The Church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria
was at peace. She was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit she grew in numbers.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola taught his Jesuit disciples about the ebb and flow of the spiritual life. God gives us these cycles of consolation and desolation to train us in the life of the Holy Spirit.
Most of us most of the time prefer the consolation but without some desolation we become indolent and lazy.
He urged his people to remember the good times when they suffered any trials; and to remember the bad times when life seemed to ease up a bit. Whatever the situation it will change. Aware of these cycles we are less apt to waste the blessings of prosperity, friendship and good health; and less likely to overreact when we suffer disappointments, setbacks and failure. "This too shall pass!" we say of both pleasure and pain, satisfaction and frustration.
As we read through the Acts of the Apostles during this Easter Season we approach the mid-mark and find the Church of Jerusalem enjoying a season of peace. They are roundly despised by the authorities but more and more people are accepting baptism and walking in the fear of the Lord. Of course we know it won't last. They had already suffered the persecution of Paul and his Pharisees. The Apostle James will be executed in the twelfth chapter and many Christians will flee Jerusalem. That catastrophe will be an enormous boon for the Church as the Gospel spreads throughout the Jewish world.
I grew up in the 1950's as the western world regained its footing after World War II. By the mid-1960's the United States had entered a period of unprecedented prosperity, despite the enormous waste of the Vietnam War. Our parents generated a Baby Boom and built elementary schools, high schools and colleges to educate us, with parks to play in and Walt Disney to entertain us. There was no shortage of fuel, food or clothing. Life was good and we expected it to be good.
As consumers of the good things we supposed prosperity was normal and the future would only get better. Hardships were a thing of the past, before mankind learned how to build and manage the infrastructures and economies of prosperity. Sacrifice was also unnecessary; there was plenty for everyone. Even minorities like African-, Native-, Hispanic- and Asian-Americans could expect equal opportunity some day.
Religious persecution was also a thing of the past; the age of martyrdom was over, although Catholics in Louisville remembered it was not over very long.
As the United States prepares to be great again I expect devastating trade wars and calls for universal sacrifice, which will be borne first by the minorities and, later, by the majority. Clearly the latter are not prepared to make sacrifice. Addicted to sugar, entertainment and pain medication, they can hardly bear ordinary disappointments. Their religion of spectator sports offer only reassurances of their righteousness and entitlement. Their culture of violence urges suicide as a cure for misery.
During this Easter Season, as Christians enjoy the consolation of the Resurrection, we do well to remember the desolation of difficulty, persecution and daily sacrifice. The cyclic laws of prosperity and recession have not been revoked. The age of persecution has never ended. We should cultivate the pleasures of going without, of abstinence, and daily prayer; and prepare our hearts for hardship.