Be not Discouraged

The following is a reflection offered by Br. Leven Harton at the Abbey's Saturday night Holy Hour.

In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 5, St. Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ miracle is, I think, often taken to be a sign of profound humility—a confession of his sinfulness.  However, is there any request we can make that is more detrimental to our conversion than to ask Christ to leave us?  Does Peter’s response to Christ not go a little overboard?  I am talking about a pitfall that I think is common in the spiritual life—I want to speak about discouragement.  Discouragement impels us to give up the work of seeking Christ; it impels us, perhaps, to ask Christ to “depart” from us on account of our sinfulness.  It is easy to know that discouragement is a waste of time and can be itself sinful—it is very hard to do something about it.  It requires an actual choice and one that is painful, against our “better” feelings.  And, as I suggested, I think it is a common pitfall, an occupational hazard for the monk.  Which is why we need to address it in our own spiritual life, because we’re bound to run into it at some point in time.

Here is the hope we can have: the freedom of holiness is vast, expansive, limitless—every bit as pervasive and overwhelming as the discouragement that we can feel.  Imagine this: every single moment of discouragement, every instant of shame and guilt, every shred of anxiety and doubt, all of it, the whole world of our discouragement, turned into peaceful love.  Exhaustive freedom.  St. Benedict would describe it as “our hearts overflowing with the inexhaustible delight of love.”  This is what we are heading toward.  This is what our vocations give us.  Which is why we pray for them tonight.