MY brother and I used to share the same room growing up. There were some nights that we couldn’t stop giggling. Inevitably, we’d hear the footsteps of dad coming down the hallway, and we’d shrink beneath the covers pretending we were asleep. Then the door would open…
Two things happened. With the door opening, the hallway light would burst into the room, and there would be a sense of comfort as the light dispersed the darkness, which I was afraid of. But the second effect was that the light would expose the undeniable fact that two little boys were wide awake and not asleep as they should have been.
Jesus said “I am the light of the world.” John 8:12 And when a soul encounters this Light, two things happen. First, the soul is moved in some way by His presence. There is a deep comfort and solace in the revelation of His love and mercy. At the same time, however, there is a sense of one’s own nothingness, of one’s sinfulness, weakness, and unholiness. The former effect of Christ’s light draws us toward Him, but the latter often causes us to recoil. And here is where the most difficult spiritual battle is fought in the beginning: in the arena of self-knowledge.
We see this painful illumination in the life of Simon Peter. Having worked hard all night, his fishing nets remained empty. So Jesus tells him to “put out into the deep.” And there—casting his net in obedience and faith—Peter’s net is filled to the point of breaking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8)
Peter’s joy and exhilaration in the blessing of both the Lord’s presence and His consolations eventually gave way to the stark contrast between his heart and the Heart of his Master. The brilliance of truth was almost too much for Peter to take. But,
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:10-11)
My dear brothers and sisters, this Lenten Retreat is calling you to “put out into the deep.” And as you answer the call, you are going to experience both the light of consolation as well as the light of truth. For if the truth sets us free, the very first truth is that of who I am, and who I am not. But Jesus says to you today in a loud voice, Do not be afraid! For He already knows you inside and out. He knows your weaknesses, faults, and hidden sins that you’re not even aware of yet. And still, He loves you, still He calls you. Remember, Jesus blessed Peter’s nets, and this before he “left everything and followed Him.” How much more will Jesus bless you since you have said “yes” to Him.
Simon Peter could have fallen into self-pity and depression. He could have lingered in his wretchedness saying, “I am hopeless, useless, and unworthy” and simply went off his own way. But instead, he courageously chooses to follow Jesus, despite everything. And when he falls most grievously, denying the Lord three times, Peter does not hang himself as Judas did. Rather, He perseveres in the abyss of darkness, the darkness of his wretchedness. He waits, despite the horror he sees in himself, for the Lord to save him. And what does Jesus do? He fills Peter’s nets again! And Peter, feeling perhaps worse than he did the first time (for the depths of his misery was now apparent to all), “jumped into the sea” and raced toward the Lord where he then affirms three times His love for his Savior. cf. John 21:7 Facing the self-knowledge of his utter poverty, he always turns back to Jesus, trusting in His mercy. He was commanded by Jesus to “feed My sheep” but was himself a most helpless lamb. But precisely in this self-knowledge, Peter humbled himself, therefore allowing room for Jesus to be formed within him.
The Most Blessed Virgin lived the attitude of the helpless sheep in a most perfect manner. It was she who knew best that without God, nothing is possible. She was, in her own “yes”, like an abyss of helplessness and poverty, and at the same time an abyss of trust in God. —Slawomir Biela, In the Arms of Mary, p. 75-76
We heard on Ash Wednesday the words, “You are dust and to dust you shall return.” Yes, apart from Christ, you and I are mere dust. But He came and died for us little dust particles, and so, now, we are a new creation in Him. The more you draw near to Jesus, the Light of the World, the more the flames of His Sacred Heart will illuminate your wretchedness. Do not be afraid of the abyss of poverty you see and will see in your soul! Thank God that you see the truth of who you really are and how much you need Him. Then “jump into the sea”, into the Abyss of Mercy.
Let the truth set you free.
SUMMARY AND SCRIPTURE
Self-knowledge is the beginning of growth in the interior life because the foundation is being built on truth.
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)
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