from Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Fr. Jacques Philippe
We must not view our own faults too tragically because God is able to draw good from them.
Little Therese of the Child Jesus loved greatly this phrase of St. John of the Cross: “Love is able to profit from everything, the good as well as the bad that It finds in me, and to transform it into Itself.”
Our confidence in God must go at least that far: to believe that He is good enough to draw good from everything, including our faults and our infidelities.
When he cites the phrase of St. Paul, Everything works together for the good of those who love God, Saint Augustine adds: Etiam piccata – “even sins”!
Of course, we must struggle energetically against sin and correct our imperfections. God vomits the tepid, and nothing cools love quite like resigning oneself to mediocrity (this resignation is, by the way, a lack of confidence in God and his ability to sanctify us!)
When we have been the cause of some evil, we must also try to rectify it to the extent that this is possible. But we must not distress ourselves excessively regarding our faults because God, once we return to Him with a contrite heart, is able to cause good to spring forth, if only to make us to grow in humility and to teach us to have a little less confidence in our own strength and a little more in Him alone.
So great is the mercy of the Lord that He uses our faults to our advantage! Ruysbroek, a Flemish mystic of the Middle Ages, has these words: “The Lord, in His clemency, wanted to turn our sins against themselves and in our favor; He found a way to render them useful, to convert them in our hands into instruments of salvation. This should in no way diminish our fear of sinning, nor our pain at having sinned. Rather, our sins have become for us a source of humility.”
Let us add also that they can just as well become a source of tenderness and mercy toward others. I, who fall so easily, how can I permit myself to judge my brother? How can I not be merciful toward him, as the Lord has been towards me?
Accordingly, after committing a fault of whatever kind, rather than withdrawing into ourselves indefinitely in discouragement and dwelling on the memory, we must immediately return to God with confidence and even thank Him for the good that His mercy will be able to draw out of this fault!
We must know that one of the weapons that the devil uses most commonly to prevent souls from advancing toward God is precisely to try to make them lose their peace and discourage them by the sight of their faults.
It is necessary that we know how to distinguish true repentance and a true desire to correct our faults, which is always gentle, peaceful, trustful, from a false repentance, from that remorse that troubles, discourages and paralyzes.
Not all of the reproaches that come to our conscience are inspired by the Holy Spirit! Some of them come from our pride or the devil and we must learn to discern them.
Peace is an essential criterion in the discernment of spirits. The feelings that come from the Spirit of God can be very powerful and profound, nonetheless, they are always peaceful.
Let us listen again to Scupoli:
To preserve our hearts in perfect tranquility, it is still necessary to ignore some interior feelings of remorse which seem to come from God because they are reproaches that our conscience makes to us regarding true faults, but which come, in effect, from the evil spirit as can be judged by what ensues.
If the twinges of conscience serve to make us more humble, if they render us more fervent in the practice of good works, if they do not diminish the trust that one must have in divine mercy, we must accept them with thanksgiving, as favors from heaven.
But if they trouble us, if they dishearten us, if they render us lazy, timid, slow to perform our duties, we must believe that these are the suggestions of the enemy and do things in a normal way, not deigning to listen to them.
Let us understand this: For the person of goodwill, that which is serious in sin is not so much the fault in itself as the despondency into which it places him.
He who falls but immediately gets up has not lost much. He has rather gained in humility and in the experience of mercy.
He who remains sad and defeated loses much more. The sign of spiritual progress is not so much never falling as it is being able to lift oneself up quickly after one falls.
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