Seeing one’s heart…

by Henri Nouwen

Although the remark “Change the world, begin with yourself” has often been used to individualise or spiritualise the urgent task of bringing peace to our planet, it points to the undeniable truth that peace in the world cannot be made without peace in the heart. This is beautifully illustrated by a little story found in the tales of the Desert Fathers.

There were three friends who were eager workers, and one of them chose to devote himself to making peace between people who were fighting, in accordance with “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The second chose to visit the sick. The third went off to live in tranquillity in the desert.

The first toiled away at the quarrels of men, but could not resolve them all, and so he went to the one who was looking after the sick, and found him flagging too, not succeeding in fulfiling the commandment.

So the two of them agreed to go and visit the one who was living in the desert. They told him of their difficulties and asked him to tell them what he had been able to do.

He was silent for a time. then he poured water into a bowl and said to them, “Look at the water.” It was all turbulent. A little later he told them to look at it again, and see how the water had settled down. When they looked at it, they saw their own faces as in a mirror. Then he said to them, “In the same way, a person who is living in the midst of people does not see his own sins because of all the disturbance, but if he becomes tranquil, especially in the desert, then he can see his own shortcomings.” (Benedicta Ward, The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers)

This story leaves little doubt that the tranquility of the heart is not a way to “feel good” while the world is ripped apart by violence and war, but a way to come in touch with our being part of the problem. Prayer leads to spiritual tranquility and spiritual tranquility leads us to the confession of our sins, the sins that lead to war.

Making peace between people and visiting the sick are important, but doing these things without a repentant heart cannot bear fruit. When we see our own sinful self in a tranquil mirror and confess that we too are war-makers, then we may be ready to start walking humbly on the road to peace.

Adapted from the book: Peacework, by Henri Nouwen

Our Lady says…
In prayer you shall perceive the greatest joy and the way out of every situation that has no exit…

In prayer you shall come to know the greatness of God…

Pray, because in prayer each one of you will be able to achieve complete love…

In prayer with the heart you shall encounter God…

You will discover God’s will in prayer…

I invite you to prayer because only in prayer can you understand my coming here…

Little children, I call you to leave sin and to accept prayer at all times, that you may in prayer come to know the meaning of your life…

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