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The society in which we live suggests in countless ways that the way to go is up. Making it to the top, entering the limelight, breaking the record – that’s what draws attention, gets us on the front page of the newspaper, and offers us the rewards of money and fame.
The way of Jesus is radically different. It is the way not of upward mobility but of downward mobility. It is going to the bottom, staying behind the sets, and choosing the last place! Why is the way of Jesus worth choosing? Because it is the way to the Kingdom, the way Jesus took, and the way that brings everlasting life.
Courage is connected with taking risks. Jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorbike, coming over Niagara Falls in a barrel, or crossing the ocean in a rowboat are called courageous acts because people risk their lives by doing these things. But none of these daredevil acts comes from the center of our being. They all come from the desire to test our physical limits and to become famous and popular.
Spiritual courage is something completely different. It is following the deepest desires of our hearts at the risk of losing fame and popularity. It asks of us the willingness to lose our temporal lives in order to gain eternal life.
“Have courage,” we often say to one another. Courage is a spiritual virtue. The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means “heart”. A courageous act is an act coming from the heart. A courageous word is a word arising from the heart. The heart, however, is not just the place where our emotions are located. The heart is the centre of our being, the centre of all thoughts, feelings, passions, and decisions.
When the flesh – the lived human experience – becomes word, community can develop. When we say, “Let me tell you what we saw. Come and listen to what we did. Sit down and let me explain to you what happened to us. Wait until you hear whom we met,” we call people together and make our lives into lives for others. The word brings us together and calls us into community. When the flesh becomes word, our bodies become part of a body of people.
Jesus stretched out his hand, touched the man and said, ‘Of course I want you to be cured!’ (Matthew 8 )
Jesus’ primary concern was to be obedient to his Father, to live constantly in his presence. Only then did it become clear to him what his task was in his relationships with people.
Here’s a poem from my Book Launch Party for Seriously Dangerous at Barnhill’s.
Tim Peeler reminded me last night that he thought I should have named the book “Dangerously Serious.” 🙂
Jesus said, ‘A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree good fruit.’ (Matthew 7)
We must choose to listen to God’s voice and every choice will open us a little more to discover the new life hidden in the moment, waiting eagerly to be born.
Jesus said, ‘ So always treat others as you would like them to treat you.’ (Matthew 7)
We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life.
It takes more courage than we imagine to be perfectly simple with other men. Our frankness is often spoiled by a hidden barbarity, born of fear.
False sincerity has much to say, because it is afraid. True candor can afford to be silent. It does not need to face an anticipated attack. Anything it may have to defend can be defended with perfect simplicity.
In the end, the problem of sincerity is a problem of love. A sincere man is not so much one who sees the truth and manifests it as he sees it, but one who loves the truth with a pure love.
Thomas Merton. A Merton Reader, ed. by Thomas P. McDonnell, (New York: Image Books, 1989) 123, 125.
Throughout this week, pause, take a breath, and listen with your heart. Notice if you seek to be perfectly simple with love or if behind your frankness hides a barbarity.
Jesus said to Nicodemus: ‘ God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…’ (John 3)
I am deeply convinced that the necessity to pray, and to pray unceasingly, is not so much based on our desire for God as on God’s desire for us. It is God’s passionate pursuit of us that calls us to prayer.