Scripture proclaims, “Though the just fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble from only one mishap” (Proverbs 24:16). The truth is that even the saints fell victim to the enticements of daily sins. Their perfection was not that they avoided the eventual falls that all humans face due to concupiscence, but in their constant ability to return to the Lord in their heart and ask forgiveness. They did not let sin get the final say in their lives, but instead had the courage to rise time and time again.
Even as we grow in virtue and stop committing mortal sins, we must constantly face the reality of our fallen human nature. The spiritual life involves a growing distaste and aversion to sin, but our inclination to sin and the disorders of the heart will remain with us throughout this life. In coming to grips with these limitations, the tendency is to retreat into the comforts of the false self. Instead of seeing our weakness, we surround ourselves with illusions that keep us from true self-knowledge.
If we fall seven times a day, our rejoicing must be that we are able to return to the Lord seven times in the same day. This habit of conversion finds its origin in the sacrament of confession. The supernatural grace that comes from the authority of the Church is the foundation that engenders in us a receptivity to the promptings of the Spirit. We should remember, however, that grace builds on nature. There is a natural good whereby we learn to name and address the deep disorders within our hearts.
This becomes the foundation for the confessional attitude that is needed for prayer.1 In a way that extends into the dark regions of subconscious, prayer must become a place in which we give permission to the Holy Spirit. We must give permission for the Holy Spirit to bring out the deep disorders of our hearts so that we might be healed and transformed. This takes courage and perseverance, but it is the only path to true happiness.
So it’s simple. Pray and go to confession. Make a commitment to dedicate your life to the habit of conversion.
1This idea is taken from Adrienne Von Speyr.
Image is of St. Jerome kneeling in prayer taken from wikiart.org