Lent 04, Year B

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My grace is sufficient for you (2 Cor. 12:9)

Had it been wholly up to Louise de Marillac and Vincent de Paul, I do not think they would have gotten to work together the way they did. In fact, she found rather repugnant in the beginning the thought of having to accept Vincent as her new spiritual director. And Vincent, for his part, appeared to have preferred that no other commitment detract from the apostolate of the missions and the Confraternities of Charity that he had just embarked upon. Without disregarding his holy indifference, couldn’t we perhaps say that, given his experience with Madame de Gondi, Vincent might have also thought of how demanding the spiritual direction of another lady from the nobility could be?

But, as we know, it is not always up to human likes and dislikes, deserving these might be or not of beatings. And with regard to Louise and Vincent, it was up to God’s love, his grace, to inspire and impel both of them. So inspired and impelled, they eventually acquiesced, first, to a spiritual relationship of directing and being directed—even if it might appear that at times the directed might have been directing—and, then, to a joint effort in works of charity, through which they just about changed the face of the church.

By God’s grace and love, then, two individuals with widely differing personalities, by biographers’ accounts, were able to set aside their differences and preferences and combine their gifts of nature and grace to carry out what the compelling love of Christ and the evangelization of the poor demanded of them. God’s handiwork that they both were, they devoted themselves to the good works for which they were created in Christ and which God prepared in advance for them to do.

By God’s grace and love, the thinker who was prone to introspection and rigidity, the would-be saint who worried too much and even scrupulously about her salvation, the mother who was anxious, not unlike the mother of the Zebedee brothers, about the welfare of her only son:—this woman did finally manage to abandon herself with great confidence to providence, practice moderation, and have peace and joy. She was enabled to turn her gaze away from herself and toward Jesus Christ and the poor. So devoted to them she had become and so detached from her son that later on she did not mind clothing them from her son’s wardrobe. And having desires and resolutions no longer mattered to her, convinced that the grace of God would accomplish in her whatever he might will. In the end, as St. Vincent himself noted, she proved herself to be the work of God.

By God’s grace and love, the devoted son, determined to make life easier for his mother and who wept bitterly on his way out of town after visiting his family and relatives, ended up being detached from them and instructing his confreres to avoid inordinate attachment to relatives.

Of course, God’s amazing grace is capable of other amazing feats. And all the more amazing does grace show itself, as it is made perfect in human weakness and as it overflows all the more where sin increases! But ultimately, the marvel of marvels that grace is consists fundamentally in this: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he has for us, even when we are dead in our transgressions, brings us to life with Christ, raises us up with him, and seats us with him in the heavens. And all this—and Paul does not want us to forget it—by grace, just as it was by the immeasurable richness of God’s grace that they were saved, those who long ago added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations and polluting the Lord’s temple.

Yes, indeed, God loves us so much that there is nothing we can do that would make God stop being Emmanuel, that would make him seek our perdition rather than our salvation, that would make him judge and punish us. We judge and punish ourselves, I think, choosing not to cooperate with grace and reaping only the harvest of destruction that come from the seeds of bad deeds we sow (Gal. 6:7-8). We condemn ourselves to darkness for hating the light that would expose our wicked works. Surely there are likes that are deserving of beatings, but God does not beat us, rather we beat ourselves.

Good thing it is not wholly up to us.