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Abandonment

Today the Church celebrates the solemnity of St Joseph and I would like to highlight one
particular aspect of this holy man that the Church presents us today for our veneration. St
Joseph can be a somewhat enigmatic figure. In the gospels narrative he is always in the
background; such is his humility. Though he was the head of the holy family, there is not a
single word of his to be found on the records. There is a book on the life of St Joseph entitled
The shadow of the Father, and I would like to highlight precisely this aspect of St Josephs
life: the fact that his entire life was a continuous and faithful following of Gods will for him
and for the family.

Indeed, the life of St Joseph was not easy. It was plagued with difficulties and not a few
moments of confusion and darkness. Yet he remained steady in his pursuit of Gods will, which
was the only thing he cared about. And by so doing he gave us a beautiful example.

On the day of our religious profession we offered our lives and ourselves totally to God. We
promised to seek God with all our hearts so that we could truthfully make ours the words of St.
Peter: We have given up everything and followed you (Mt 19:27).

The offer which we made on the day of our religious profession, however, must not be an
isolated act. Rather, it should lead to an attitude which is best expressed in the spirit of
abandonment. In effect, our abandonment in Gods arms is not only at the basis of our identity
as religious, but it should also inspire all the actions which are derived from our profession. It is
also a source of spiritual fecundity. Much like Jesus who abandoned himself in his Fathers
arms, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit (Lk 23:46), so we too should practice this
spirit of abandonment. This spirit is in fact the supreme form of love because it entails our
conformity with Gods will.

In other words, the donation of ourselves which we made to God on the day of our profession
can only be true, entire, complete, absolute and fertile if it is manifested throughout our entire
existence by the virtues of self-detachment and abandonment in Gods will.

We know by faith that the dispositions of Gods will for us is full of love, for God is love (1
Jo 4:16). At the root of everything that God does for us there is nothing other than Gods love.
But because God is not only Love but He is also Infinite Wisdom and Almighty Power, His
works are perfect. But Gods love has one more important feature: it is the love of a father for
his children: See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.
And so we are (1 Jo 3:1).

Not only did God show us his love in the fact of our adoption, He also does it in the way He
adopts us. God loves us in his Son: God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son
(Jo 3:16). God wants our sanctification, and He has given us all we need for that purpose.
(God) did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us
everything else along with him? (Rm 8:32).

Then, we have every reason to abandon ourselves, in full confidence, to the powerful and loving
will of God. His Spirit acts powerfully so long as we dont oppose him, where we dont
grieve him, or sadden him, as St. Paul says (Ef 4:30).

Therefore, we must work hard to reach this state of self-surrender to Gods will. Like the final
word of Jesus, we cannot be satisfied with assuming a merely passive attitude. Rather we
should take on a spirit of positive conformity and abandonment. Like St Joseph, this
abandonment consists in our faithful consecration to Gods will.

The will of God is not something different from God himself. Gods will might be in part
hidden to us, but Gods will is God himself. Hence, every single bit of energy of our being
should be employed to carry out His will. Quae placita sunt ei facio semper - I do always the
things that please him (Jo 8:29). When this divine will commands that we should do
something, we must be ready to do anything and everything it takes to fulfill it, for to oppose
this will is the same as to wish, in practice, that God did not exist. In a word: the deeper our
love of God, the more complete it will render our wills to His will.

When it comes to doing Gods will, we should be careful about the prudence of the flesh.
Gods ways are not our ways. If we were to decide for ourselves, what would we choose?
Probably, we would choose not to suffer, not to be subject to temptations, to be in perfect
control of everything in our lives. But Gods ways are often different from our ways: Whoever
wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me (Mt 16:24); and
blessed our the poor in spirit, the meek, the pure, the merciful, those who mourn, those who
suffer persecution for the sake of justice (Mt 5:3-11). That is what Gods way and what God
thinks best for our sanctification.

We do not know what God has prepared for each of one of us, yet we do know that God has
compared himself with a loving mother: Can a mother forget her infant and if she should
forget, yet will I not forget you (Is 49:15).

We know by faith that everything that comes from God, whether it be pleasant or unpleasant, is
the best for us, for we know that all things work for good for those who love God (Rm 8:28).

It is, therefore, so important that, like St Joseph, we assume a true spirit of abandonment, for
that is so pleasing to God, especially in times of weariness, sickness, impatience, temptation,
spiritual dryness and trials of any sort, or during hours of anguish.

There is, in fact, a certain amount of sufferings, humiliations and sorrows, which God has
foreseen for the members of Christs mystical body, in order to fill up what is lacking in the
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afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church (Col 1:24). As members of the
mystical body of Christ, we religious are expected to echo throughout history, day after day,
over and over again these final words of Jesus: Father, into your hands I commend my spirit
(Lk 23:46).

One who has made a religious profession should never feel intimidated by sufferings,
humiliations, temptations or desolations of whatever sort. I will show him what he will have to
suffer for my name (Acts 9:16), said Jesus of St. Paul, and He repeats it every time a religious
makes his or her profession. Like St. Joseph, a religious should have a strong and generous faith
that enables him or her to look beyond the appearances and see in everything the gentle hand of
God.

Indeed, to put our confidence in God is to believe in his word. The more difficult the exercise of
this faith, the more pleasing it will be to God. This abandonment entails a great deal of
confidence in Gods goodness and power. It is a manifestation of love. Brides in the world do
not know what their future life will be like, and yet they leave all to marry the one they love,
even though the object of this love is only a human creature that can disappoint them. Instead, a
religious vows to trust in God, of whom St. Paul said: I know whom I believed (2 Tim 1:12).

On entering into the world, Jesus said: Behold, I come to do your will (Hb 10:7). And then
He said to his disciples: My food is to do the will of the one who sent me (Jn 4:34). When
Jesus uttered his final word, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. This wasnt a
word of defeat but one of triumph. He had given up his spirit every day of his life. Now, this is
what we ought to do. May Mary our Blessed Mother - who let God act in her life according to
His will - help us live by this spirit of abandonment.

Let me finish with the words of the Little Flower who excelled in this spirit of abandonment:

With bold surrender, I wish to remain gazing upon you, O Lord, my divine Sun. Nothing will
frighten me, neither wind nor rain, and if dark clouds come and hide you from my gaze, I will
not change my place because I know that beyond the clouds you still shine on and your
brightness is not eclipsed for a single instant. Even if you remain deaf to the sorrowing of your
creature, even if you remain hidden, I accept being numb with cold and rejoice in this suffering.
My heart is at peace and continues its work of love. (St Therese).