When François Fénelon wrote the following words, the world seemed to be crumbling around him. There was no peace, only fighting, and wars. But his main concern was not for physical protection, but the safety of his soul. After much thought, Fénelon concluded that when we want to feel secure in our faith and God, we must yield to God when He urges us to let Him reign in our hearts. Ask yourself, did you hesitate or resist very much when the world sought to seduce you through its passions and pleasures? Did you resist evil as forcefully as you struggle against what is good? When you decided to go astray, becoming corrupt, lost, acting against the innermost consciousness of the heart by reason of indulging in vanity or sensual pleasure, you weren’t afraid of going too far; you choose, you yielded unreservedly.
But when it comes to the question of believing that we, who did not make ourselves, were made by an all-wise, all-powerful Hand – to acknowledge that we owe all to Him. From whom we received all, and who made us for Himself – then we begin to deliberate, to foster subtle doubts involving the simplest matters. We are afraid of being gullible; we mistrust our feelings; we shift our ground. We fear to give too much to Him for whom nothing can be too much, though we never gave Him anything. Yet, we are ashamed of being grateful and letting the world see how much we want to serve Him! In a word, we are more timid, shrinking, and shy about what is good than we were concerned about what is evil.
All I would ask of you is to simply follow the leading of your heart toward what is good, as you once followed toward worldly passions toward evil. Whenever you examine the foundation of your faith, you will quickly see that there is nothing substantial to be said against it and that those who oppose it do so only to evade the rules of holy living, rejecting God in favor of self-seeking. But in all honesty, is it fair to be broad-minded on behalf of self and narrow-minded on things of holiness?
Stop arguing. Either listen to your heart, in which God’s Spirit, so often ignored, is now speaking lovingly despite your past unfaithfulness. Or, consult such friends as you know to be right-minded and sincere. Ask them what serving God should be, whether they are sorry for pledging themselves to Him, and if they think they were too naïve or too bold in converting. They, like you, were in the world. Ask whether they regret having forsaken it, and whether the intoxication of Babylon is sweeter than the peace of Zion? No, indeed! Whatever crosses Christians carry in life, we need never lose that blessed peace of heart through which we accept every suffering, desiring no happiness that God denies. Can the world give you as much? Are people of the world always satisfied with everything that comes to them, content without all they do not have? Do they do everything out of love and with their heart?
What are you afraid of? Leaving that which will soon leave you?
What are you afraid of? Following too much goodness, finding an all-too-loving God, of being drawn by an attraction that is stronger than self or the charms of this wretched world?
What are you afraid of? Becoming too humble, too detached, too pure, too true, too reasonable, too grateful to your Father who is in heaven? I implore you to be afraid of nothing so much as this false fear – this foolish, worldly wisdom that hesitates between God and self, vice and virtue, gratitude and ingratitude, life and death.
___Written over 450 years ago
Vocabulary redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda