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Merton’s Voice: If I act in a detached, free, and conscientious way, then I’m working well, I’m acting as God’s instrument. Then I’m fully in accord with the great work that I don’t understand, contributing my little part. The real joy and reward that’s supposed to come is a constant sense that I am God’s instrument and a sense of gratitude for being that. If you see work in this way, then it becomes a source of peace and a real prayer.

Merton, Thomas. The Springs of Contemplation: A Retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1992) 163

Psalm 51: 12

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit

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A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 50)

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Nouwen’s Voice: Jesus’ three temptations in the desert were about choosing ‘upward mobility’. Be relevant: do something the world will praise you for like making bread out of stones. Be spectacular: jump from the tower so that everybody can see you as someone so influential, so important. Be powerful: kneel before me and I will give you dominion over everyone and everything. But, Jesus said, ‘No’. Because Jesus knew that God’s way is not to be relevant, or spectacular, or powerful. God’s way is downward. ‘Blessed are the humble.  Blessed are the poor of heart. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the peacemakers’.

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Nouwen’s voice: Lent is the most important time of the year to nurture our inner life. It is the time during which we not only prepare ourselves to celebrate the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also the death and resurrection that constantly takes place within us. Life is a continuing process of the death of the old and the familiar, and being reborn again into a new hope, a new trust, and a new love. The death and resurrection of Jesus therefore is not just an historical event that took place a long time ago, but an inner event that takes place in our heart when we are willing to be attentive to it….

Lent offers a beautiful opportunity to discover the mystery of Christ within us. It is a gentle but also demanding time. It is a time of solitude but also community, it is a time of listening to the voice within, but also a time of paying attention to other people’s needs. It is a time to continuously make the passage to new inner life as well as to life with those around us.

When we live Lent attentively and gently, then Easter can truly be a celebration during which the full proclamation of the risen Christ will reverberate into the deepest place of our being.

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