fair and loving,
brimming full and self-approving.
Thou the all-excellent, only in thee
All good things are presently perfect
As ever they were and ever shall be.
So, you see, whatever other than yourself you give me or show me or promise me; it is too little, it is not enough, if I do not see and obtain you entirely. For my heart cannot truly rest, nor be replete with happiness, unless it rise beyond all creature gifts and rest in you. (Continued on p. 16.)
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The Prayer of Thanksgiving
A Secret of Happiness"And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God. And he fell on his face before his feet, giving thanks. And this was a Samaritan. And Jesus, answering, said: Were not ten made clean? And where are the nine? There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger." • Luke 17, 15
IT is certain that God grants us many things by mere liberality, without our asking him, but it is also certain that he does not want to grant something, unless we ask him, and this for our own benefit, so that we may put our trust in him, and acknowledge him as the author of all our goods." (St. Thomas Aquinas)
The prayer of petition is the most frequently used prayer, practiced by beginners and even by those who are more advanced. And it is not an inferior kind of prayer: it is good for us to make this kind of prayer, because it reminds us how much we depend upon God for everything, and that we cannot depend upon ourselves, for the really important events of our lives.
But if a particular soul makes only the prayer of petition, his relationship with God is incomplete, and lacking. God wants to share with us his intimacy and his secrets, but to do this, certain conditions are required from us, rather easy ones. If our relationship with a particular human being consisted only in asking him favors, and nothing else, it could not be called a friendship, but merely a business transaction. Also among human beings it might be considered impolite to ask and receive many favors, and not to give thanks for them afterwards.
But God is so good and patient with our slowness, that he will accept anything we give him, even if it is just a little. Even that little makes reparation for those souls who never think of God at all and who never ask him for anything, as if they were totally independent of him.
The purpose of this editorial is to make us more conscious of one of the most important and one of the easiest forms of prayer, the prayer of thanksgiving. It is called a secret of happiness, because this kind of prayer makes us think less of ourselves and helps us concentrate on God's infinite goodness. If people are miserable, sometimes the cause is that they get so wrapped up in thinking about their own problems and miseries, that they do not think of much else. The prayer of thanksgiving takes us outside of ourselves, our worries, and makes us think of God and his infinite goodness and liberality, and all his other attributes. He is worthy of being loved and thanked, both because of what he is in himself, and because of the gifts and favors he gives us. Even if we do think of ourselves when we make this prayer (for example, in remembering some benefit God has given us and thanking him for it), it makes us focus on the positive side of our lives.
It is a fact that God gives us gifts, both material and spiritual, almost continually, nearly seven days a week, 365 days a year. We may acknowledge this fact or ignore it. We may pay attention to it or not pay attention. We may believe it or not believe it. But whatever we do, the fact is a reality. Not paying attention to it makes our lives incomplete.
Thanksgiving in the Lives of the Saints
All the saints received graces from God, and they expressed their gratitude, both in their words and in actions. The best way we can honor the saints is by imitating them, and in this respect it is very easy to do so. Just think of a saint who gave thanks, and then do something similar in your own life. The best way of showing your appreciation of a person is to do something similar to what he or she did.
Two saints who excelled in the prayer of thanksgiving were St. Francis of Assisi and St. Gertrude the Great. St. Francis was devoted to the mystery of the holy Trinity, and one of his favorite prayers was the "Glory be to the Father," which is basically a prayer of adoration and of thanksgiving. It is a short prayer, but can be repeated with so much frequency, and with always new meanings, because we just have to think of some benefit of God for ourselves or for humanity in general, and then give thanks with this expression of gratitude or any other. Sometimes St. Francis thought of all the unusual events God had worked through him, and then humbled himself and gave thanks and glory to God, recognizing that the Lord was the author of all these blessings.
During St. Gertrude's lifetime, Our Lord revealed her sanctity to several holy souls. Once he addressed these words to a person bound to the saint by the bonds of a holy friendship:
"She for whom thou prayest is my dove, who has no guile in her.... She is My rose whose fragrance is full of sweetness, because of her patience in every adversity and the thanksgiving which she continually offers Me, which ascend before Me as sweetest perfume."
Sometimes St. Gertrude prayed the short psalm Laudate Dominum more than 200 consecutive times, in order to give thanks to God for the graces he gave to humanity, and in particular for the graces he gave to herself.
When people are in love they never tire of saying "I love you," and even if it is repeated hundreds of times it always has new meanings. Thus the saints never tired of expressing their love and gratitude to God, even if they just kept on repeating the same words (but with always new meanings).
Their logic was simple: since God is always giving us new blessings, unceasingly, it is only reasonable that we should always be giving him new thanks and blessings, unceasingly.
Some persons excelled in this practice, especially the Mother of God and certain saints.
God understands and knows very well that we are just weak creatures, subject to many imperfections. He would never ask of us the impossible. He would not demand from us unceasing thanksgiving, or heroic acts. He would not expect us to give thanks 24 hours a day (although that is what happens in heaven), but he would be pleased with anything we offer him, even if we just did it once a week. And even giving thanks once a week (for example at Sunday mass), is something that would please him, when you consider how many persons (many millions) go through their entire lifetime existence, never thanking God once, for anything.
The Power of Memory and Thanksgiving
In order to make this prayer well, we have to use our faculty of memory, especially remembering some benefits of God toward ourselves and then expressing our gratitude in words and gestures. So many persons abuse their faculty of memory, filling it with things that are trivial, useless and even sinful. By making the prayer of thanksgiving well, we are sweetly obliged to use our memory in the best possible way. In order to really make this prayer well, you would have to think of your entire life, from the time you came into existence until now, remembering some of the major benefits that God gave you. And the sharper your memory, the better your acts of thanksgiving would be. Since God gives us an almost endless series of favors, we would have to remember a great deal, in order to make our thanksgiving complete.
This life is a valley of tears, and we will obtain complete happiness only on the other side of the tomb. But if we make the prayer of thanksgiving frequently, we will obtain some relief in our troubles and sorrows. The sorrows of this life pass away: God's infinite goodness will remain forever.
May it be for the glory of God
The Vergel of the Immaculate Virgin of Guadalupe
February 5, 2001 • Feast of St. Agatha
If Earth's population was shrunk into a village of just 100 people, with all the human ratios existing in the world still remaining, what would this tiny, diverse village look like?
That's exactly what Phillip M. Harter, a medical doctor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, attempted to figure out. This is what he found.
57 would be Asian ---21 would be European
14 would be from the Western Hemisphere
8 would be African
52 would be female ---48 would be male
70 would be nonwhite ---30 would be white
70 would be non-Christian ----30 would be Christian
6 people would possess 59 percent of the entire world's wealth, and all 6 would be from the United States.
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read ---50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death ---1 would be pregnant
1 would have a college education ----1 would own a computer
The following is an anonymous interpretation:
Think of it this way. If you live in a good home, have plenty to eat and can read, you are a member of a very select group.
And if you have a good house, food, can read and have a computer, you are among the very elite. (Continued on p. 16.)
The Rule of the Judges
ABSALOM himself fled all the way to Geshur, where his mother's people were. There he remained an exile from court for three years, until his crime of fratricide had begun to fade from the public mind.
But the thoughts of David about the crime were still a tormenting mixture, a conflict in which he often mourned alone for his murdered son, yet feeling also a perverse longing to see Absalom again; like men, David had a mixture of loyalties that warred, one with another.
None knew better than Joab, the general, how David missed Absalom, his son. Hard as the old fighter was in battle, he sympathized with King David's troubled heart, and while others gossiped, Joab took action. Engaging a wise woman of Tekoah, he had her come to the palace courtroom and act the part of mourning petitioner before David. Weeping, she told of her two sons who had hated each other, one killing the other. Now, she wailed, she was sorely beset in resisting the pressure of her family to have the fratricide punished with death, leaving her sonless.
"Protect my boy for me, O King," she implored.
"There shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground," cried David impulsively.
Cunningly, the widow reminded the king that he had a banished son of his own, one to whom he ought also to be kind, and not merely guarantee kind treatment for humble subjects. David saw through her guile and he knew Joab as its instigator. Nevertheless, he was eased. He cross-examined the woman with the skill of a modern district attorney until she had to confess the ruse. Upon which, deeply touched at such a device to smooth his cares, David sent for Joab and granted him permission to go to Geshur and invite Absalom to come back to Jerusalem.
"But let him not see my face," said the father, still withholding full forgiveness. As months began to lengthen into years he continued to withhold it, and Absalom was so irked that after two years of cooling his heels, he began to plot mischief. In sheer, sullen resentment at Joab, that good-natured go-between, Absalom conspired to have his barley field burnt up. And when the fields were black ruins he impudently told Joab the cause.
Yet Joab went straight to the king, not to denounce Absalom but to plead the young ruffian's cause. Small wonder that David relented. He sent for his son and kissed him.
But Absalom, who believed he could charm himself out of any situation, was still far from satisfied. He had been taken back into the palace life, but only as one member of a very large family. He had been given no preference. Actually he now wanted to be nothing less than king.
He was already planning to replace his father as soon as possible, plotting to overthrow the reign.
First Absalom set himself to the task of winning the favor of the populace by beguiling all hearts with boyish manners and by helping people in trouble, with his influence. Next, in confidential meetings, he slyly assumed prerogatives of a ruler. Subversiveness was spreading in the air. He curried favor and support from the southern tribes; he divided loyalties one way and another until at last David was forced to listen to his spies and to realize that his own son's bedevilment was becoming a serious threat. Trying to attach first-rate men to himself, Absalom had won over even Ahithophel, the king's closest counselor.
And daily the conspiracy was growing stronger; David confirmed the fact that more and more people flocked to the secret banner of Absalom. He had stolen the hearts of the people of Israel; with the power of the masses behind him, he was a real threat to the throne.
It looked as if the great founder of the kingdom might be overthrown by his own son.
Son Against Father
EVEN now David did not want to believe the true depths and duplicity of Absalom's treason. He wanted to think of his favorite son as the victim and tool of clever enemies of the throne; and that the whole maladroit conspiracy would tumble into wreckage at the first sign of discovery. But such were not the facts.
Absalom was the very heart and soul of the revolution. In his easy smiling way he had already made himself familiar with the politics of the great world, already saw himself in his father's place. He had studied the kingcraft practiced by other monarchs and the diplomacy of their emissaries; he was full of self-confidence, sure he knew how to keep his place in an unfriendly world; an ambitious and conscienceless young prince, with no illusions whatever.
Around Absalom were gathered men equally determined and without scruple; their plans were well made, their support powerful in the rank and file; they were ready at any time for an armed uprising against David, and Absalom was quite eager to start.
In the lofty gloom of his bedchamber King David sprawled, and plucked at the string of his lyre and sang sadly:
"Mine enemies speak evil of me. All that hate me whisper against me. Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, who did eat of my bread, hath lifted his heel against me."
Then, standing up with a deep sigh of pained acceptance of the facts, David gave his orders:
"Arise, and let us flee!"
Only ten women of his household were left to look after the beautiful palace. Already graying with the years, the royal refugee had now to run away, and he planned to seek refuge across the Jordan, where there was still support for him and untainted friendliness.
The countryside that morning was shaken with all the bright energies of spring; the wild primroses were coloring the fields, the cowslips startling in meadows green, but the farmers and herders who lived along the route wept openly as David and his loyal entourage passed by on their way toward the river. Faithful Zadok, the priest, and his Levites came close behind, carrying the ark into exile, but David ordered them to take it back immediately to Jerusalem. He was refusing to deceive himself. There was something degrading in this running away from his own son, his favorite, too, among so many—how could he be sure that God was with him in this blood feud? No, he would not presume on God's mercy and assistance; he would fight it out, by guile now, by military power later; and make no claim that he was being led by divine guidance.
Barefoot, and with head covered like a penitent pilgrim, David toiled up the Mount of Olives, on whose lower slope one day Jesus was to know the agony of Gethsemani. Weeping and wailing, his followers marched in sorrowful procession. It was to all of them as if the sun would no longer rise, with David off his throne and new recruits being reported joining the rebel banners.
On the hilltop Hushai, a tall, muscled Archite, greeted the weary king and announced that he desired to share David's fate whatever it might be, faithful to his last drop of blood. This well-meant bombast David received with thanks. There was, indeed, work for his adherents to do, and one task for which Hushai was well equipped. Had he heard of Ahithophel? That was a rhetorical question. Who had not heard of David's most intimate counselor, long accounted the wisest sage in Israel, and the grandfather of beautiful Bathsheba? Well, look at him now, this favored courtier of the great common sense, exalted to be adviser to the king; now he was counseling the treacherous Absalom, a co-conspirator with him. The name of Ahithophel meant "Brother in Foolishness," and he was living up to it. (To be continued)
Following His Footsteps
by Anselmo del Álamo
Chapter 5. Prayer, Presence of God and Union with the Lord
32. When the spirit of prayer penetrates into the soul, all the virtues enter at the same time. St. Augustine
33. Little children, when they hear their mothers speaking and stammer with them, learn to speak their language. We also, when we are with the Savior by means of meditation and observing his words, his actions and his sentiments, learn, with his grace, to speak, work and desire like him. St. Joseph Calasanz
34. True preparation for mental prayer consists in mortification; he who tries to make mental prayer without mortifying himself, is similar to a bird that wants to fly before it has wings. St. Philip Neri
35. Mental prayer consists in this threefold exercise: to look at Jesus, to unite oneself to Jesus, and to work in Jesus. We look at him with considerations: we unite ourselves to him with affections, in fine, we work with him by keeping our resolutions. M. Olier
36. The demon knows that the soul who performs prayer with perseverance is lost for him. For this reason he uses, without ever falling into discouragement, the freedom that God granted him to tempt us: he fiercely combats the man of prayer, as we see he did with holy Job; especially during mental prayer, he goes around us like a roaring lion, trying at least to prevent us from praying. St. Teresa of Jesus
37. Do you want to know if you have made a good meditation? Look to see if your heart is filled with gentle and charitable sentiments toward your neighbor. St. Joseph Calasanz
38. The lack of efficacy of prayer should be attributed, in most cases, to not making it with humility. Monsignor Gay
39. The roses of prayer cannot be gathered without the thorns of mortification. St. Jane Frances de Chantal
40. If your desire is frequent, frequent is your prayer; if your desire is continual, continual is your prayer. St. Augustine
41. Seek for everything that can unite you to God, and you will see that the best means is prayer. St. Catherine of Siena
The Virtue of Gratitude as Practiced by the Mother of God
We print here a quotation from the Mystical City of God by Mary of Agreda, in regard to how the Virgin Mary practiced the virtue of gratitude.
Chapter XIII. The Most holy Mary commemorates other blessing with her angels, especially her Presentation and the feast days of saint Joachim, saint Anne and Saint Joseph.
Gratitude for the benefits received at the hands of the Lord is a virtue so noble, that by means of it we may preserve our intercourse and correspondence with God himself: He, as rich, generous and powerful conferring upon us his gifts; we, as poor, humble and aware of our needs, returning for them our thanks. It is natural that he who gives liberally and generously should be content with the thanks of him who, as the needy one, is receiving the benefit; and this thankfulness is a short, easy and delightful return, which satisfies the liberal giver and induces him to continue his liberality. If this ordinarily happens among men of generous and magnanimous heart, how much more in the dealings of God with men; for we are misery and poverty itself, while He is rich, most liberal, and if we could imagine any constraint in him, it would be that of receiving and not that of giving. As this great Lord is so wise, just and equitous, He will never reject us on account of our poverty, but only on account of our ingratitude. He desires to give us plentifully; but at the same time He wishes us to be grateful, rendering Him the glory, honor and praise contained in gratitude. Such a return for small benefits, obliges him to confer other greater ones; if we are grateful for all, he multiplies them. However it is only the humble that secure them, since they are at the same time thankful.
The great Teacher of this science was the most blessed Mary; for, though She alone had received the plenitude of highest blessings possible to be communicated to a mere creature by the Almighty, She forgot none of them, nor ever ceased to acknowledge them by the most perfect thankfulness within the powers of a creature. For each one of the gifts of nature or grace, none of which She failed to recognize and acknowledge, she composed special songs of praise and thanksgiving and instituted admirable exercises in special commemoration and acknowledgment.
Instruction which the Queen of the Angels,
most blessed Mary, gave me.
My daughter, the sin of ingratitude is one of the most heinous committed by men against God and by it they make themselves most unworthy and abominable in the sight of God and the saints. For both God and the saints have a kind of horror of this vile conduct in men. Yet in spite of its pernicious effects, there is none which men, each one in particular, commit more frequently and thoughtlessly. It is true that in order to lessen the debt accumulating by their most ungrateful and universal forgetfulness of his benefits, God requires from his Church a certain recompense for this want of thankfulness in her children and in mankind. For in recognition of his blessings, the Church as such offers up so many prayers and sacrifices of praise and glory as we see ordained in her. But as the favors and graces of his liberal and watchful Providence are not only for the common good of the faithful, but to the advantage of each mortal in particular, the debt of gratitude is not paid by this general thanksgiving of the Church; each one for himself owes thanks for what he receives from the divine liberality.
How many are there among the mortals, who during the whole course of their lives have not excited one sincere act of thanksgiving for the gift of life, for its preservation, for health, food, honors, possessions and all the other temporal and natural goods! Others there are, who, if at any time they give thanks for these benefits, do it not because they truly love God, the Giver, but because they love themselves and delight in these temporal and earthly blessings and in the possession of them. This kind of vain deceit discovers itself in two ways: first, in seeking these earthly and transitory goods, men are full of dissatisfaction, haste and discomfort, and they scarcely can think of, ask for, or desire other more spiritual things, loving only what is apparent and passing. Although many times their being deprived of health, honor, possessions and other things is a blessing of God, which prevents in them a blind and disorderly attachment to such matters; yet they think it a misfortune and, as it were, an injury, and they allow their heart continually to verge on destruction by trespassing upon what is finite and perishable.
Secondly, this deceit is known by the forgetfulness of spiritual benefits in the blind pursuit of what is transitory, so that men neither recognize or acknowledge what is beyond. This fault among the children of the Church is most vile and dreadful, since, without any obligation on the part of God and without any of their merit, the divine mercy seeks to draw them to the secure path of eternal life, signally applying to them the merits of the passion and death of my divine Son. Every one who is now in a state of holiness in the Church, could have been born in other times and ages, before God came into the world; moreover he could have been born among pagans, idolaters, heretics or other infidels, where his eternal damnation would be unavoidable. Without their merit God called such persons to his holy faith, giving them knowledge of the certain truth; justifying them in Baptism, putting at their disposal the sacraments, the ministers, the teachings and enlightenments of eternal life. He placed them upon the sure path, granted them his assistance, pardoned them their sins, raised them from their falls, waited for their repentance, invited them by his mercy, and rewarded them with a liberal hand. He defended them through his holy angels, gave them Himself as a pledge and as a nourishment of eternal life; and thus He accumulated so many blessings upon them, that they are without measure or number, and that not a day nor an hour passes without increasing their indebtedness.
Tell me then, daughter, what thanks are due to his so liberal and fatherly kindness? And how many men deserve to experience it? The greatest blessing of all is that in punishment for this ingratitude the portals of his mercy have not been closed, and the fountains of his goodness have not dried up; for it is infinite. The root of this most dreadful ingratitude in men is the boundless desire and covetousness for the temporal, apparent and transitory goods. From this insatiable thirst grows their unthankfulness; for as they hanker so much after the temporal goods, they undervalue what they receive, and give thanks neither for them nor for the spiritual goods; and thus they are most ungrateful as well for the ones as for the others. In addition to this unbearable foolishness they are guilty of a still greater one, namely, they ask God not for what is necessary to them, but for things which are injurious and will bring about their eternal perdition.
If, in addition to this, such men never thank God for having created them, redeemed them, called them, borne them with patience and justified them, prepared for them the same glory which He enjoys; and if, while expecting this glory, they do not even ask for the grace of acknowledging and repenting of their sins, they certainly show nothing but the utmost temerity and presumption. I assure thee, my dearest, that this so frequent ingratitude toward God is one of the most certain signs of reprobation in those who are guilty of such forgetfulness and carelessness. It is also a bad sign, when the just Judge confers temporal blessings upon those who ask for them, in forgetfulness of the blessings of the Redemption and Justification; for all such, oblivious of the means of their eternal salvation, demand but the instruments of their death, and to yield to their demands is no blessing, but a chastisement of their blindness.
All these evils I manifest to thee in order that thou mayest fear them and avoid their causes. But remember that thy gratitude must not be of the ordinary or common kind; for the blessings thou hast received go far beyond thy knowledge and power of appreciation. Do not allow thyself to be deceived into shrinking from proper acknowledgment of graces on the plea of humility.... Thy love will not be stirred to action readily, without being incited by the blessings and favors of God. Thou art full of fear of losing the grace and friendship of the Lord, and with good reason dost thou fear, if thou dost not make them fruitful. Thy fear must exert itself in watching over thy treasure and in striving to imitate me with the purity of an angel, and practicing all the teachings which I give thee in this history for this very purpose.
Prayers of Thanksgiving
My souls magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; because He has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid; for, behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed, because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is from generation to generation, on those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of his mercy; even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
The Laudate (Psalm 116)
Praise the Lord, all ye nations; praise him, all ye people. For his mercy is confirmed upon us: and the truth of the Lord remaineth for ever. Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Bless the Lord, O my soul: and let all that is within me bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul: and never forget all he hath done for thee.
Who forgiveth all thy iniquities: who healeth all thy diseases.
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction: who crowneth thee with mercy and compassion.
Who satisfieth thy desire with good things: thy youth shall be renewed like the eagle's.
(These are the first 5 verses of Psalm 102, and were often used by St. Gertrude as an act of thanksgiving).
Imitation of Christ(continued). Bk. 3, Ch. 21
Jesus Christ, dearest husband and purest lover, Lord of all creation, who is to give me the wings of true freedom to fly away and rest in you? When will it be granted me in full measure to do nothing whatever but see your sweetness, Lord my God? When shall I be fully recollected in you, so loving you that I feel not myself but only you, in a manner unknown to some, exceeding sense and rule? For as it is, I groan much and painfully endure my unhappiness. I meet many troubles in this vale of misery: often and often they grieve me, cloud me, distract me, lure me, chain me, churn me, obstruct me from freely coming to you, from enjoying the joyous hugs that are ever in store for the blessed spirits. May my sighing move you, my many desolations upon earth.
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more fortunate than the million who will not survive this week.
If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation... you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.
If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death...you are fortunate, more than three billion people in the world can't.
If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep...you are richer than 75% of this world.
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace...you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.
If your parents are still alive and still married, you are very rare.... even in the United States.
If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.
If you can hold someone's hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder, you are blessed, because you can offer healing touch.
If you can read this message, you just received a double blessing in that someone was thinking of you, and furthermore, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.
Have a good day, have a good life, count your blessings, and remind everyone else how blessed we all are.
The Saints' Everlasting Rest
"There remaineth therefore a day of rest for the people of God." Heb. 4, 9
THE CHARACTER OF THE PERSONS FOR WHOM THIS REST IS DESIGNED.
The people of God who shall enjoy this rest are, 1. Chosen from eternity; 2. Given to Christ; 3. Born again; 4. Deeply convinced of the evil of sin, their misery by sin, the vanity of the creature, and the all-sufficiency of Christ. 5. Their will is proportionally changed. 6. They engage in covenant with Christ. 7. They persevere in their engagements. The reader invited to examine himself by these characteristics of God's people. Further testimony from Scripture, that this rest shall be enjoyed by the people of God: also that none but they shall enjoy it; and that it remains for them, and is not to be enjoyed till they come to another world. The chapter concludes with showing, that their souls shall enjoy this rest while separated from their bodies.
While I was in the mount, describing the excellencies of the saints' rest, I felt it was good being there, and therefore tarried the longer; and were there not an extreme disproportion between my conceptions and the subject, much longer had I been. Can a prospect of that happy land be tedious? Having read of such high and unspeakable glory, a stranger would wonder for what rare creatures this mighty preparation should be made, and expect some illustrious sun should break forth: but, behold! only a shellful of dust, animated with an invisible rational soul, and that rectified with as unseen a restoring power of grace; and this is the creature that must possess such glory! You would think it must needs be some deserving piece, or one that brings a valuable price: but, behold! one that hath nothing and can deserve nothing; yea, that deserves the contrary, and would, if he might, proceed in that deserving: but, being apprehended by love, he is brought to him that is all; and most affectionately receiving him, and resting on him, he doth, in and through him, receive all this! More particularly, the persons for whom this rest is designed are chosen of God from eternity; given to Christ as their Redeemer; born again; deeply convinced of the evil and misery of a sinful state, the vanity of the creature, and the all-sufficiency of Christ; their will is renewed; they engage themselves to Christ in covenant; and they persevere in their engagements to the end.
1. The persons for whom this rest is designed, whom the text calls "the people of God," are "chosen of God before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before him in love." That they are but a part of mankind is apparent in Scripture and experience. They are the little flock, to whom "it is their Father's good pleasure to give the kingdom." Fewer they are than the world imagines; yet not so few as some drooping spirits think, who are suspicious that God is unwilling to be their God, when they know themselves willing to be his people.
2. These persons are given of God to his Son, to be by him redeemed from their lost state, and advanced to this glory. God hath given all things to his Son, but not as he hath given his chosen to him. "God hath given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given him." The difference is clearly expressed by the apostle; "he hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church." And though Christ is, in some sense, a ransom for all, yet not in that special manner as for his people.
3. One great qualification of these persons is that they are born again. To be the people of God without regeneration, is as impossible as to be the children of men without generation. Seeing we are born God's enemies, we must be new-born his sons, or else remain enemies still. The greatest reformation of life that can be attained, without this new life wrought in the soul, may procure our further delusion, but never our salvation.
4. This new life in the people of God discovers itself by conviction, or a deep sense of divine things.
They are convinced of the evil of sin. The sinner is made to know and feel that the sin which was his delight, is a more loathsome thing than a toad or serpent, and a greater evil than plague or famine; being a breach of the righteous law of the most high God, dishonorable to him, and destructive to the sinner. Now the sinner no more hears the reproofs of sin as words of course; but the mention of his sin speaks to his very heart, and yet he is willing you should show him the worst. He was wont to marvel what made men keep up such a stir against sin; what harm it was for a man to take little forbidden pleasure; he saw no such heinousness in it that Christ must needs die for it, and a christless world be eternally tormented in hell. Now the case is altered; God hath opened his eyes to see the inexpressible vileness of sin.
They are convinced of their own misery by reason of sin. They who before read the threats of God's law as men do the story of foreign wars, now find it their own story, and perceive they read their own doom, as if they found their own names written in the curse, or heard the law say, as Nathan, "Thou art the man." The wrath of God seemed to him before but a storm to a man in a dry house, or as the pains of the sick to the healthful stander-by; but now he finds the disease is his own, and feels himself a condemned man: that he is dead and damned in point of law, and that nothing is wanting but mere execution to make him absolutely and irrecoverably miserable. This is a work of the Spirit wrought in some measure in all the regenerate. How should he come to Christ for pardon who did not first find himself guilty and condemned? or for life, who never found himself spiritually dead? "The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." The discovery of the remedy as soon as the misery, must needs prevent a great part of the trouble. And perhaps the joyful apprehensions of mercy may make the sense of misery sooner forgotten.
They are also convinced of the creature's vanity and insufficiency. Every man is naturally an idolater. Our hearts turned from God in our first fall; and, ever since, the creature hath been our god. This is the grand sin of our nature. Every unregenerate man ascribes to the creature divine prerogatives, and allows it the highest room in his soul; or, if he is convinced of misery, he flies to it as his savior. Indeed, God and His Christ shall be called Lord and Savior; but the real expectation is from the creature, and the work of God is laid upon it. Pleasure, profit and honor, are the natural man's trinity and his carnal self is these in unity. It was our first sin to aspire to be as gods and it is the greatest sin that is propagated in our nature from generation to generation. When God should guide us, we guide ourselves; when he should be our Sovereign, we rule ourselves: the laws which he gives us, we find fault with, and would correct and, if we had the making of them, we would have made them otherwise: when he should take care of us, (and must, or we perish,) we will take care for ourselves: when we should depend on him in daily receiving, we had rather have our portion in our own hands: when we should submit to his providence, we usually quarrel with it, and think we could make a better disposal than God hath made. When we should study and love, trust and honor God, we study and love, trust and honor our carnal selves. Instead of God, we would have all men's eyes and dependence on us, and all men's thanks returned to us, and would gladly be the only men on earth extolled and admired by all. Thus we are naturally our own idols. But down falls this Dagon when God once renews the soul. It is the chief design of that great work, to bring the heart back to God himself. He convinceth the sinner that the creature can neither be his God, to make him happy, nor his Christ, to recover him from his misery and restore him to God, who is his happiness. God does this not only by his word, but also by his providence. This is the reason why affliction so frequently concurs in the work of conversion. Arguments which speak to the quick, will force a hearing when the most powerful words are slighted. If a sinner made his credit his god, and God cast him into the lowest disgrace, or bring him, who idolized his riches, into a condition wherein they cannot help him, or cause them to take wing and fly away, what a help is here to this work of conviction! If a man made pleasure his god, whatsoever a roving eye, a curious ear, a greedy appetite, or a lustful heart could desire, and God take these from him, or turn them into gall and wormwood, what a help is here to conviction! When God casts a man into languishing sickness, and inflicts wounds on his heart, and stirs up against him his own conscience, and then, as it were, says to him, "Try if your credit, riches, or pleasures can help you. Can they heal your wounded conscience? Can they now support your tottering tabernacle? Can they keep your departing soul in your body? or save you from my everlasting wrath? or redeem your soul from eternal flames? Cry aloud to them, and see now whether these will be to you instead of God and Christ." O how this works now with the sinner! Sense acknowledges the truth, and even the flesh is convinced of the creature's vanity, and our very deceiver is undeceived.
The people of God are likewise convinced of the absolute necessity, the full sufficiency, and perfect excellency of Jesus Christ: as a man in famine is convinced of the necessity of food; or a man that has heard or read his sentence of condemnation, of the absolute necessity of pardon; or a man that lies in prison for debt, of his need of a surety to discharge it. Now the sinner feels an insupportable burden upon him, and sees there is none but Christ can take it off: he perceives the law proclaims him a rebel, and none but Christ can make his peace: he is as a man pursued by a lion, that must perish if he finds not a present sanctuary: he is now brought to this dilemma; either he must have Christ to justify him, or be eternally condemned; have Christ to save him, or burn in hell for ever; have Christ to bring him to God, or be shut out of his presence everlastingly! And no wonder if he cry as the martyr, "None but Christ! none but Christ!" Not gold, but bread, will satisfy the hungry; nor will any thing but pardon comfort the condemned.
All things are counted but dung now, that he may win Christ; and what was gain, he counts loss for Christ. As the sinner sees his misery, and the inability of himself and all things to relieve him, so he perceives there is no saving mercy out of Christ. He sees that though the creature cannot, and himself cannot, yet Christ can help him. Though the fig leaves of our own unrighteous righteousness are too short to cover our nakedness, yet the righteousness of Christ is large enough: ours is disproportionate to the justice of the law, but Christ's extends to every tittle. If he intercede, there is no denial; such is the dignity of his person and the value of his merits, that the Father grants all he desires. Before, the sinner knew Christ's excellency as a blind man knows the light of the sun; but now, as one that beholds its glory.
5. After this deep conviction, the will manifests also its change. As, for instance, the sin which the understanding pronounces evil, the will turns from with abhorrence. Not that the sensitive appetite is changed, or any way made to abhor its object; but when it would prevail against reason, and carry us to sin against God, instead of Scripture being the rule, and reason the master, and sense the servant, this disorder and evil the will abhors. The misery also, which sin hath procured, is not only discerned, but bewailed. It is impossible that the soul should now look either on its trespass against God, or yet on its own self-procured calamity, without some contrition. He that truly discerns that he hath killed Christ, and killed himself, will surely in some measure be pricked to the heart. If he cannot weep, he can heartily groan and his heart feels what his understanding sees. The creature is renounced as vanity, and turned out of the heart with disdain: not that it is undervalued, or the use of it condemned; but its idolatrous abuse, and its unjust usurpation. Can Christ be the way, where the creature is the end? Can we seek Christ to reconcile us to God, while in our hearts we prefer the creature before him? In the soul of every unregenerate man the creature is both God and Christ. As turning from the creature to God, and not by Christ, is no true turning; so believing in Christ, while the creature hath our hearts, is no true believing. Our aversion from sin, renouncing our idols, and our right receiving Christ, is all but one work, which God ever perfects where he begins. At the same time, the will cleaves to God the Father, and to Christ. Having been convinced that nothing else can be his happiness, the sinner now finds it is in God. Convinced also that Christ alone is able and willing to make peace for him, he most affectionately accepts Christ as his Savior and Lord. Paul's preaching was "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." And life eternal consists, first in "knowing the only true God;" and then "Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent." To take the Lord for our God is the natural part of the covenant; the supernatural part is, to take Christ for our Redeemer. The former is first necessary, and implied in the latter. To accept Christ without affection and love, is not justifying faith: nor does love follow as a fruit, but immediately concurs; for faith is the receiving of Christ with the whole soul. "He that loveth father or mother more than Christ, is not worthy of him," nor is justified by him. Faith accepts him as Savior and Lord: for in both relations will he be received, or not at all. Faith not only acknowledges his sufferings, and accepts of pardon and glory, but acknowledges his sovereignty, and submits to his government and way of salvation.
6. As an essential part of the character of God's people, they now enter into a cordial covenant with Christ. The sinner was never strictly, nor comfortably, in covenant with Christ till now. He is sure, by the free offers, that Christ consents and now he cordially consents himself; and so the agreement is fully made. With this covenant Christ delivers up himself in all comfortable relations to the sinner; and the sinner delivers up himself to be saved and ruled by Christ. Now the soul resolutely concludes, "I have been blindly led by flesh and lust, by the world and the devil, too long, almost to my utter destruction; I will now be wholly at the disposal of my Lord, who hath bought me with his blood, and will bring me to his glory."
7. I add, that the people of God persevere in this covenant to the end. Though the believer may be tempted, yet he never disclaims his Lord, renounces his allegiance, nor repents of his covenant; nor can he properly be said to break that covenant, while that faith continues which is the condition of it. Indeed, those that have verbally covenanted, and not cordially, may tread under foot the blood of the covenant, wherewith they were sanctified, as an unholy thing, by separation from those without the church; but the elect cannot be so deceived. Though this perseverance be certain to true believers, yet it is made a condition of their salvation; yea, of their continued life and fruitfulness, and of the continuance of their justification, though not of their first justification itself. But eternally blessed be that hand of love which hath drawn the free promise, and subscribed and sealed to that which ascertains us both of the grace which is the condition, and the kingdom which on that condition is offered!
Such are the essentials of this people of God. Not a full portraiture of them in all their excellencies, nor all the marks whereby they may be discerned. I beseech thee, reader, as thou hast the hope of a Christian, or the reason of a man, judge thyself as one that must shortly be judged by a righteous God, and faithfully answer these questions. I will not inquire whether you remember the time or the order of these workings of the Spirit, there may be much uncertainty and mistake in that. If you are sure they are wrought in you, it is not so great a matter that you should know when or how you came by them. But carefully examine and inquire, Hast thou been thoroughly convinced of a prevailing depravation through thy whole soul? and a prevailing wickedness through thy whole life? and how vile sin is? and that by the covenant thou hast transgressed, the least sin deserves eternal death? Dost thou consent to the law, that it is true and righteous, and perceive thyself sentenced to this death by it? Hast thou seen the utter insufficiency of every creature, either to be itself thy happiness, or the means of removing this thy misery? Hast thou been convinced that thy happiness is only in God, as the end, and in Christ, as the way to him and that thou must be brought to God through Christ, or perish eternally? Hast thou seen an absolute necessity of thy enjoying Christ, and the full sufficiency in him to do for thee whatsoever thy case requires? Hast thou discovered the excellency of this pearl to be worth thy "selling all to buy it?" Have thy convictions been like those of a man that thirsts and not merely a change in opinion, produced by reading or education? Have both thy sin and misery been the abhorrence and burden of thy soul? If thou couldst not weep, yet couldst thou heartily groan under the insupportable weight of both? Hast thou renounced all thy own righteousness? Hast thou turned thy idols out of thy heart, so that the creature hath no more the sovereignty, but is now a servant to God and Christ? Dost thou accept of Christ as thy only Savior, and expect thy justification, recovery and glory from him alone? Are his laws the most powerful commanders of thy life and soul? Do they ordinarily prevail against the commands of the flesh, and against the greatest interest of thy credit, profit, pleasure or life? Has Christ the highest room in thy heart and affections, so that, though thou canst not love him as thou wouldst, yet nothing else is loved so much? Hast thou, to this end, made a hearty covenant with him, and delivered up thyself to him? Is it thy uttermost care and watchful endeavor that thou mayest be found faithful in this covenant and though thou fall into sin, yet wouldst not renounce thy bargain, nor change thy Lord, nor give up thyself to any other government, for all the world? If this be truly thy case, thou art one of "the people of God" in my text and as sure as the promise of God is true, this blessed rest remains for thee. Only see thou "abide in Christ," and "endure to the end;" for "if any man draw back, his soul shall have no pleasure in him." But if no such work be found within thee, whatever thy deceived heart may think, or how strong soever thy false hopes may be, thou wilt find to thy cost, except thorough conversion prevent it, that the rest of the saints belongs not to thee. "O that thou wert wise, that thou wouldst understand this, that thou wouldst consider thy latter end!" that yet, while thy soul is in thy body, and "a price is in thy hand," and opportunity and hope before thee, thine ears may be open, and thy heart yield to the persuasions of God, that so thou mayest rest among his people, and enjoy "the inheritance of the saints in light!"
That this rest shall be enjoyed by the people of God, is a truth which the Scripture, if its testimony be further needed, clearly asserts in a variety of ways; as, for instance, that they are "foreordained to it, and it for them. God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city." They are styled "vessels of mercy, afore prepared unto glory." "In Christ they have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." And "whom he did predestinate, them he also glorified." Who can deprive his people of that rest which is designed for them by God's eternal purpose? Scripture tells us, they are redeemed to this rest. "By the blood of Jesus, we have boldness to enter into the holiest;" whether that entrance means by faith and prayer here, or by full possession hereafter. Therefore the saints in heaven sing a new song unto Him who has "redeemed them to God by his blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and made them kings and priests unto God." Either Christ, then, must lose his blood and sufferings, and never "see of the travail of his soul," or else "there remaineth a rest to the people of God." In Scripture this rest is promised to them. As the firmament with stars, so are the sacred pages bespangled with these divine engagements. Christ says, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom." All the means of grace, the operations of the Spirit upon the soul, and gracious actings of the saints, every command to repent and believe, to fast and pray, to knock and seek, to strive and labor, to run and fight, prove that there remains a rest for the people of God. The Spirit would never kindle in us such strong desires after heaven, such love to Jesus Christ, if we should not receive what we desire and love. He that "guides our feet into the way of peace," will undoubtedly bring us to the end of peace. How nearly are the means and end conjoined! "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." They that "follow Christ in the regeneration, shall sit upon thrones of glory." Scripture assures us, that the saints have the "beginnings, foretastes, earnests, and seals" of this rest here. "Though they have not seen Christ, yet loving him, and believing in him, they rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; receiving the end of their faith, even the salvation of their souls." They "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." And does God "seal them with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of their inheritance," and will he deny the full possession? The Scripture also mentions, by name, those who have entered into this rest; as Enoch, Abraham, Lazarus, and the thief that was crucified with Christ. And if there be a rest for these, surely there is a rest for all believers. But it is in vain to bring together Scripture proofs, seeing it is the very end of Scripture to be a guide to lead us to this blessed state, and to be the charter and grant by which we hold all our title to it.
Scripture not only proves that this rest remains for the people of God, but also that it remains for none but them; so that the rest of the world shall have no part in it. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. No whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. They all shall be damned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness. The Lord Jesus shall come in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." Had the ungodly returned before their life was expired, and been heartily willing to accept of Christ for their Savior and their King, and to be saved by him in his way, and upon his most reasonable terms, they might have been saved. God freely offered them life, and they would not accept it. The pleasures of the flesh seemed more desirable to them than the glory of the saints. Satan offered them the one, and God offered them the other; and they had free liberty to choose which they would, and they chose "the pleasures of sin for a season," before the everlasting rest with Christ. And is it not a righteous thing that they should be denied that which they would not accept? When God pressed them so earnestly, and persuaded them so importunately, to come in, and yet they would not, where should they be but among the dogs without? Though man be so wicked that he will not yield till the mighty power of grace prevail with him, yet still we may truly say that he may be saved, if he will, on God's terms. His inability being moral, and lying in wilful wickedness, is no more excuse to him than it is to an adulterer that he cannot love his own wife, or to a malicious person that he cannot but hate his own brother: is he not so much the worse, and deserving of so much the sorer punishment? Sinners shall lay all the blame on their own wills in hell for ever. Hell is a rational torment by conscience, according to the nature of the rational subject. If sinners could but then say, It was God's fault, and not ours, it would quiet their consciences and ease their torments, and make hell, to them, to be no hell. But to remember their wilfulness, will feed the fire, and cause the worm of conscience "never to die."
"Now I tell you that in 'Estrella' for January you are to publish the words of My Son, those He told you in the first years and that you entitled: Laments of Jesus, Victim, as well as the messages that are being given to you. Continue only with the catechism and the Imitation of Christ, and Following His Footsteps of my good son, Anselmo del Alamo. Continue a section that treats of guiding women in the fulfillment of their duties in good behavior, for such your apostolate must be. For this purpose you may take fragments from Paths of Life and Agonies of His Heart, because those texts are like the text of Sacred Scripture and the Imitation of Christ. Make it known that those apostolic sons are in an exalted Heaven, for having written the truth to the face of the world." -- Words of the Mother of God to the Portavoz, Nov. 8, 1975
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