Struggles without, fears within

Today’s Second Reading from the
Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours)

Ordinary Time
Monday of the Twentieth Week

An excerpt from
Moral Reflections on Job
Saint Gregory the Great
(pope and Father of the Church)

Holy men beset by tribulation must endure the assaults of those who use violence and verbal attacks. The former they resist with the shield of patience, but against the latter they launch the sharp arrows of true doctrine. In both types of fighting they win the day through the wonderful arts that virtue bestows, for within wisdom they teach the wayward while showing a courageous contempt for outward hostility; the straying sheep they set on the right path by their teaching; the attacker they suffer and overcome. For they have nothing but patient scorn for the enemy who moves against them, but they sympathize with their weaker fellows and bring them back to the safe way, opposing the former lest they lead others astray and fearing for the latter lest they completely lose sight of the truly upright life.

Let us see how a soldier in God’s camp fights against both types of enemy. Paul says: Struggles without, fears within. He lists the attacks he must endure from without: Dangers from floods, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own people, dangers from the pagans, dangers in the city, dangers in the desert, dangers on the seas, dangers from false brothers. He also tells us what weapons he uses against his enemies in this war: Toil and hardship, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, frequent fasts, cold and nakedness.

When beset by so many struggles, he guards the camp, he tells us, with great watchfulness. Immediately he adds: Besides these outward difficulties there is that daily weight upon me: my anxiety for all the churches. Thus he himself fights courageously and devotes himself compassionately to protecting his neighbors. He tells us of the evils he endures but also of the blessings he brings to others.

Let us reflect, then, on how difficult it is simultaneously to endure attacks from without and to protect the weak from within. He endures the attacks without, inasmuch as he suffers flogging and chains; inwardly he experiences fear, since he is afraid that his sufferings may be a stumbling-block not to himself but to his disciples. For this reason he writes to them: Let no one be shaken by these trials, for you know that they are our lot. Amid his own sufferings it was the fall of others he feared, lest the disciples, seeing him flogged for the faith, might refuse to acknowledge their own faith.

What an immensely loving heart! He thinks nothing of what he himself suffers and is concerned only that the disciples may be led astray interiorly. He scorns his own bodily wounds and brings healing to the inner wounds of others. It is characteristic of holy men that their own painful trials do not make them lose their concern for the well-being of others. They are grieved by the adversity they must endure, yet they look out for others and teach them needed lessons; they are like gifted physicians who are themselves stricken and lie ill. They suffer wounds themselves but bring others the medicine that restores health.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen