+JMJ+ Welcome to part 4 (and the First Step) of our sixth Catholic Book of the Month, Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus, by Brant Pitre. I’m on a quest to get more serious than ever before about the spiritual life, my spiritual life, and I’m inviting you to come along with me as I stumble my way along. If you ever felt intimidated by people who seemed to be further along than you are, you won’t have to worry about that here with me. Nope, not at all. Because I am a beginner, too. I have made all the excuses and put off my practice until I was too pooped to pray. In short, I have been a miserable disciple not worthy of the name. That’s why I chose it for my handle on social media, to keep before me my lack of progress and sincere effort and keep me humble. I’d rather read about spirituality any day than have to live it. I understand exactly how that is. That’s why I am doing this now. Time is short, the day is already far spent, and I ain’t gettin’ any younger! I’ve already landed in the hospital twice and the most recent time I was not expected to live. And STILL I have been a lazy sorry excuse for a disciple.
ENOUGH! I want to be a SAINT! The Lord has commanded us to be holy, to be perfect even as our Father in Heaven is perfect. And there is only one way to do that and that is to get serious and avail ourselves of the spiritual helps the Lord has given us. Come along with me and let’s become saints, you and I. Adventure awaits!
Read along with me by using my Amazon affiliate links to get a hardcover copy or a Kindle ebook copy (see Full Disclosure below for more). View other parts of the series on the annotated Table of Contents page.
So What is the First Step?
As we get ready to “get spiritual” the first thing we have to do is: admit we are sinners. Admit we need help. That we cannot do this on our own. That all that self-help stuff and all that self-reliance stuff is no help at all on the spiritual path. The Lord says we can do nothing without Him and He does not lie. So the first thing we have to do, right at the outset, is REPENT.
That’s right. Repent. Jesus makes it the very first message He preaches when He begins His public ministry: Repent and believe the Gospel, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. (Based on Mark 1:15.)
“[T]here is no true evangelization—no sharing of the “gospel” (Greek euangelion)—without the call to repentance.”
To repent, in Hebrew: shūb. Literally, to turn. To turn away from sin, and to turn to (or back to) God. To repent, in Greek: metanoeō. “Adds a layer of meaning: literally means ‘to change one’s mind.”Ibid., 105-106.
This section of the book goes into the Hebrew/Jewish and Johannine background of repentance and I strongly advise you to read it.
Then Dr. Pitre goes on to talk about what Jesus taught about His call to repentance, three of His “most famous parables…all focused on repentance: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:4-32).”
The Lost Sheep
In the firt parable God goes to find His lost sheep, doesn’t stop until He finds him, and carries him home on his shoulders. It is God’s grace that carries the once lost and now found sheep home. The sheep does not find his way back, he does not fix himself with self-help books or gurus. The lost sheep is found by the Good Shepherd Who never ceases searching for him and brings him home, and celebrates when the one who was lost repents and returns home. “There is joy in heaven…”
The Lost Coin
A woman has ten coins but loses one, so she lights a lamp and searches for it until she finds it. And as with the lost sheep, she finds it, it does not find itself. And again there is rejoicing.
The Prodigal Son
The Prodigal Son is filled with guilt and shame and his sin does not make him happy the way he thought it would (don’t we always think it will?), instead it isolates him in a pagan country. He finally comes to see his plight for what it is and “changes his mind, returning to his father, confessing what he has done.”
His repentance takes place when “he came to himself” and remembered who he really was.Ibid., 115.
He admits to himself that things are not alright and changes his mind. Is that enough? By no means. He has to start on his way home. And confesses when he gets there. But his father sees him from a distance and RUNS to him, embraces and kisses him. The son was spiritually dead but is now alive again! Lost but now is found!
And this is the thing, you see: while we are still sinning, while we are still far off, we do not have a spiritual life, no matter what we want to tell ourselves and others. We have to repent.
“But I have repented,” you say, “over and over!” Yeah. Me, too.
And this is another problem. We confess the same sins over and over and over. Do we just give up? Do we accept that, oh, well, that’s just the way things are? By no means! We have to make a firm resolve (those aren’t just words) to not commit those sins again. And then we have to take steps to keep our word.
As St. Francis de Sales says, “true repentance consists of both remorse and the resolution to avoid sin in the future.” And the resolution never to commit a “mortal sin” really is the “foundation of the spiritual life…”Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, 5.4. Emphasis mine.
So go to confession already!
Because that’s the first step, or part of the first step: admit to ourselves we need to get serious, decide to repent, really repent, and go to confession full of sorrow for our sins, and get ready for what comes next. Next week: What is mortal sin and how do I get rid of it? Or, The Ten Commandments.
If repentance is the foundation of the spiritual life, the commandments are the entryway.Ibid., 126.
Because unless we do this, unless we make a commitment to remove mortal sin from our lives and our souls, we are only deceiving ourselves and maybe even trying to deceive the Lord. That will not end well. But unless we do make this commitment, we are nothing but deceivers and pretenders. And I admit that I am the worst one.
That’s it for tonight. I hope you’ll join me as we continue on our Quest for the spiritual life. I pray that you and I finally are ready to be on our way to becoming SAINTS! God bless you and may His Peace be always with you. +JMJ+
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“The Rosary is the ‘weapon’ for these times.” — Padre Pio
Notes and Links
- The Catholic Book of the Month for January 2022 is Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus, by Brant Pitre: Hardcover, Kindle. (Amazon affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.)
- There are a lot of books on the spiritual life listed in a post I did a few years ago on Dr. Pitre’s audio course on Spiritual Theology. There are links in that post for some of those books in PDF format for free at archive.org.
- Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales, John K. Ryan, translator: free PDF at archive.org.
- Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales: Paperback, Kindle. (Amazon affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.)
- The Classics Made Simple: An Introduction to the Devout Life, by St Francis de Sales (from the TAN Classics Made Simple Series): Paperback, Kindle. (Amazon affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.)
Images: in the banner, same one the cover of the book uses: The Road to Emmaus (or The Way to Emmaus), by Robert Zund, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain. The Good Shepherd, by Bernhard Plockhorst, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Parable of the Lost Drachma, by Domenico Fetti, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain. The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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