I continue to plod along slowly through Holy Abandonment by Dom Vitalis Lehodey. It’s not that I’m a slow reader or the book is boring…it’s just that there is so much to digest. I have gone back and re-read paragraphs here and there already, trying to assimilate them.
Lehodey differentiates between God’s signified will and God’s will of good-pleasure.
Quoting St. Francis de Sales, Lehodey describes God’s signified will:
"God proposes to us clearly and in advance the truths He would have us believe, the rewards He would have us hope for, the penalties He would have us fear, the good He would have us love, the commandments He would have us observe, the counsels He would have us follow. This is called the signified will, because by it God indicates and makes known to us what He has ordained and intends should be the objects of our faith, of our hope, or our fear, of our love, and of our practice...The signified will comprises a fourfold object: the commandments of God and of His Church, the evangelical counsels, divine inspirations, our particular rules and constitutions..."
In describing God's will of good-pleasure, Lehodey again quotes St. Francis de Sales:
"...there is also His will of good-pleasure which we must look for in all events. I mean to say, in everything that befalls us: in sickness, in death, in affliction, in consolation, in adversity and prosperity; briefly, in all unforeseen occurrences."
Ah, yes. Unforeseen occurrences, affliction, adversity…like, for instance, your child being killed in a school shooting… O Lord, I cannot fathom the pain of those parents.
"…[I]t is in tribulations especially we must recognize the will of God; not that He loves these for their own sake, but He employs them as an effective means of vindicating right order, of remedying our failings, of healing and sanctifying our souls."
Using the example of those innocent children being shot, we can see just how difficult it is to submit oneself to Divine Providence. So many voices are crying out, “Why, Lord?” No one really wants to accept it. And yet, we have no choice. As Lehodey says, it is always within our power to conform to the signified will, simply by obedience. But as the will of good-pleasure unfolds,
"He disposes of us as our Sovereign Master. Without consulting us, often even against our wishes, He puts us in the position He has chosen, and under the obligation of discharging the duties thereof. It remains in our power indeed to satisfy this obligation or not, to conform ourselves to the divine good-pleasure or to revolt against it; but whether we like it or not, we have no choice save to submit to the sequence of events, the course of which can be arrested by no earthly power...Thus...He reminds us of our dependence, and endeavors to recall us to the paths of duty as often as we wander out of them and lose our way.”
God alone knows the lessons He wants to impart to the parents whose children were killed, or the families of the adults who died protecting those children as best they could. He has lessons for all of us who are touched in some way by the tragedy.
And for some of us, what stands out so glaringly is the fact that the nation mourns the loss of innocent lives, 6-and 7-year-old children with shining faces and beautiful smiles, but at the same time that same nation ignores the horrific deaths of 4000 unborn babies every day who are murdered in their mothers’ wombs, by poison or by being torn apart into bits that are suctioned out of what should be the safest place in the world.
We light a virtual candle for the ones with names and faces on the news. We turn our backs on the ones who are hidden in wombs, waiting for their turn to come into the world. That people cannot see the “disconnect” here is what burdens my soul. I have wept more for the anonymous, unknown, murdered little pre-borns than I have for the poor children of Sandy Hook Elementary School – though that is not because I care less for the born than the unborn; indeed, the photos of that one blond-haired blue-eyed little girl just tear into my gut.
And yet, death is a part of life. Eighteen children died in a tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, December 14; but how many other children died on that day? How many died of cancer? In a car accident? How many drowning victims? How many died of starvation or malnutrition in other parts of the world? How many were killed at the hands of their mothers’ boyfriends? Tragedy occurs all the time. We just are not aware of it.
God made us all very much aware of Sandy Hook Elementary. He has His reasons. The Divine Will has been at work. And many are having a lesson in just how difficult it can be to submit to that will…even if we know that God has our best interests in mind.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.