Sermon given by Father Pancras Raja on July 12th, 2020
“I have compassion on the multitude; for behold, they have now been with me three days and have nothing to eat” (Mk. 8: 2, 3)
The tender goodness described in this gospel is a manifestation of the divine providence. God knows all our needs, and he has compassion on us – and to each one of us, he says: “Can a woman forget her infant so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? And even if she forgets, yet will I not forget thee” (Is. 49: 15).
Providence means the divine plan, eternally existing in the mind of God, by which all things are ordered to their proper ends.
God provides all his creatures with the means necessary for the attainment of their ends. Because:
1 God is infinitely wise – and therefore, he knows all our necessities.
- God is infinitely loving – and therefore, he feels compassion on us.
- God is infinitely good – and therefore, he satisfies our needs.
Practically therefore, Providence is that manifestation of God’s love, by which he supplies all our needs. The needs are twofold: those affecting our bodies, and those affecting our souls.
Our bodily needs are: Food and drink, shelter and clothing, health and strength, and a sufficiency of this world’s goods to enable us easily to live our earthly life.
Our spiritual needs are instruction in the word of God, help to resist our passions, remedies of the sins into which we fall – and so on.
For the bodily needs God has provided: the earth, the air, the waters, the animals and the crops.
Our Lord asks us to look at the irrational creatures and from them to learn to trust in God’s fatherly providence, and not to be solicitous saying: “what shall we eat, and wherewith shall we be clothed? Your heavenly Father knoweth that you have need of all these things, he feels compassion for your necessities, and supplies them all to you.” (Mt. 6: 25 – 34)
If Divine Providence is good, why do poverty, sickness, sufferings, and other physical evils exist? — Physical evils are often the result of the weakness of creatures in body and mind.
Although we often do not understand God’s arrangements, we must have faith and exclaim with the Apostle: “How incomprehensible are God’s judgments, and how unsearchable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33).
- Physical evil is partly a punishment for actual sin. It serves to sanctify the good and helps them attain eternal salvation. The greatest sufferers have often been the greatest saints. God sends suffering to the just man in order to prove his divine love.
Take Holy Job. He lost everything; he had yet loved God more. So, Holy Tobias who became blind and poor, and he only proved his love for God.
- God never sends anyone suffering beyond his strength. To gain merit, we must be patient and resigned under suffering. Let us imitate Our Lord at his agony in the Garden, whose prayer was, “Father, not my will, but thine, be done!” Our Lord taught us to say, in the Our Father, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
He who resigns himself joyfully to the will of God, in sickness, death, poverty, persecution, and other misfortunes, obtains true peace of heart; he will be blessed even on this earth.
- God often sends physical evil to sinners in order to bring them back into the right way. It serves as a warning to them.
Among those who were converted through bodily sickness, we may mention St. Francis of Assisi and St. Ignatius of Loyola.
- Sufferings can be borne and should be welcomed. By sufferings patiently accepted, the punishment due for sin is diminished or cancelled. The more we suffer in this world, the less would we have to pay in the next life, in purgatory.
As St. Paul said, “I am filled with comfort; I overflow with joy in all our troubles” (2 Cor. 7:4). “For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us.” And St. Ignatius spoke from experience when he said, “When God sends us some great trouble, it is a sign that He designs great things for us, to raise us to great holiness.”
If Divine Providence is just, why do the good often suffer misfortunes, and the wicked enjoy prosperity and honors? — The misfortunes or satisfactions of the world are not real and lasting and cannot measure God’s justice.
- No sinner has true happiness; his conscience will not give him inner peace. Riches, honor, and pleasures can never give peace to the spirit. On the other hand, no lover of God has true misery, for he possesses inner peace and a good conscience. Real reward and punishment begin only after death.
On earth sinners are rewarded for whatever good they do. Their good fortune lasts only for this life. The just are punished on earth for whatever sins they may have committed. Their reward is full in the other life.
- We must therefore resign ourselves lovingly to the will of God. Thus, we shall have peace of mind even in the midst of the greatest trials. Suffering should remind us that this is not our true home, and that we are citizens of heaven.
“The Lord ruleth me, and I shall want nothing” (Ps. 22:1). “In thee, O Lord, have I hoped, because thou hast saved my soul” (Ps. 30:1, 8).
Is God responsible for sin? — God is not responsible for sin; sin is the result of man’s wrong use of his free will.
- God does not will or cause sin; He forbids it and will punish the sinner. He permits sin for His own reasons, to sanctify the good, by trying them and giving them opportunities for more faithful obedience.
God created man free to choose good or evil. He wishes us to choose good, in order that we may merit heaven. But since we are free, we can, if we so wish, choose evil. God is not responsible for our sins.
- Even the evil that God permits to happen, He turns to our good. He draws good out of evil.
The wicked persecutions of the Church make the Gospel better known and loved among the just. Thus, the patriarch Joseph said to his brothers, “You thought evil against me, but God turned it into good” (Gen. 50:30). “For those who love God, all things work together unto good” (Rom. 8:28).
For our spiritual sustenance – God has given us the sacred Scriptures in which is the word of life. He has given us his Church – the depository of his treasures – the adorable sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. The Church does all that Jesus Christ did for the people who crowded round him to hear his word.
Conclusion: (1) We should thank god every day of our life for the temporal blessings – especially after meals. (2) We should seek for the spiritual goods – by faithful attention to our religious duties, by listening to sermons, reading pious books, by prayer, penance and frequent receptions of the sacraments and by attending catechism, camps, conferences, retreats. (3) If sometimes God permits evil and sufferings in this world, let us take them as a means of exercising detachments from the world and of practicing virtues and of reparation for our sins.
Many – even among those who reputed to be good Catholics – are sometimes inclined to doubt – particularly when things go not well with them – and to say that God has abandoned them.
If god sends poverty, it is to imitate his life on earth, to acquire merits for heaven and eternal glory. Those who are rich in earthly possessions are often in danger of losing their souls just on account of their wealth.
Again, some people seem to object that the impious and wicked people sometimes live long and are very successful in their undertakings! Yes, it is true. God gives them long life either to grant them time to be converted – or to reward them on earth for the good they did.
But the just man receives his reward in heaven, and the more he proves his virtue in trials, the greater will be his eternal reward.
Let our hearts therefore, in confidence seek comfort in the infinite and loving providence of God. Let us acknowledge with fervent gratitude all the benefits which he has bestowed upon us; and let us accept with perfect resignation and patience the crosses that he sends us for acquiring merits of eternal happiness.
St. Ambrose says: “The food of heavenly favour was not distributed to the idle, not to those in the city (the Pharisees or those attached to earthly prestige), but to those who sought Christ in the desert.” – In the desert of OLMC! – Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice – those who desire for the kingdom of God, for they shall have their fill.