from Searching For and Maintaining Peace by Father Jacques Phillipe
Searching for and Maintaining Peace
The most common reason for which we could lose our sense of peace is a fear caused by certain situations which touch us personally and in which we feel threatened, apprehensions in the face of present or future difficulties, fear of lacking something important, of not succeeding in such and such a project, and so forth. The examples are infinite and touch all sectors of our lives; health, family and professional life, moral life and the spiritual life itself.
In fact, in each instance, it concerns a good of an extremely variable nature, material goods (money, health, power) or a of a moral nature (human capabilities, esteem, the affection of certain people) or of a spiritual nature; goods that we desire or consider necessary and are afraid to lose or not acquire, or which we in fact lack. And the restlessness generated by this lack, or the fear of lacking, causes us to lose our peace.
Faced with such a situation, what, then, could allow us to remain always at peace? Human resources and wisdom, with their precautions, their expectations, their reservations and assurances of all sorts certainly will not suffice.
Who can guarantee himself the assured possession of any kind of good, whatever its nature? It is not by making certain calculations and preoccupations that one is going to find a solution. But who of you can add any time to your life by all his worrying? (Matthew 6:27).
Man is never assured of obtaining anything, and everything which he hold in his hands can easily slip from his grasp from one day to the next; there is no guarantee on which he can count absolutely.
And this is certainly not the way that Jesus teaches us. He says, on the contrary, whoever would save his life will lose it (Matthew 16:25).
One could even say that the surest way to lose one’s peace is precisely to try to assure one’s own life solely with the aid of human industry, with personal projects and decisions or by relying on someone else.
In what state of anxiety and torment does one place himself who thus seeks to save himself, given our powerlessness, our limited forces, the impossibility of foreseeing so many things and the deceptions that can come from those we count on.
To preserve peace in the midst of the hazards of human existence, we have only one solution; We must rely on God alone, with total trust in Him, as Your heavenly Father knows what you need (Matthew 6:32).
That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, not about your body and how you are to clothe it. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the sky. they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not worth much more than they are? But which of you can add any time to your life by worrying?
And why do you worry about clothing? Look how the lilies of the field grow; they neither work nor spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his glory was robed like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field which is here today and thrown into the oven tomorrow will He not clothe you much better, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying,’What will we eat?’ or, ‘What will we drink?’ or, ‘What will we wear?’ It is the Gentiles who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them. (Matthew 6:25-32).
Evidently, Jesus does not want to forbid us to do whatever is necessary to earn our food, to clothe ourselves and to provide for all our other needs. But He wants to deliver us from the worry that gnaws away at us and causes us to lose our peace.
Nevertheless, many are shocked by these words and do not fully welcome them; they are even scandalized by this manner of viewing things. Still, what useless suffering and torment they would save themselves, if they would only take seriously these words which are God’s, and words of love, of consolation and of an extraordinary tenderness.
Our great drama is this: Man does not have confidence in God. Hence he looks in every possible place to extricate himself by his own resources and renders himself terribly unhappy in the process rather than abandon himself into the tender and saving hands of his Father in heaven. Yet, how unjustified this lack of confidence is!
Isn’t it absurd that a child would thus doubt his Father, when this Father is the best and most powerful Who could exist, when He is the Father in heaven? In spite of that, it is in this absurdity that we most frequently live.
Listen to the gentle reproach that the Lord addressed to us through the mouth of Saint Catherine of Siena:
Why don’t you have confidence in me, your Creator? Why do you rely on yourself? Am I not faithful and loyal to you?
Redeemed and restored to grace by virtue of the blood of my only Son, man can then say that he has experienced my fidelity.
And, nevertheless, he still doubts, it would appear, that I am sufficiently powerful to help him, sufficiently strong to help and defend him against his enemies, sufficiently wise to illuminate the eyes of his intelligence or that I have sufficient clemency to want to give him whatever is necessary for his salvation.
It would appear that I am not sufficiently rich to make his fortune, not beautiful enough to make him beautiful; one might say that he is afraid not to find enough bread in my home to nourish himself, nor clothing with which to cover himself.” (The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena)
How many young people, for example, hesitate to give their lives entirely to God because they do not have confidence that God is capable of making them completely happy. And they seek to assure their own happiness by themselves and they make themselves sad and unhappy in the process.
This is precisely the great victory of the Father of Lies, of the Accuser: succeeding in putting into the heart of a child of God distrust vis-a-vis his Father!
It is, however, marked with this distrust that we come into this world. This is the original sin. And all our spiritual life consists precisely in a long process of reeducation , with a view to regaining that lost confidence, by the grace of the Holy Spirit Who makes us say anew to God: Abba, Father!
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