It’s Fénelon Friday!
LETTER 32: Poverty and Deprivation Are Jesus’ Way
Every temptation that comes your way proves what you really are. But God, who loves you, will not permit your temptations to exceed your strength. Instead, He will make use of temptation for your spiritual development.
But let me warn you about the desire to always be looking within to see what progress you are making or how strong you are becoming. The hand of God is invisible, and you cannot always see what He is doing, but be assured that He is very efficient in what He does. Almost anything He does, though, is done in secrecy, and this is a good thing. I don’t think we would ever die to self if He were always showing us what He is doing within. If we really understood His sanctifying work and the spiritual graces He is bestowing upon us, we might become very proud. But this is not God’s way. Instead of letting us know what He is doing, He works in darkness, and through privation, nakedness and death.
What did Jesus say? Did He say, “if anyone will come after me, let him enjoy himself, let him be well dressed, let him be drunk with happiness (as was Peter on the Mount), let him be glad about his spiritual maturity, let him see how perfect he is in me, let him see himself and be confident that he is perfect?” No, He never said any such thing. On the contrary, His words are, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
So be open to the ministry of Jesus, and allow Him to strip self-love of every adornment, until it stands barren and exposed. Then you may renounce self and receive the robe whitened by the blood of the Lamb, which is the purity of Jesus. And happy is the soul that no longer possesses anything of its own, not even anything borrowed, and that abandons itself to Jesus, desiring no glory but His. A soul, purified in this manner, is like a bride about to be married. How beautiful she is when she lays everything aside, and comes to the marriage alter bringing nothing but herself. And, oh, Holy Bride, how beautiful are you when you come to Jesus with nothing of your own. The Bridegroom will be more than pleased with you when he sees you clothed in His beauty. There will be no limit to His love for you, because you are clothed in His holiness.
I want you to pay close attention to what I have said, and believe it in faith. Perhaps this truth is bitter, and it might even cause you spiritual indigestion! But your spirit will be fed if you accept the truth about death to self, which is the only true life there is. So believe this, and pay no attention to self. The old self is full of tricks and is more subtle than the serpent who deceived Eve. Happy is the soul who refuses to listen to self, and refuses to pamper it, but listens to God instead.
Francis Fénelon, Let Go (New Kensington, PA: Whittaker House, 1973).