Each time I see a baby sleeping peacefully, it reminds me of peace of mind at its best. Unfortunately, as that child grows, he or she will experience a life filled with anxieties that are forever disrupting its serenity.
Thanks to Lent, we have the opportunity to reflect on peace of mind and how to best maintain it. Throughout the Gospels, Christ repeatedly says the heart is the primary place for finding peace. He is forever asking, Is your heart in the right place and do you listen to it when it isn’t?
Unfortunately, listening to the heart is usually not the first place we go to when disturbed. Why is this? It is because we tend to look “out there” for the disturbance. That disturbance may be coming from a spouse, job, neighbor or some other aspect of our anxious world.
Christ, however, reminds us to look inward, to call our soul, even as it finds itself stretched among desires, plans and intentions. Often, however, we find ourselves in a world that has lost its ability to contemplate, to employ the power of meditation to sort through and gain control over life’s anxieties.
We live in a world of heightened distractions that hinder us from shutting off the things that disrupt us.
What might be the vices that most sicken the heart? Christ gives us the answer in Mark 7:21-23:
“From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
Here Christ connects defilement with our conscience. When we are in sync with the conscience, a wholesome, peaceful order follows. When we are at odds with it, it defiles us with shame, guilt and sleepless nights.
But why do these feelings arise? It is because we haven’t been true to the person we truly are. We aren’t the person we desire to be. We don’t truly have love of self because we have forfeited God’s love in us. In telling us to love “your neighbor as yourself,” Christ tells us that we must first truly love what we stand for in order to love another person. This love puts the mind at peace.
Lent is often pictured as a time to “get in shape,” or to fast and abstain as a means for improving the spiritual life. But it’s also equally true that it is an opportunity to work on and improve peace of mind.