What follows are a few thoughts on Christian peace of the soul by my friend John C.H. Wu. They are from the chapter in his book “The Interior Carmel” that reflect upon the beatitude “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” How soon we forget this calling of ours! Not only our vocation as peacemakers, but our destiny to become the adopted children of God.
The Source of Peace
|John C.H. Wu|
Nothing conduces to peace more than self-abandonment to the good pleasure of God. In The Imitation of Christ there is a conversation between Christ and the Disciple. Christ says: “Son, suffer Me to do with thee what I will: I know what is best for thee.” The Disciple answers: “Lord, what Thou sayest is true; Thy care over me is greater than all the care I can take of myself…If Thou wilt have me to be in darkness, be Thou blessed; and if Thou wilt have me to be in light, be Thou again blessed; if Thou vouchsafest to comfort me, be Thou blessed; and if it be Thy will I should be afflicted, be Thou equally blessed” (III,17).
When King David was in danger of death, he could still sing as if he were in the greatest secruity and prosperity:
Many say: “Who will show us good things?”
Lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us,
Thou hast given greater joy to my heart
Than that of men, who abound in corn and wine.
As soon as I lie down, I fall asleep in peace.
For thou alone, O Lord, makest me to dwell in
security (Psalm 4.7-9).
Is it not clear that his inward peace flowed from his absolute confidence in God?
Christian peace is rooted in faith, nourished by hope, and perfected by love. It is a peace which is not achieved directly by man, but given by God to those who are disposed to receive it. It issues from the indwelling Holy Trinity in the center of your soul. When you realize that God has found a home in your spirit, which is the apex of your soul, you feel a security which the world can neither give or take away.
Perfect love casts out fear, as St. John says; and the reason is that “God is love, and he who abideth in love abideth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4.16). If God abides in you, you have nothing to fear any longer, seeing that “Greater is he that is in you, than he who is in the world” (1 John 4.4). Then you will feel with St. Paul:
If God be for us, who is against us? Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or danger? or persecution? or the sword?…For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8.31-39).
Not even the atom bomb or cosmic rays can separate us from the love of God. Teresa of Avila wrote,
|St. Teresa of Avila|
You know that God is everywhere; and this is a great truth, for, of course, wherever the king is, or so they say, the court is too: that is to say, wherever God is, there is Heaven. No doubt you can believe that, in any place where His Majesty is, there is fulness of glory. Remember how Saint Augustine tells us about his seeking God in many places and eventually finding Him within himself. Do you suppose it is of little importance that a soul which is often distracted should come to understand this truth and to find that, in order to speak to its Eternal Father and to take its delight in Him, it has no need to go to Heaven or to speak in a loud voice? However quietly we speak, He is so near that He will hear us: we need no wings to go in search of Him but have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon Him present within us. Nor need we feel strange in the presence of so kind a Guest; we must talk to Him very humbly, as we should to our father, ask Him for things as we should ask a father, tell Him our troubles, beg Him to put them right, and yet realize that we are not worthy to be called His children.
It is all as simple as that. But you say, How do I know that God is delighted with me? Well, if you have anything on your conscience, go to Confession immediately and begin anew. Don’t be afraid of the priests. They are, every one of them, potentially great sinners like you and me. A holy priest, Msgr. John Murphy, who died not long ago, said in a speech on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee something to the following effect: “Those of of you who have known me well during during these years must think that you are witnessing a miracle today!” The holier you are, the greater glory you give to God; for His power is revealed in the very distance between your present attainment and what you might have been without His grace.
The point I am driving at now is that we must have full confidence in God and His priests, who are endowed with the power to bind and loosen. God cannot abide in your soul when you are in mortal sin. He is, of course, still present in other modes, but abide in you He cannot. And if He is not at home in you, you will not be at home with yourself nor anywhere else. You make a hell for yourself and for others who have to live with you.
Get up as quickly as you fall, and you will recover your past merits. You will not have to start the journey all over again; you will continue from the point where you fell. According to St. Thomas (Aquinas) and other theologians, grace may even revive in the soul in a higher degree than before its loss, provided contrition is fervent enough. This is the way to peace, because it will restore the indwelling of the Holy Trinity within us.
For those of us with a scrupulous conscience, I want to quote the words of Father Alfred Wilson, C.P., in his Pardon and Peace(1948):
Love of God is the most effective antidote to sin. If we love God intensely, we shall hate sin effectively. If you desire to hate and conquer sin, try to forget all about yourself for a time, and study instead and ponder the goodness and loveableness of God, so that your soul may be refreshed by basking in the sunshine of His love. Get out into the fresh air of God’s love and away from the fetid atmosphere of the repulsive and depressing dungeons of self and sin.
Nothing pleases God like a contrite heart coupled with a loving confidence in His mercy. If our conscience accuses us, then be sorry, go to Confession, and resolve to do better hereafter. Thus, our peace of mind is restored. If we have the testimony of a good conscience, then, as St. John says, “We have confidence towards God, and whatsoever we shall ask, we shall receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3.21-22).
Obviously it is foolish to think that sins need not be repented of and absolved, that they will dissolve themselves in the course of time. The longer they stay on your conscience, the worse trouble they will make, leaving you no peace and nagging at you constantly like a shrewish housewife. Can you enjoy peace of mind with a buzzing bee in your ear? But it is even worse to entertain a mean idea of God, as though He were not a forgiving Father.
I have come across a very significant story in Fr. Mateo Crawley-Boevey’s book Jesus, King of Love. As it has helped me, it may also help some of my readers:
One of the many souls who regard Jesus a tyrant was preparing to make a general confession for the hundredth time. Restlessly, she spent the days of her retreat writing down the sins of her whole life. She neither meditated nor prayed; she was entirely absorbed in an examination which stifled her.
At last she went into the confessional. She read out the list of her sins, repeating and explaining over, and over again, in fear and trembling. When at length she thought she had finished, a voice was heard which very gently and very sadly said,
“You have forgotten something very important.”
“I thought I must have,” she answered, terror-stricken, and hastily prepared to read it all again.
“Your sin is not in your notes,” continued the Voice, “and it offends me much more than all that you have said. Accuse yourself of lack of trust.”
The voice moved her her to the depths and she sought to ascertain if it were really her confessor’s. The Confessional was empty! Jesus had come to give her a supreme lesson.