Words of Spiritual Benefit | 111-120
Visiting is a kind of pastoral care. St. Paul said about it, "Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city, where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing." (Acts 15:36).
Visiting is essential for whoever is in a position of responsibility.
The bishop and the priest visit the flock and the servant visits his children. Even the ordinary faithful person sits with himself, reviewing his life, where is he going?
Visiting others means that you care about them and want to make sure they are all right.
Therefore, visiting creates a deep feeling of mutual love. You visit the one you love and the one whom you visited will love you for caring about him.
The opposite is also true; lack of visiting creates a feeling of loneliness and depression. How easy for one to say, "There is nobody to ask about me, even the Church and the priests!"
Many of our brothers were lost because nobody visited them or by the time they were visited, it was too late. Either because matters, by that time, became complicated or their hearts became void of responsive feelings, love of goodness and love of the one visiting them.
For this reason, the quick action of visiting solves problems before they become serious.
This applies especially to those who are young, weak, new or those who are facing tribulations or trials or under certain pressures and are unable to save themselves or find a solution.
There is a big difference between such a visit and a social visit.
You might visit a person without seeking to help him.
You might visit him and talk about many matters without referring to God and the extent of this person's relationship with Him. A pastoral visit means entering into one's life, knowing his problems and helping in solving them creating a deep relationship between him and God.
Pastoral care means visiting others, accompanied by God. And when you leave, you must have left God in his home and in his heart.
Let us conclude by hoping that you'll ask yourself: who needs your visit? Whom have you visited but not actually helped?!
112 - The Sense of Responsibility
The spiritual person realise that his life on earth is a responsibility.
His life is a message. God will ask him how his life was fruitful, productive and beneficial to all those who were in contact with him. God will ask him about what he has done and what he could have done, but he has not.
From the formal point of view, his responsibility might be limited. As for love, his responsibility is boundless. Love has room for everyone, and is always ready to serve and help.
The spiritual person questions himself before he is questioned by God: What has he done for all those people whom he knew? Is there anyone among those whom he does not know, who needs his help; he ought to know them and offer his services.
Philip was once walking on the road and saw an Ethiopian eunuch reading in the Book of Isaiah. He felt a sense of responsibility towards him. He did not leave him till he felt the service has been completed and he led him to God.
St. Mark was sitting in the shop of a cobbler called Anianus, who was fixing the saint's sandal. St. Mark had a sense of responsibility towards this cobbler. He took advantage of this opportunity and started talking to him till he believed in the Lord and so did his household.
Both of them learned from Christ when He sat next to the well near Samaria. A Samaritan woman, who was a sinner, came to draw water from the well. The Lord felt his responsibility towards her. He led her and all her townspeople to salvation.
These three meetings seemed, at the beginning, as just passing by incidents, but the sense of responsibility turned each into a chance for salvation.
If that is the case with those who meet accidentally, how proper are the formal responsibilities of a person in life.
Fatherhood is a responsibility, motherhood is a responsibility, marriage is a responsibility and serving is a responsibility. Friendship is another type of responsibility.
Do not try to apologise by passing the responsibility to others. God is going to ask you about what you have done within your limits.
The more one's sense of responsibility grows, the more the circle of his service widens. It all happens through love, not through formalities. One even volunteers to do many acts of love.
His heart makes him keen to do it, as the Bible says, " ... To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:17).
113 - Firmness
How easy it is for one to start a spiritual life and live with God for days or weeks then relapses and regresses backwards and then loses everything!
It is important then for the one who starts to continue, settle and become firm.
Therefore, the Lord said, "Abide in me, and I in you." (John 15:4).
He explained to us the importance of the branch's firmness in the vine in order to bear fruit. He praised His saintly disciples not only because they stood by His side during trials, but He said to them, "But you are those who have continued with me in my trials." (Luke 22:28). So He praised their firmness.
In the parable of the sower, the Lord tells us about those who did not abide, " ... and because they had no root, they withered away ... and the thorns sprang up and choked them." (Matt 13:6).
Therefore, St. Paul the Apostle does not talk only about the importance of faith but more about being firm in faith. He says, " ... on those who fell, severity; but towards you goodness if you continue in his goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off." (Rom 11:22).
He also says to the Colossians, " ... to present you holy ... if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast." (Col. 1:22-23). And he blames the Galatians who, "begun in the spirit" , but did not continue and, " ... are now being made perfect by the flesh." (Gal 3:3).
Many are those whom the Apostle tearfully mentioned, because they did not abide.
Some started serving actively, but did not continue!
Others fancied the idea of consecration, but did not abide!
And another group started by loving God, then left their first love!
How grim it is for one to live the life of the tabernacle and altar with Abraham, then ends up in Sodom.
Or starting as one of the twelve, then betray Jesus.
Or starts his life as a mighty victorious and a Nazirite to God and the Spirit of the Lord comes upon him then ends up shaving his hair and pulls the grinder!
Abiding in the spirit is a test for our will in the midst of tribulations. Therefore, the Bible says, "Remember those. whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct." (Heb 13:7).
114 - The Aggressive Nature
There is a person who is aggressive by nature. He is always fighting and quarrelling and is never able to calm down.
Such a person is always ready to attack. If you talk to him, he searches for a mistake to answer back. He is even ready to answer back before he starts talking.
He always expects evil and waits for others' mistakes. It is hard for him to trust anyone or praise anyone. If it happened and he praised somebody, it would probably be part of a technique to attack others. He is never constant in praising anyone, but he soon turns against him and blame him.
An aggressive natured person has a dark outlook, an eye that criticises, a thought that contradicts and a tongue that is sharp.
A person as such has a hot temper, nervous in his actions, gets angry quickly and becomes furious, raises his voice and attacks.
Therefore, an aggressive person does not like gentleness. He considers it softness in one's nature. He does not like tenderness and meekness. To cover up his sharp temper, he praises firmness and seriousness. To be serious, in his opinion, means to always carry a frown and speak harshly.
The one with an aggressive nature does not handle matters thoughtfully and calmly, but in violence. He considers the scalpel more important than the tablet.
Such an aggressive person cannot submit to a leader or a guide. He could even attack all superiors and advisers if they do not follow his own methods.
Although he does not yield to anyone, he expects submission from all those who deal with him, even if they are older than him.
Some call the aggressive nature a fiery nature.
It is not easy to deal with such a person, even in the family circle, whether it is a father, son or a husband.
One's aggressiveness could even reach quarrelling and drubbing, even killing. In the religious sphere, one could kill through his tongue or criticism.
If you are aggressive, remember what was said about Jesus, "He will not quarrel or cry out, nor anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and smoking flax he will not quench." (Matt 12:19).
115 - Hope(1)
The spiritual person who is known for the virtue of hope is always accompanied by hope in all the details of his life, which grants him strength and joy:
=> For repentance and purity, he always has hope, knowing God will pick him up every time he falls and help him stand straight.
=> He has hope in sharing with God every spiritual task that he encounters. He believes in God's goodness and protection, love and promise. This faith fills his heart with hope in His response. He is full of confidence that his request has reached the presence of God and that whatever God is going to do is for his own good.
=> In each difficulty that he faces and for each problem, he has hope that God will save him. No matter how hard it is and how late God will be, this person has hope that God will come, even in the last hours of the night. Therefore, he does not ever lose hope.
=> With this hope in him, he does not despair, does not know failure and does not accept the word impossible. With God there is hope, even in the smoking flax and the bruised reed. There is even hope for the barren woman who never gave birth .
=> God is the hope for those who have no hope and is the assistant of those who have no helper. God is the comforter of those with a broken heart and a harbour for those who are in the storm.
=> This hope gives strength that springs from God, as the Lord says, "But those who wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and shall not faint." (Is. 40:31).
=> It is a firm faith that does not shake because it depends on God who has no variation or shadow of turning.
Jonah the Prophet had hope, even when he was in the belly of the big fish.
=> Hope in God gives joy, "Rejoicing in hope." (Rom 12:12).
=> Hope is a driving strength for work. Hope does not mean idleness, relying on God! Never, hope is rejoicing in the work of God. It urges one to share in God's work, with enthusiasm.
=> Live in hope and wait on the Lord, rejoicing in Him and in His work.
116 - You Yourself Be Good News
People need the one who makes them happy and lightens their troubles with the hope that opens a window of light. It shines amongst their tribulations and makes them disappear, giving a new hope.
You too be like that. If you have a joyful word, give it to people. If you have a troubling word, postpone saying it so you wouldn't disturb others.
As it says in the Bible, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things." (Rom 10:15).
Be cheerful with everyone and do your utmost to spread happiness among people.
Meet people with a gentle smile and a sweet word. People do not like frowning features and angry faces that make them lose the peace of their heart and the quietness of their feelings.
Make people happy to meet you, feeling that you bring then joy and that your arrival is good news to them.
Look how people draw a good omen and rejoice in a happy word that they read in the horoscope or fortune-book. It could fill their heart with joy and boost their morale although nobody knows the future except God. What made them happy was nothing but a word.
Look at the word Gospel and how it means Good News.
Preaching the Gospel was announcing the Good News which the Angel gave to the shepherds, "I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people." (Luke 2:10).
Look how the Lord Jesus Christ said to the people, "Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt 11:28).
If you are unable to carry people's burdens, at least do not cause them troubles.
Look how the photographers ask people to smile before they take their photo. They want the picture to be a happy one. You too should be smiling so your face would be a source of joy for people.
Some wrongly think that religion means a gloomy face and that gloominess indicates seriousness! Religion is in fact joy. Gentleness and joy are the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22).
117 - Forget What Is Behind
St. Paul the Apostle said, " ... forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press towards the goal." (Phil 3:13) By referring to what is behind, St. Paul did not mean sins but righteousness; to do all its virtues behind it and press forward.
Therefore, it justifies the saying, "A good man forgets all the good deeds that he has done as he is too busy in the good deeds that he is still doing."
The saints never put their good deeds in front of them, but behind them. They forget it and never talk about it. If it happened that somebody mentioned it in their presence, they change the subject so that this person would forget it too.
If they remember their good deeds, they might feel self- satisfaction about their present state and forget about the work of grace in them. As when they forget these deeds and remember nothing but God's grace that works in them, then they will reach forward, feeling that there are wide spheres ahead of them, leading to the desired perfection.
Would you forget the past completely, not only its righteousness but also its hardships and troubles. Forget also the evil which memory defiles purity of the heart. Instead of that, reach forward in positive steps towards the love of God and towards eternity.
Poor are those who limit their thoughts to the past with all its troubles, mistakes and its sweet dreams. There would not be any time or strength left for them to do something for the future.
They talk about the beauty of the past, the greatness of the past, either a boosting talk or a sorrowful talk. As for the present, there is nothing about it, it does not exist, the same with the future ... etc.
The beautiful past is not going to satisfy you if the present is troublesome. Therefore, do not live on sweet memories but reach forward. Let your present always be better that your past.
Do not remember from the past except what could make your present better and gives you a push forward in repentance or in growth.
118 - The Contrite Prayer
There many qualities for the spiritual prayer. One of these qualities is to pray with faith and contrition, with understanding, concentration, love, depth and warmth. It is a prayer from the heart, not only from the lips. We would like to talk now about praying with a contrite heart.
=> "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart." (Ps 51:17)
God never reject the contrite. The contrite prayer of the tax- collector was accepted before God. So the tax-collector was forgiven though his words were few only one sentence.
=> The contrite prayer is a prayer that confesses its sins and its unworthiness.
There is no self-justification in such a prayer, no excuses but confession that it deserves judgement. It is a prayer in which the tax-collector did not dare to lift up his eyes and humbly stood afar.
=> The contrite prayer could, sometimes, be accompanied with tears.
It is like the prayer of Hannah, the mother of Samuel. It is like Peter's tears after he denied the Lord. These tears should not be artificial or fake. It should not also be a matter of boosting that makes oneself great in his eyes or the eyes of others.
=> The contrite prayer thanks more than seeks. It sees its unworthiness to ask for anything, or he could be ashamed of his sins so one would not dare to ask for anything except God's mercy. It is a prayer that thanks for everything, with a feeling that one deserves nothing.
=> The contrite prayer is at the same time a solemn prayer.
In prostration, it is not only the head that clings to the dust, but it says with the psalmist, "My soul clings to the dust." (Ps 119:25)
It is a prayer that stands in reverence before God, talk to Him in respect, understanding and in humble words.
=> The contrite prayer is a prayer of dust and ashes.
It is the prayer of one who sees himself as nothing more than dust and ashes. Like Job and the trials (Job 42:6) and our father Abraham (Geneses 10) and Nehemiah in his humility, tears and confession (Neh. 1).
"Who am I Lord to talk to You?! It is a great modesty from the Lord of Lords to listen to dust."
119 - Do Not Resist Evil
In the sermon on the mountain, the Lord said, "But I tell you not to resist an evil person." (Matt 5:39). That was said in the case of an attack, so one should not revenge for himself. On the same matter, St. Paul the Apostle said, "Repay no one evil for evil. Do not avenge yourselves." (Rom 12:17-19).
The Lord Jesus Christ stood silently before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate, without defending himself; while if He did, He would have convinced them all. But, "He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, so he opened not his mouth." (Is. 53:7).
His refusal to resist puzzled Pilate, so he said, "I have found no fault in this man." (Luke 23:14). Joseph the righteous, was cast into a pit by his brothers and he did not resist. He was sold as a slave and did not resist. Even when Potiphar put him in prison, he did not resist. He was strong in the heart by his non- resistance. As for God in Heaven, He saw and witnessed and it was all recorded.
The righteous Abel did not resist his brother Cain.
David the Prophet did not resist Saul.
In the act of non-resistance there is reliance on God the Almighty.
In most cases of resistance, there is self-reliance.
The one who does not resist evil has the virtue of endurance inside him. He also has the virtue of patience and the faith in God's action and interference.
In his silence, there is submission to God's will.
Mostly, the one who resists could easily be agitated. He gets excited quickly, reacts quickly and answers back quickly. He also quickly loses his love to the one who upset him.
The non-resistance of evil needs strong souls; strong in faith and strong in endurance.
Would you train yourself to attain this virtue.
Not to abstain from resisting and wait for God to revenge for you! But to remain silent and forget the offence.
You do not react on the outside and even on the inside, you train yourself to remain calm without being upset.
Lift up yourself above the offence and lift up your heart to God.
Do not defend because God alone is your defender.
Your true friend is the one who is sincere in his love. The one whose love does not have hypocrisy, pretence, artificiality or doubt. All his feelings are completely true and real.
=> friend is also a righteous person.
The true friend is the one who helps you to attain purity of the heart, love God and strive for your eternity.
As for the one who joins with you in committing sin, he is not a true friend; he is a partner in a life that is far from God.
Therefore, there is a difference between a friend and a companion.
The two qualities could be found sometimes in one person. But, a person might accompany you without becoming your friend. He is just a companion.
=> The true friend is the one who is trustworthy with your secrets. As St. John Chrysostom says, "Let your friends be a thousand, and he who keeps your secret, one of a thousand."
=> Your friend is your second heart; he could feel what you feel.
He deeply suffers for your suffering and deeply rejoices for your happiness.
He is a stock of love and support especially at the time of need; he never deserts you.
What a beautiful saying of Wise Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes, "Two are better than one, for if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up." (Eccl 4:9-10).
The one who does not lift you up could not be your friend.
=> Your friend is not the one who is courteous to you but the one who loves you.
He is not the one who wins your content by agreeing with whatever you do, no matter how wrong it could be. Your friend is the one who truly loves you, wishes you good and saves you from yourself and, if necessary, saves you from your wrong thoughts.
Therefore, the Bible says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." (Prov 27:6).
=> Your friend does not treat you in a similar way, an inch for an inch. He tolerates you in your anger and shows long suffering when you err.
His love does not change no matter how yours or his circumstances change.