Goodness of God:
Father Benedict Rogacci (1646-1719) in his book Holy Confidence paraphrases the attitude of the great ascetic monk St. Anthony saying, “none should be sad who awaited the salvation of God and His heavenly kingdom.” This is one of the fundamental themes he stresses in the book. Christians should not be sad and gloomy, despairing of past sins and anxiously questioning their salvation. Rather, we should rejoice in the Lord and in the promise of our salvation. Ours should be a deep-seated spiritual joy befitting the children of God. He cites two models of our converted state of mind: in one, the penitent rightfully bewails having fallen into his past sins and misery; the other, the better way, is to rejoice in amazement at the goodness of God in rescuing him.
The Lord Comes to Us:
God loved us so much that He came down from Heaven to enter the world, and took on a body to suffer for us at Calvary. Now, He remains with us in the hiddenness of the Blessed Sacrament, where He comes to dwell within us in Holy Communion. This intimate love is reminiscent of Solomon’s Song of Songs poetically describing God’s love for His mystical Bride, the Church. In talking with the prophet Elijah at Mount Horeb, God said He would be “passing by.” A strong and heavy wind came by, rending the mountain and crushing rocks, but the “Lord was not in the wind.” Then, there was an earthquake and fire, but the Lord was not in the earthquake and fire. Then, the Lord came to him in a summer breeze with “a tiny whispering sound.” (1 Kgs. 19:12) The Lord comes down in gentleness to meet us.
Abba / Father:
Father Rogacci reminds us of God’s tender affection for His children, as He “found delight in the sons of men.” (Prov. 8:31) The King of Heaven is not like the kings of the earth who lord over their subjects. God is not anxious to preserve His loftiness before us, but approaches us with tenderness. He seeks love, not fear. He does not call us servants but “friends” and “children of God.” Jesus taught us to call God “Abba,” or to address Him as our very own Father. The letter to the Romans says: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”” (Rom. 8:15)
God’s whole mission is not to condemn the world but to save souls, desiring that none be lost. He does punish sins, but He does so only to satisfy His perfect justice. He punishes without anger or passion. Sin provokes His pity for us, and He stands ready to blot out our transgressions and remember them no more. (Is. 43:25) We are to avoid mortal sin at all costs, and remain in a state of grace. This is why He has mercifully given us Confession, Absolution and Holy Communion.
Believe and Receive:
How then should we act? Father Rogacci says we should trust in the words of Christ: “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Mt. 7:7) There is nothing more reassuring than these words of Jesus to dispel all doubts. This requires perseverance in our prayer daily. Jesus taught us to believe in our hearts that God will answer all of our prayers, saying, “All things are possible to him who believes.” (Mk. 9:23) St. Peter also tells us to “Cast all your worries upon Him because He cares for you.” (1 Pt. 5:7) Fr. Rogacci continues this idea of ‘believe and receive’ stating: “We should go to Him in all our needs with confidence that He will help us, like the tenderest father or mother we have ever known. We should never fear a refusal or think we are a trouble to Him, but be certain that He is willing to grant with all His heart what we ask.”
Sometimes what we ask for may require us to pray for a long time. Fr. Rogacci says this is a good thing. It reminds us that without God we can do nothing. He says: “This necessity of perpetual dependence on Him teaches us our utter powerlessness, our absolute inability of doing any good thing without Him. Nothing is better fitted to humble our pride and give glory to God.” As Jesus said we can do nothing on our own. We are utterly dependent upon the mercy of God and the merits of Jesus Christ. We should not dwell in anxious scrupulosity on our sins, but have a holy confidence in God. Fr. Rogacci recommends imploring God each day with prayer, such as from the Liturgy of the Hours: “O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me.”
Someone asked Jesus will only a few be saved? “But He answered, ‘Strive to enter in by the narrow gate.'” (Lk 13:24) As Fr. Rogacci points out, this “signifies little to us whether the number of the elect be great or small, but it signifies a good deal that we should do what is necessary to obtain eternal life.” To be saved requires us to persevere in divine grace until our deaths. All of us were like the Prodigal Son who squandered his inheritance from the Father. Yet, with the son’s humble confession before Him, the Father joyously welcomed him back into His house as His son, and as Jesus says, they were “merry.” Fr. Rogacci posits that sadness and depression can be used as weapons of the devil to harm us. Sometimes this is unavoidable, and not always easy. Despite this, as children of God and heirs to the Kingdom, we have an underlying spiritual joy to sustain us. Assured of God’s divine goodness, we can trust in His sanctifying grace. As Jesus told His disciples “rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” This is the foundation for our hope and joy.
We are to have a simple holy confidence in our Father in Heaven who hears all that we ask and pray. Fr. Rogacci echoes the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! . . . Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:4-7)