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A Sea of Love – Thomas Merton
The ultimate perfection of the contemplative life is not a heaven of separate individuals, each on viewing his own private intuition of God; it is a sea of Love which flows through the One Body of all the elect, all the angels and saints, and their contemplation would be incomplete if it were not shared, or if it were shared with fewer souls, or with spirits capable of less vision and less joy.
Thomas Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation. (New York: New Directions Books) : 65.
“Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound the Lord has come.” Psalm 96: 11
God’s Imagination – Henri Nouwen
So much of our energy, time, and money goes into maintaining distance from one another. Many if not most of the resources of the world are used to defend ourselves against each other, to maintain or increase our power, and to safeguard our own privileged position.
Imagine all that effort being put in the service of peace and reconciliation! Would there be any poverty? Would there be crimes and wars? Just imagine that there was no longer fear among people, no longer any rivalry, hostility, bitterness, or revenge. Just imagine all the people on this planet holding hands and forming one large circle of love. We say, “I can’t imagine.” But God says, “That’s what I imagine, a whole world not only created but also living in my image.”
One of the hardest things in life is to let go of old hurts. We often say, or at least think: “What you did to me and my family, my ancestors, or my friends I cannot forget or forgive. … One day you will have to pay for it.” Sometimes our memories are decades, even centuries, old and keep asking for revenge.
Holding people’s faults against them often creates an impenetrable wall. But listen to Paul: “For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old order is gone and a new being is there to see. It is all God’s work” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). Indeed, we cannot let go of old hurts, but God can. Paul says: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not holding anyone’s fault against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). It is God’s work, but we are God’s ministers, because the God who reconciled the world to God entrusted to us “the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). This message calls us to let go of old hurts in the Name of God. It is the message our world most needs to hear.
Because God sent Jesus to reconcile God to the whole world, we can now reconcile ourselves to all people. This IS the good news.
The Fear of Change – Thomas Merton
The fear of change is the fear of disruption, disintegration of one’s own inner unit and the unity of one’s accustomed world.
Thomas Merton. Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (New York: Image): 208.
“Just so will the man be blessed who fears the LORD.” Psalm: 128: 4
The World – Thomas Merton
The world is made up of people who are fully alive in it: that is, of the people who can be themselves in it and can enter into a living and fruitful relationship with each other in it.
Thomas Merton. Love and Living. (New York: Harcourt): 3.
“Before the LORD who comes, who comes to govern the earth, To govern the world with justice and the peoples with faithfulness.” Psalm 96: 13
The Value of Silence – Thomas Merton
Silence helps draw together the scattered and dissipated energies of a fragmented existence. It helps us to concentrate on a purpose that really corresponds not only to the deeper needs of our own being but also to God’s intentions for us.
Thomas Merton. Love and Living. (New York: Harcourt): 42-43.
“Our help is in the name of the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 124: 8
Zen Quietness – Thomas Merton
Meadowlark sitting quietly on a fence post in the dawn sun, his gold vest – bright in the light of the east, his black bib tidy, turning his head this way, that way. This is a Zen quietness without comment.
Thomas Mwerton. The Intimate Merton, ed. Patrick Hart and Jonathan Montaldo, (New York: HarperCollins, 1999: 222.
“Light dawns for the just, and gladness for the honest of heart. Rejoice in the LORD, you just, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” Psalm 97: 11-12
A Nonjudgmental Presence – Henri Nouwen
To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our mind about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we will only create more division. Jesus says it clearly: “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge; … do not condemn; … forgive” (Luke 6:36-37).
In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible. But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation.
How Knowing Works – Thomas Merton
Just as no one can know my inner self except my own “spirit,” so no one can know God except God’s Spirit.
Thomas Merton. Zen and the Birds of Appetite, (New York: New Directions, 1973): 56.
“Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, LORD, God of truth.” Psalm 31: 6
Joy – Thomas Merton
Any joy that does not overflow from our soul and help other men to rejoice in God does not come to us from God.
Thomas Merton. A Merton Reader (New York: Image Books, 1989) : 439.
“Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice.” Psalm 96: 11-12
Just as I posted this devotion, four deer dashed across the yard like a prayer that forbade loneliness.
The Greatness of God’s Love- Henri Nouwen
I keep thinking about the Christmas scene that Anthony arranged under the altar. This probably is the most meaningful “crib” I have ever seen. Three small woodcarved figures made in India: a poor woman, a poor man, and a small child between them. The carving is simple, nearly primitive. No eyes, no ears, no mouths, just the contours of the faces. The figures are smaller than a human hand – nearly too small to attract attention at all.
But then – a beam of light shines on the three figures and projects large shadows on the wall of the sanctuary. That says it all. The light thrown on the smallness of Mary, Joseph, and the Child projects them as large, hopeful shadows against the walls of our life and our world.
While looking at the intimate scene we already see the first outlines of the majesty and glory they represent. While witnessing the most human of human events, I see the majesty of God appearing on the horizon of my existence. While being moved by the gentleness of these three people, I am already awed by the immense greatness of God’s love appearing in my world. Without the radiant beam of light shining into the darkness there is little to be seen. I might just pass by these three simple people and continue to walk in darkness. But everything changes with the light.
Henri J.M. Nouwen. Genesee Diary (December 25, 1974). (Doubleday Religion, a division of Random House, Inc.)