Sunday, September 07, 2014

I can't tell you why...

Sin speaks to the sinner in the depths of his heart ... He plots the defeat of goodness as he lies on his bed ... - Psalm 36

That psalm struck me this morning.  It provided new insight into the Gospel of the wheat and the tares ... "But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat ..." [Matt 13:30-40]  It is not an exact parallel of course, since in another passage Our Lord tells us that what comes out of a man is what defiles him.  [Mk 7:14-23]  In other words, from the deep recesses of the heart comes avarice, malice, deceit, lust, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, an obtuse spirit, and so on.  Though fallen nature shares in the blame and we ourselves are often the source of our temptations, the enemy does his part as well, with suggestions which appeal to our concupiscence.

For instance, we can be praying and a temptation arises.  We can be quiet and a thought enters - a suggestion.  Sometimes we call these things distractions and calmly redirect our attention to our prayer.  That is where I connect the scripture of the wheat and the tares to the psalm.  It seems to me that sometimes our prayer proceeds amid distractions ... even gross distractions.  John of the Cross mentions that impure movements of the flesh can happen within the deepest recollection, hence it follows, that temptations to impurity can spring up in ordinary prayer, ordinary recollection - even at times such as the thanksgiving after communion.  In an exaggerated sense, we may so 'flatter' ourselves in our prayer that we no longer know our weakness or propensity to sin.  In other words, our propensity for sin lurks in the deepest recesses of our heart.  It is lodged in our affections - it resides there with our 'holy' thoughts, our prayer.

Which may help explain how one can leave adoration, or Mass, or mental prayer and head straight away into the occasion of sin, or even right smack dab into sin.  That pop-up suggestion or temptation to a particular sin may have turned into a strategy to act out.  Rather than humbly admitting the inclination as part of our prayer, recognizing it and confessing our need for grace - we simply dozed in natural recollection.  We didn't pull the tare up lest we disturb our sense of peace - our prayer time...

And yet we can still wonder why we fall so easily, and beat ourselves up for it.  (Often that initial regret is not out of sorrow for sin but wounded pride and self love.)  I think we sometimes fall so easily because we aren't convinced that we are sinners - that we need God's grace.  Likewise, I think it may be why God allows us to fall repeatedly, sometimes into serious sin.  Our temptations and even our falls serve a purpose, they teach us who and what we are.  They try us, they test us, they prove us - even when they show up in times of prayer, when we 'feel' ourselves to be good.  We must never believe we are okay or that we are immune to falling - or that we have reached some plateau of invincibility.  Perhaps the perfect can do that - but sinners need to understand that they can not trust themselves any more than God trusts us.  He knows us through and through.  We need self-knowledge at every stage of our pilgrimage.

When we fall from grace - Jesus already knew we would.   He wasn't at all surprised.  Therein lies our hope - our confidence in his merciful love.  The scriptures seem to reprimand or rebuke us, possibly increasing our guilt and shame.  Yet it is Christ who speaks to us - lovingly, mercifully.  He gently explains, 'sin speaks to the sinner in the depths of his heart' - he knows our hearts - and he calls us to cast our cares, our sins upon him - thus 'if we cling to him in love, he will free us and protect us'. [Psalm 91]  We will understand the fear of the Lord as love, and we will no longer flatter ourselves in our mind, because we will know ourselves even as God knows us.

Hence, we will no longer trust ourselves but we will place all our trust Jesus.  Confidence and love.

When we fall, we need to get back up.  We need to keep trying.  We need to keep praying.  Only the blood of Christ can purify our hearts, can remove all the tares - but we need to persevere in prayer and frequent the sacraments.  Thus we cooperate with God's grace that comes to us in Jesus, whose power at work in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.  In the end the tares will be purified and removed - some things only God can do, but nothing is impossible for Him.

Since he clings to me in love, I will free him;
protect him for he knows my name.
When he calls I shall answer: "I am with you,"
I will save him in distress and give him glory. - Ps. 90

(I'm not sure if this makes sense - so don't pay any attention to it if it doesn't.)

Art: Fallen angel by geosotal


  1. Thanks for this Terry.

    1. Thanks - I don't think I expressed my thought very well - I complicated it in my attempt to articulate it.

  2. "The scriptures seem to reprimand or rebuke us, possibly increasing our guilt and shame." That's what I found so difficult in the novitiate, Terry ... I came to regard the daily reading of the Rule as the 'daily beat down.' And while I found occasional glimpses of solace in the chanting of the psalms in choir, I vascillated between that and the filthiness I felt at being such a sinner with desires beyond my control. Maybe it was my pride, but I was so scandalized when I came to enter into the real depths of my spiritual poverty. Some would call that a grace. I call it hard. Very hard. And it has led me to rejection of a life that could have very well been my salvation. I cannot even pray anymore.

  3. Not sure what you are going through db but I am going to keep you in my prayers. Please don't give up. Someone sent me a quote from Padre Pio. The essence of it as that we are not even aware of the abundance of love we offer to God when we continue to pray despite a lack of solace and consolation. God bless and keep you.

  4. No doubt our last temptation will come five minutes after we die. (Sigh.)

  5. God’s love outweighs any and all of my sins. I sleep well knowing that truth – and it frees me to forgive others and myself. It’s really very simple. Perhaps too simple for some to understand.

    My kids understand and accept that my love for them outweighs any and all of their transgressions. There is room in my heart for each of them every day.

    So how big is God’s heart? :)


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