Friday, April 24, 2015

On Thomas Merton

A comtemplative Thomas Merton
"Perhaps the central theme of all of Merton’s writings is contemplation.  What he stressed over and again in regard to this crucial practice is that it is not the exclusive preserve of spiritual athletes, but rather something that belongs to all the baptized and that stands at the heart of Christian life.  For contemplation is, in his language, 'to find the place in you where you are here and now being created by God.'  It is consciously to discover a new center in God and hence at the same time to discover the point of connection to everyone and everything else in the cosmos.  Following the French spiritual masters, Merton called this le point vierge, the virginal point, or to put it in the language of the fourth Gospel, 'water bubbling up in you to eternal life.'” - Father Barron

There are many Merton quotes that provide a gateway into contemplation and yet he is the first to warn us that very few come to true contemplation in isolation or where great stress has been placed on self, whether that is self-acceptance or self-esteem. It is not about feeling good about oneself nor finding your own way on your own terms. The following is from the chapter, Freedom Under Obedience in, Seeds of Contemplation:
The most dangerous man in the world is the contemplative who is guided by nobody. He trusts his own visions. He obeys the attractions of an interior voice, but will not listen to other men. He identifies the will of God with anything that makes him feel, within his own heart, a big, warm, sweet interior glow. The sweeter and the warmer the feeling, the more he is convinced of his own infallibility. And if the sheer force of his own self-confidence communicates itself to other people and gives them the impression that he really is a saint, such a man can wreck a whole city or a religious order or even a nation. The world is covered with scars that have been left in its flesh by visionaries like these.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

God is like a specialist in relaxation - discomfort or pain is in our resistance

God is like a specialist in relaxation

Doing the Will of the Father
But there comes a time when God’s will moves from the front to the back, resulting in the disappearance of the light. I can no longer see where I am going. God is behind me, and I have only one thing to do: Let myself be pushed along. In the beginning it feels a little uncertain and unsafe, and small accidents can occur, not because God fails to do his part or is leading in the wrong direction, but because I have not dared to trust in him completely, and I resist or want to help. God is like a specialist in relaxation who works with the patient’s head, turning it in different directions. The fact that it causes pain is not the specialist’s fault. He does not turn it too far. No, it is because the patient’s neck muscles are tense. He cannot, dares not relax completely. It is no wonder God calls us a “stubborn people” (Dt 9:13).
The words “your kingdom come” that we pray daily are realized only when we live in total dependence on God. As long as he cannot do everything in us, his kingdom has not come. He wants not merely to decide himself; he also wants to carry out what he has decided, “as though without me and yet through me.” Our ego lives, thanks to and through our activities. When we surrender our faculties to God and let him manage them, the ego has nothing more to do; it dies from lack of work.
In his advice to the novices, Eckhart writes: “God has never given himself and does never give himself to a will that is foreign to him. He gives himself only to his own will. But when God meets his own will, he gives himself and enters into that will with all that he is.”
Fr Stinissen leads us in a reflection on the experience of freedom through surrender - surrender by becoming prayer through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What draws you in? ...not a philosophical doctrine nor a program, but a person

"The serpent is the sign for sin. We think of the Book of Genesis: it was the serpent that seduced Eve, that suggested that she sin..." and later God commands [Moses] to lift up the serpent, that is sin, as a flag of victory. It is something that one “cannot understand well if one does not understand what Jesus said in the Gospel. Jesus says...: ‘When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me’.” Lifting up the symbol of their sin and transforming it into an instrument of salvation thus represents the redemption which comes from Christ lifted up on the Cross... 
Christianity... is not a philosophical doctrine, it is not a program of life that enables one to be well formed and to make peace. These are its consequences. 
Christianity is a person... 
a person lifted up on the Cross. A person who emptied himself to save us. He took on sin. And so just as in the desert sin was lifted up, here God made man was lifted up for us. And all of our sins were there... One cannot understand Christianity without understanding this profound humiliation of the Son of God, who humbled himself and made himself a servant unto death on the Cross. 
To serve...
Thanks to the mercy of God, we glory in Christ Crucified. And that is why there is no Christianity without the Cross, and there is no Cross without Jesus Christ...

The heart of God’s salvation is his Son who took upon himself our sins, our pride, our self reliance, our vanity, our desire to be like God. A Christian who is not able to glory in Christ Crucified has not understood what it means to be Christian. Our wounds, those which sin leaves in us, are healed only through the Lord’s wounds, through the wounds of God made man who humbled himself, who emptied himself. This is the mystery of the Cross. It is not only an ornament that we always put in churches, on the altar; it is not only a symbol that should distinguish us from others. The Cross is a mystery: the mystery of the love of God who humbles himself, who empties himself.

Where is your sin? Your sin is there on the Cross. Go and look for it there, in the wounds of the Lord, and your sins shall be healed, your wounds shall be healed, your sins shall be forgiven. God’s forgiveness is not a matter of canceling a debt we have with him. God forgives us in the wounds of his Son lifted up on the Cross. 

Pope Francis concludes this homily by expressing our hope, that “the Lord might draw us to himself and that we might allow ourselves to be healed.” 

In this wonderful reflection we are invited to experience being drawn into Christ's Life, to share in His Life's engagement with God's Love; an engagement of eternal life in time that is not limited to a time defined by death. This experience of Life that is not defined by death, but rather one of creation, a 'bringing-something-out-of-nothing', drawing us toward faith and thus healing us, refreshing us and sending us forth to serve.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter and a return to Galilee - Pope Francis

Galilee is the place where [the disciples] were first called, where everything began!  To return there, to return to the place where they were originally called...
To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory, fearlessly: Do not be afraid.  To re-read everything - Jesus preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, even the betrayal to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of love.
For each of us, too, there is a Galilee at the origin of our journey with Jesus.  To go to Galilee means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience.  To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which Gods grace touched me at the start of the journey.  From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to my brothers and sisters.  That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good, gentle joy.
In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential Galilee: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission.  In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him.  It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.
Today... each of us can ask: What is my Galilee? I need to remind myself, to go back and remember. Where is my Galilee?  Do I remember it?  Have I forgotten it?  Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it?  Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy. Do not be afraid, do not fear, return to Galilee!
The Gospel is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection.  This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia.  It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all people, to the very ends of the earth.  Go back to Galilee without fear!  Let us be on our way! - Pope Francis