There may be times when you hoped you did not know the truth. Hence, the saying “Ignorance is Bliss”. However, really deep down we know that ignorance is not bliss.
I remember some moments when I lost that bliss. The truth I had found about myself troubled me. I had become aware of what I ignored before: some of my own sins and imperfections. And yet, deep down inside I already knew that something was wrong since I had no peace.
Some of those moments took place when I was a teenager. I was becoming more and more aware of what following Jesus really meant. At times I seemed to hesitate. I was afraid that God would be asking more from me. At times I had to confront some disorder in my life and this required change.
I can remember how an insight from my conscience could bring light. At the age of 12 a passage from the Bible struck me. Around that time a religion teacher clarified what was God’s will and what was not. The more I realized the truth about what it meant to follow Jesus the more than an inner struggle ensued in my heart. I had to put my life in order. I had to follow God’s will.
This is not an easy journey for most people. When sin is habitual, it brings a highlighted sense of guilt and remorse. There may be other elements that attenuate personal sin. Emotional wounds may be involved. However, the struggle to live up to an ideal is not an easy one.
The most important thing at this point is the authenticity with which we try to live our lives. If we do not act as we believe, we will end up believing as we act. We live in a very anti-Christian society that rationalizes sin. It ends up washing it away. Discipleship has a lot to do with swimming against the current. At times that will even mean losing some friends and finding a new social environment which will eventually become more favorable to our convictions. We are in the process of shedding the old man. There is much purification to do. Not in vain, the masters of spiritual life call this first stage, the Purgative Way.
The Purgative Way is characterized by a serious commitment to engage in a relationship with God. Hence, prayer will become more important. For a while we may be struggling with having a serious discipline about it, but if there is any progress at all we need to engage in daily Christian meditation. This has been easy for me since my community schedule facilitates this routine. It is pretty much imposed on me. Every day I wake up at 5:15 am and so I start my morning prayers at 5:50 am and my morning meditation at 6:00 am. All Legionaries of Christ spend an hour of meditation every day. So the next difficulty has to do with doing the meditation well.
It is very easy to fall into routine. So, we ought to get periodic moments, retreats, when we can stop and pray more deeply about our spiritual progress. Again, I am blessed to have a community that provides for these means. So, I have a week of Spiritual Exercises every year and a half day retreat every month. I know all of these means are a luxury and that few lay people are capable of disposing of so much time for prayer. This is why at times I have very seriously thought of the final judgment in term of how much The Lord has given me: Much will be demanded from him whom much has been given. I do not take my salvation for granted.
Proper to the beginning of the Purgative Way is the fight against sin. We really have to take it seriously. I have met people who can become so scrupulous that they cannot have inner peace. Scrupulosity is not healthy. It is the fruit of pride. We can become so infatuated with the desire to see ourselves immaculate that we become troubled at our minor faults. Thanks be to God, this has not been my problem! (I have had other problems!)
True repentance has to do with true love. God wants our true love, our whole hearts. True repentance has to do with a relationship with God, with having betrayed love. Hence, confession has to be important. Again, this has been made so easy for me since I live with so many priests. I cannot be at peace knowing that I may have fallen into a mortal sin. I have to go to confession immediately. Mortal sin is not only a betrayal of love; it is being at the door of hell. The only thing that would separate us from hell is death, and that could take place at any moment.
We will be discussing progress in the Purgative Way next time as we cover the different stages of spiritual growth.
Questions for pondering:
1. How important is daily meditation for you?
2. How do you feel about living in constant mortal sin? Do you care about it? Does it trouble you? Do you know when you have fallen into mortal sin?
3. Do you think about the negative influences in your life? Do you seek the means that are going to help you in your spiritual growth?
Fr Lino Otero, LC: Originally from Nicaragua, my family moved to Miami, Florida when I was a teenager. Soon afterwards I experienced the call to serve God without reservations. Since then, I have had experience in hospital ministry, working as a middle school teacher, leading a parish school, organizing soccer tournaments for kids, starting a radio station, training priests in leadership formation, organizing a parish community from maintenance to mission, and much more. I love spiritual direction and preaching. Years of philosophy, psychology and theological training have enriched my personal life and have shaped my message of hope. For more go to linootero.me