"Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand" - Repentance and Peace of Soul
The Apostles’ response to Christ’s call in the land of gloom … was “immediately” to leave behind their former way of life and “followed him”. This is the essence of REPENTENCE – to turn away from our attachments (NOW- immediately) and all that distracts us from doing God’s will and to “follow Jesus” in complete faith. This is the way of CONVERSION, which is a complete self-abandonment to Divine Providence. This leads to peace of soul, because we cast our worries and needs upon God.
The Apostles had no idea what they were in for, but they trusted in the person of Jesus and gave their lives over to him. This is a model of discipleship for us! Ordinary fishermen of ordinary intelligence and immersed in the world and providing for their families (like us) … were called to holiness and conversion personally first, and by so doing become “fishers of souls” – to bring others in the land of shadows into the light of God’s love/union.
How can we make our repentance and conversion more complete? Firstly, it is a daily commitment to renouncing sin and requires the grace of the sacraments (Euch/Recon) and of prayer and penance to detach our wills from sins that hinder our complete gift of self to God and others. A pure and clean conscience is indispensable to true peace of soul. Obeying the precepts of the Church and Commandments. It also requires some time spent reading – scriptures, catechism, writings of the saints or good books regularly confessing our sins in sacramental confession. Then we can cast ourselves completely into the arms of God as a trusting child and experience the “joy and rejoicing” promised by God.
Secondly, we must practice some spiritual shrewdness … recognizing an insidious stumbling block to actually advancing in holiness and the spiritual life. I’ll tell you what it is … is allowing anxiety and discouragement to ensnare us by disturbing our inner peace of soul, which consists in allowing God’s providence to be our core comfort and source of our joy. Fear, worries, musing about the future or past … prevents growth in union with God and inhibits repentance and conversion. Why? Because it distracts us from turning to God and allowing grace to work in our souls. As a result, we move like a snail in overcoming our faults and sins because we’re turned inward on our desire to control and know how everything has to go according to our own design/plan, rather than, as Teresa of Calcutta says – to just pray not even to know God’s will but more importantly to be faithful.
What is the source of discouragement, worry, fear, anxiety? Pride, attachment to our own plans and will … a lack of faith. When we give in to these temptations, we cut ourselves off from others and God and His grace. (This is the definition of Hell by the way!) Many well-developed souls are held back from progress because they believe hand-wringing and worrying and being somber are traits of holiness!
Such persons become a burden to themselves and others. The devil continually tempts our souls into a state of uneasiness, perplexity, and anxiety, which makes us incapable of applying ourselves seriously, quietly, and with constancy to the practice of virtue. This does not mean we ignore our problems or challenges, but that we approach them in light of God’s perspective and trust in His grace. The great principle of the interior life and the road to repentance and conversion Christ calls us to … is the peace of the soul. Jesus said to Mary’s sister Martha “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” That “one thing” is faith and abandonment to God. “Peace I give you, not as the world gives”. “I came so that they may have life abundantly”. “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” “Take courage, I have conquered the world”. 1 John – “perfect love casts out all fear”.
This isn’t rocket science. We know we can’t focus when we are distracted. We cannot love and grow in service of others when we allow discouragement, self-contempt, self-pity, wallowing in disappointments and so many things out of our direct control – to weigh us down. They distract us from a confident focus on God and putting faith in His love for us –proven definitively with his WOUNDS on the cross.
Spiritual masters say that peace and tranquility of mind alone give great strength to the soul, to enable it to do all that God wishes, while, on the other hand, anxiety and uneasiness make the soul feeble and languid, and as though sick. Then one feels neither taste for, nor attraction to virtue, but, on the contrary, disgust and discouragement, which only leads us to division within ourselves our communities and causes isolation. St. Paul exhorts us against such division as not being of God. When you feel anxious or fearful about things, immediately commend them to the Lord and let them go… seek to recover and carefully guard the trustful peace and confidence that comes from the Lord – especially in prayer and the Holy Eucharist, trusting our Lord’s word: “Come to me all you who labor and find life burdensome and I will give you rest”. Only then can we truly be instruments of God.
St. Teresa of Avila once prayed: “God save us from sour-faced saints” … we are called to confidence and love. Do we behave like the Gospel is “good news”? These are the fruits of repentance Jesus calls us to today – joy and peace of soul. A better, blessed life! This joy and confidence should shine forth so we, like the Apostles, can abandon our former lives to become “fishers of souls” by attracting others by the way we live, how we treat others. We “fish” by loving our neighbor, not arguing with them. We attract them with the love and truth of Christ.
Let us heed our blessed Lord’s command: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” By recalling that Christ told St. Paul “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul didn’t worry or grow discouraged. He had all kinds of hardships and said, “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul’s focus was on Christ, not on his weaknesses, failures, anxieties and fears. Let us also cultivate peace of soul by trusting in the grace and love of Christ as Paul and the Apostles did. Then we too will advance quickly in holiness, peace and joy and become powerful “fishers of souls”.