In these days, we have considered many things which are to be done in the eucharistic, priestly, liturgical apostolate. I would say, your field is so broad, so immense, your initiatives are so numerous, your works are so important, that just one of your apostolates would be sufficient to exhaust the life of an entire Institute. Nevertheless, this is not enough; the other part of the contract is needed: are you preoccupied of the wage? St. Paul points out to us: Let us not grow weary of doing good; if we do not relax our efforts, in due time we shall reap our harvest.1
The compensation that awaits the good religious is Paradise.
Paradise. Firstly, it is the recompense of a good religious. It is prepared for all, because Jesus wants that everybody may be saved.1 All the good ones shall go to Paradise, but it is especially the reward of the religious. Special promises are reserved for her. She renounced the world, a family of her own, the joys of which she could rightfully have. She renounced everything so as to have the greatest reward, in view of the kingdom of Heaven. There were five wise virgins and five foolish ones.2 The religious is similar to the wise virgins who always keep their lamps filled up and ready for the arrival of the bridegroom.
Everytime Jesus asks for a renunciation, it is to give a reward: You will have treasure in heaven.1
When Jesus invites someone to follow him on the way of perfection, he repeats the promise: You will receive many times as much and inherit everlasting life.2 The same promise is made to you in the Profession. The merit that you will have in the world, you can have it a hundred times as much in the Congregation and above all, you will have Paradise a hundredfold.
Paradise is the reward prepared for all good people, however, it is not equal for all. It shall be proportionate to the merit of each one. Everyone is free to earn it as he/she desires. Thinking of Paradise, one cannot say: I have less intelligence, I have poor health, I am misunderstood, I encounter obstacles, I have temp-tations, doubts, scruples, troubles. There are no objections. All can earn Paradise and each one is the master who prepares for it as he/she wants. The place and the situation where one is, does not matter.
Paradise, the place of eternal reward is proportional to the work that is done, to the love with which it is done, to the generosity with which God is served. The merit corresponds to the personal effort. He will repay each man1 according to his conduct.
In St. Paul's words: Even among the stars, one differs from another in brightness.2
One cannot earn merits for another person and nobody can rob us of our merits. The fruit of good works is not ceded, while the satisfactory and entreaty value can be ceded; the meritorious value, cannot be ceded although we want it. Opera tua sumus, non te deseremus.1 The good works await us at Heaven's gate. He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.2
Paradise requires efforts. Regnum Dei vim patitur.1 (The Kingdom of God has suffered violence). Do violence to oneself, opposing curiosities, bad tendencies, pride, sensitiveness, facility to give in to laziness; always violence! Violence in making the examination of conscience, so as to pray well.
The Angels are preparing for us the heavenly thrones, but with the material that we give them from the earth through our conduct. In Heaven's home, there are many vessels of different values. Let us come to terms with the text. There are vessels of gold, silver, wood, clay, fragile vessels.1
Vessels of gold: they are the fervent Sisters who seek God in everything and always. Sisters like St. Teresa,2 St. Catherine,3 who are great Sisters! Even now, they are found in convents and religious Institutes.
Vessels of silver: Sisters of common virtues, dutiful, good.
Vessels of wood: Negligent Sisters who commit voluntary imperfections and leave behind the defects, wherever they go.
Vessels of clay: Mean Sisters whose sentiments are not good. They are undisciplined Sisters who disturb wherever they are found.
May you be golden vessels or at least, silver vessels. No one of clay. How we are here on earth, so we shall be in eternity.
The time to earn merit and the danger to lose it ceases with the last breath. Grace cannot be lost anymore, neither can merit be increased. The tree remains where it falls. What a treasure is time! the time that prepares and merits eternity.
St. Thomas1 lived for about fifty years. A heretic had also from God fifty years of existence. Yet, how differently they used the gift of life. St. Thomas became a saint, accomplished much good in the Church and merited Heaven in 50 years. The other one did much harm to people and in 50 years, became worthy of eternal damnation.
There shall only be two conditions hereafter: eternally saved or eternally damned.
St. John of the Cross,1 when asked by the Lord on the reward he desired after much suffering, answered: Pati et contemni pro te. (To suffer and be despised for your love). What a heroism!, but always in view of the kingdom of Heaven.
The Exercises are almost ending and God willing, after a year, you will gather together again. Someone may arrive holier, the other, half-hearted. How do you like to pass the year? What interior dispositions do you have? Which commitment do you want to assume? How would you like to find yourselves next year? May there be a great commitment, yes, but that is not enough. Trust is needed. Great trust in the Sacred Host, in the consecration of the Mass, in the gifts that Jesus brings in the Communion. The Saints had great trust. Yes, our merits shall count, but in as much as Jesus adds his grace, his help. Have much faith in Jesus' passion, much faith in the Mass. If the Father gives you Jesus, shall he not give you also every good with him?1
Trust in the Real Presence: the Tabernacle is open so as to impart graces.
Trust does not cost a lot of trouble, yet, it is that which exceptionally increases the merits.
Believe that Jesus wants to give; his desire to share his merits is much more than our desire to receive them.
Believe that Jesus is good and that he wants to make you saints.
1 Cf. Gal. 6, 9.
1 Cf. 1Tm. 2, 4.
2 Cf. Mt. 25, 1-13.
1 Mt. 19, 21.
2 Mt. 19, 29.
1 Mt. 16, 27.
2 1Cor. 15, 41.
1 St. Bernard of Clairvaux, De cognitione humanae conditionis, chap. 2, n. 5ML 184, 488.
2 Cf. 2Cor. 9, 6.
1 Mt. 11, 12: regnum caelorum vim patitur.
1 Cf. 2Tm. 2, 20.
2 St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), Doctor of the Church.
3 St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Doctor of the Church.
1 St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Doctor of the Church.
1 St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), Doctor of the Church.
1 Cf. Rom. 8, 32.