You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2012.
God’s Imagination by 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.”
“Eternity is in the present. Eternity is in the palm of the hand. Eternity is a seed of fire, whose sudden roots break barriers that keep my heart from being an abyss.”
Thomas Merton, Merton Reader: 221
“What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper.” Psalm 128: 2
[My note: Eternity is not a long, long time; eternity is always the present, so that is is always now.]
Letting Go of Old Hurts by Henri Nouwen
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.
The Greatest News the World Will Ever Hear
“A tree gives glory to God first of all by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be, it is imitating an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.”
Thomas Merton. Seeds of Contemplation: 24
“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
“Grace has released all the deepest energies of our spirit and assists us to climb to new and unsuspected heights.”
Thomas Merton. A Merton Reader: 325
“Our help is in the name of the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 124: 8
Being Safe Places for Others by Henri Nouwen
When we are free from the need to judge or condemn, we can become safe places for people to meet in vulnerability and take down the walls that separate them. Being deeply rooted in the love of God, we cannot help but invite people to love one another. When people realise that we have no hidden agendas or unspoken intentions, that we are not trying to gain any profit for ourselves, and that our only desire is for peace and reconciliation, they may find the inner freedom and courage to leave their guns at the door and enter into conversation with their enemies.
Many times this happens even without our planning. Our ministry of reconciliation most often takes place when we ourselves are least aware of it. Our simple, nonjudgmental presence does it.
“A happiness that is sought for ourselves alone can never be found: for a happiness that is diminished by being shared is not big enough to make us happy.”
Thomas Merton. No Man Is An Island: 3
“The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad.” Psalm 97: 1
A Nonjudgmental Presence by 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.
“God speaks, and God is to be heard, not only on Sinai, not only in my own heart, but in the voice of the stranger.”
Thomas Merton. A Merton Reader: 307
“Incline your ear to me; make haste to rescue me! Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to save me” Psalm 31: 3
Claiming our Reconciliation by Henri Nouwen
How do we work for reconciliation? First and foremost by claiming for ourselves that God through Christ has reconciled us to God. It is not enough to believe this with our heads. We have to let the truth of this reconciliation permeate every part of our beings. As long as we are not fully and thoroughly convinced that we have been reconciled with God, that we are forgiven, that we have received new hearts, new spirits, new eyes to see, and new ears to hear, we continue to create divisions among people because we expect from them a healing power they do not possess.
Only when we fully trust that we belong to God and can find in our relationship with God all that we need for our minds, hearts, and souls, can we be truly free in this world and be ministers of reconciliation. This is not easy; we readily fall back into self-doubt and self-rejection. We need to be constantly reminded through God’s Word, the sacraments, and the love of our neighbours that we are indeed reconciled.
“When we love God’s will, we find Him and own His joy in all things.”
Thomas Merton. A Merton Reader: 65
“Sing to the LORD, bless his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.” Psalm 96: 2
The Greatness of God’s Love by 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.
Genesee Diary (December 25, 1974). © Henri J.M. Nouwen. Published by Doubleday Religion, a division of Random House, Inc.
The Task of Reconciliation by Henri Nouwen
What is our task in this world as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus? Our task is reconciliation. Wherever we go we see divisions among people – in families, communities, cities, countries, and continents. All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God. The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is seldom visible. Our sacred task is to reveal that truth in the reality of everyday life.
Why is that our task? Because God sent Christ to reconcile us with God and to give us the task of reconciling people with one another. As people reconcile with God through Christ we have been given the ministry of reconciliation” (see: 2 Corinthians 5:18). So whatever we do the main question is, Does it lead to reconciliation among people?
It was in Bethlehem
that a birth changed the world,
the desert dry, and people
hoping for rain but none fell.
Suddenly out of evening shadows,
a man walked the dusty road.
He was tired from too many miles of travel.
Beside him, his wife straddled a donkey.
She was uncomfortable and about to give birth.
They stopped as soon as they could, having been
ordered by the king—like everyone else—
to report to Bethlehem to pay taxes. Night came
in relative silence, everyone weary, huddled together.
Distant stars shone from a cold, gray sky.
Strangers looked on, while that dear Virgin
labored in a small barn. And about midnight,
a baby boy was born with nothing unusual
about the delivery. The mother nursed her neonate,
hummed to Him softly, while impoverished shepherds
herded sheep in fields of sand. And when those shepherds
saw His star as a sign, they went to bow before Him
in an act so humble that even today
some deny God actually came.