In the storm, the tenderness of the Lord for his children

“The Heavenly Father continues and will continue to guide their child-like steps with firmness and tenderness, only if they allow themselves to be led by Him and trust in the power and wisdom of His love for them”. Thus Pope Pius XII on the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles and Martyrs Peter and Paul in 1941

On this Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, your devoted thought and affection, dear children of the whole Catholic Church, turns to Rome with the triumphant verse: “O Roma felix, quae duorum Principum – es consecrata glorioso sanguine! / O happy Rome, that you have been consecrated by the glorious blood of these two Princes”. But the happiness of Rome, which is the happiness of blood and faith, is also your own, because the faith of Rome, here sealed on the right and the left bank of the Tiber with the blood of the Princes of the Apostles, is the faith that was announced to you, that is announced and will be announced throughout the whole world. You rejoice in the thought and greeting from Rome, because you feel in you the leap of the universal ‘Romanity’ of your faith.
For nineteen centuries the Rome of the Caesars was baptized the Rome of Christ in the glorious blood of the first Vicar of Christ and the Doctor of the Gentiles, the eternal sign of the unfailing principality of the sacred authority and infallible magisterium of the Church’s faith; and in that blood the first pages of a magnificent new history of the sacred struggles and victories of Rome were written.
Have you ever asked yourselves what the feelings and fears of the small group of Christians scattered throughout the great pagan city must have been, at the moment when, having hastily buried the bodies of the two great martyrs, one at the foot of the Vatican and the other on the Via Ostiense, they gathered together, most in their small rooms of slaves or of poor artisans, some in their rich homes, and felt alone and almost orphans in that death of the two chief apostles? It was the fury of the storm unleashed a short time previously upon the nascent Church by the cruelty of Nero; before their eyes there arose again the horrible vision of the human torches smoking at night in the gardens of the Caesars and of the lacerated bodies twisting in the circuses and the streets. It seemed then that the implacable cruelty had triumphed, hitting and knocking down the two columns, whose presence alone sustained the faith and courage of the small group of Christians. In that sunset of blood, how their hearts must have had to experience the grip of the pain at finding themselves without the comfort and company of those two powerful voices, abandoned to the ferocity of Nero and the formidable arm of Roman imperial grandeur!
But against the steel and the material power of the tyrant and his ministers they had received the Spirit of power and of love, more vigorous than torments and death. And we seem to see, at the subsequent meeting, in the middle of the desolate community, old Linus, he who was first called upon to replace the dead Peter, taking in his hands trembling with emotion the pages that preciously preserved the text of the Letter already sent by the Apostle to the faithful of Asia Minor and slowly re-read there the phrases of blessing, trust and comfort: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ… In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials… So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God… Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you… The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ (Jesus) will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. To him be dominion forever. Amen” (1 Pt 1, 3.6; 5, 6-7.10-11).
We too, dear children, who through an inscrutable counsel of God, have received, after Peter, after Linus and a hundred other holy pontiffs, the mission to strengthen and console our brothers in Jesus Christ (cf. Lk 22, 32), We, like you, feel our hearts tighten at the thought of the whirlwind of evil, of suffering and of anguish, which rages over the world today ...

Faced with such a cumulus of evils, of trials of virtue, all sorts of tests, it seems that the human mind and judgment may become lost and confused, and maybe in the heart of more than one of you has arisen the terrible thought of doubt that, already by misadventure, faced with the death of the two apostles, tempted or upset some less stable Christians: How can God allow all this? How is it possible that an omnipotent God, infinitely wise, infinitely good, could allow so much evil that would be so easy for Him to prevent? And the words of Peter, still imperfect, at the announcement of the Passion rise to the lips: “God forbid, Lord!” (Mt 16, 22). No, my God – they think – neither Your wisdom, nor Your goodness, nor Your own honor itself can allow that evil and violence dominate the world to this extent, they mock You, and triumph in Your silence. Where is Your power and providence? Should we therefore doubt either Your divine government or Your love for us?
“You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Mt 16, 23), Christ replied to Peter, as he had said to the people of Judah through the prophet Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Is 55, 8).
All men are almost children before God, everyone, even the deepest thinkers and the most experienced leaders of nations.
They want immediate justice and become scandalized before the ephemeral power of God’s enemies, at the suffering and humiliation of the good, but the Heavenly Father, Who in the light of His eternity embraces, penetrates and dominates the vicissitudes of history, identical to the serene peace of the world without end, God, Who is Blessed Trinity, full of compassion for human weaknesses, ignorance, impatience, but Who loves men so greatly, that their faults will not let Him stray from the paths of His wisdom and love, continues to make the sun rise on the good and bad, to rain on the just and the unjust (Mt 5, 45), to guide their child-like steps with firmness and tenderness, only if they allow themselves to be led by Him and trust in the power and wisdom of His love for them.
What does it mean to trust in God?
Trusting in God means to surrender oneself with all the strength of will sustained by grace and love, despite all the doubts suggested by appearances to the contrary, to the omnipotence, the wisdom, the infinite love of God. It is to believe that nothing in this world escapes His Providence, in the universal order, as in the particular; that nothing great or small happens if not foreseen, wished or permitted, always directed by it to His highest ends, that in this world are always ends of love for men ...
Because of the faith that has languished in human hearts, the hedonism that directs and enchants life, men are inclined to judge as evils, and absolute evils, all the physical misfortunes of this earth. They have forgotten that pain is at the dawn of human life as the pathway to the smiles from the cradle; they have forgotten that most of the time it is a projection of the Cross of Calvary on the path of the Resurrection; they have forgotten that the cross is often a gift from God, a gift necessary to offer to divine justice also our part of atonement; they have forgotten that the only real evil is the sin that offends God; they have forgotten what the Apostle says: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Rm 8, 18); that we must fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of faith, Jesus, Who in the expectation of joy, endured the cross (cf. Heb 12, 2).
To Christ crucified on Golgotha, virtue and wisdom that convert the universe to Himself, they looked on the immense sufferings of the spreading of the Gospel, living nailed to the cross with Christ, the two Princes of the Apostles, Peter dying crucified, Paul bowing his head under the executioner’s blade, as champions, teachers and witnesses that in the cross there is comfort and salvation and that you can not live without suffering in the love of Christ. To this cross, shining with the way, with truth and with life, the Roman protomartyrs and the first Christians looked in times of suffering and persecution. Look you too thus, my beloved children, in your sufferings; and you will find the strength not only to accept them with resignation, but to love them, to glory in them, as they loved and gloried in them, the apostles and saints, our fathers and older brothers, who were also molded of the same flesh and clothed in the same sensibility as yours. Look at your own sufferings and your anxieties through the pains of the Crucifix, through the pains of the Virgin, the most innocent of creatures and the most involved in the divine Passion, and you will understand that conformity to the image of the Son of God, King of pain, is the most august and safe way to heaven and triumph. Do not just look at the thorns, where the pain affects you and makes you suffer, but again at the merit that from your suffering blooms like a rose of a heavenly crown; and then you will find with the grace of God the courage and fortitude of that Christian heroism, that is a sacrifice and, at the same time, victory and peace surpassing all sense; heroism, that your faith has the right to demand of you.
“Finally, (we will repeat with the words of St Peter) all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing…: so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever” (1 Pt 3, 8-9; 4, 11).

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