Psalm 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40
Sirach advises us, “When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.” How true this is! As St. Theresa of Avila said to God, “If this is how you treat your friends, it is no wonder you have so few!” When we make a serious attempt to follow God, we come up against resistance. People who accuse us of being strange and hypocritical and “holier than thou”, because we would dare to be serious about the commandments of God. Who do we think we are, telling them how to live? (Though we never did tell them how to live.) We merely tried to live a certain way ourselves. But to try to be good is an accusation against everyone who has given up or never tried. That is how they feel. How many people have given up serving the Lord because it offended others? How many people would not dare pray in public, or even in church, because it offends others? When I refuse to chit-chat in church, people act like I am rude. I have stood at the tabernacle, returning the Body of our Lord to the place of reposition, and someone wanted to have a conversation right then and there, and was angry when I ignored them. How then is it possible out in the world to ignore profane conversations and vulgar entertainment and gossip and immodesty?
Of course, when we come to serve the Lord, the trials will not merely come from others. The harder trials come from within. We want to do good, but we cannot. We fail again and again. How many people give up the fight against sin simply because they learn that it is impossible to always win? When the other people call us hypocrites for trying to be saints, we know they are right. We are sinners, and this is the severest trial. When we come to serve the Lord, we discover how weak we are, how incapable of accomplishing what we have set our mind to.
Following Jesus is not the way to live an easy life in this world. It will not make us rich. It will not be comfortable. We will lose friends and offend strangers, and the more progress we make toward God, the stranger we are to rest of the world. And after years of hard effort we will often be amazed at how little progress we have made. But what else is really worth doing?