I start from the conviction that many of the most important things we know are things we know before we can speak them; indeed, we know them—though with very little in the way of concepts to make them intelligible to us—even as children, and see them with the greatest immediacy when we look at them with the eyes of innocence. But, as they are hard to say, and as they are often so immediate to us that we cannot stand back from them objectively, we tend to put them out of mind as we grow older, and make ourselves oblivious to them, and try to silence the voice of knowledge that speaks within our own experiences of the world. Wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the far end of experience; it is the ability to translate some of that vision into words, however inadequate. There is a point, that is to say, where reason and revelation are one and the same. David Bentley Hart. from The Experience of God


The Journey of Trust and Desire

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Salvation as Ongoing Conversion

An underlying presupposition that often defines, or begins to color, our understanding of salvation is that it is transactional or contractual. To put a blunt point on it, we basically think of it as a deal we make with God no matter how we dress it up. That runs counter to the Scriptural narrative in spite of our fancy theologizing about “covenant.”

The disturbing realization I, and other “Western Christians” I hang out with, is that the unconscious paradigm we are using to conceptualize (hear and receive and live out) our faith in Christ Jesus is essentially one of “exchange” and “transcation” and “progress,” and “measurement.”

But, once again, the overarching Scriptural narrative does not confirm such a paradigm. It confirms one that is just about as different from that one as you can get.

(I would add, parenthetically, that our unconscious “this world” paradigm also influences how we view marriage. Hmm… The subject for a future post…)


“when Jesus tells us that there is more joy in heaven over the conversion of one sinner who has strayed than over ninety-nine others who seemingly have no need of repentance, he is not affirming that God loves sinners more deeply than righteous persons. For Jesus, speaking in this specific context, there are no righteous persons. There are only sinners (people who feel their need for conversion) and self-righteous persons (people who are sinners and have not yet acknowledged their need for repentance).

Conversion, at least in this particular context, is not a precondition to the Christian life. It is the Christian life. There are no righteous persons, only sinners, and the Christian journey is always a journey of conversion, a returning to the fold. We open ourselves to receive the love of God whenever we are conscious of that.  God does favor sinners, but that includes all of us.”
Ronald Rolheiser


As my prayer became more attentive and inward
I had less and less to say.
I finally became completely silent,
and started to listen
which is even further removed from speaking.
I first thought that praying entailed speaking.
I then learnt that praying is hearing,
not merely being silent.
This is how it is.
To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking.
Prayer involves becoming silent,
and being silent,
and waiting until God is heard.
–Soren Kierkegaard

Dying, Death, and Grief

What follows are the ruminations not of a bystander but of one who is immersed and invested – the repentant one – Lord, have mercy upon me a sinner.


Two things we all experience, as human beings, are dying along with the death that attends it and grief. These are common to us all. But, while they are common to us all are they embraced by all as an opportunity for “common-union” with the Lord and with one another?

Perhaps you have asked this question. Perhaps you have asked what the purpose of death and the grieving that accompanies it is in Gods’ sovereign purpose: “If death is conquered and Christ is raised from the dead, then why do we still die?” Perhaps you have wondered how, since, death and our undeniable response of grief is part of our existence, we are to relate to both of them.

These are the questions I ask. These are not questions I am an expert in answering – glibly or otherwise. These questions describe my journey of salvation. A journey I am currently walking. I am a pilgrim. I am a faithful struggler.

Is it an awful thing to suggest such things? Yes, it is an awe-full thing. It is the territory to be journeyed by all who “travail and are heavy laden” by dying, death, and the necessity to grieve. All who profess faith in Christ Jesus must journey through these precincts.

Such questioning is right and proper when accompanied by an open, desirous, and teachable spirit (a repentant heart). Such repentance leads to illumination and bears the fruit of deified life. Or, to put it more specifically, deified dying, death, and grieving.

13 But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; 17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4.13-18)

So, “All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”

The difficulty with our experience of death lies in the fact that what is true in a penultimate sense presents itself to us as what is true in an ultimate sense. We tend to trust what we can measure with our senses and our intellect and our emotions. These measuring instruments provide us with what we consider are a reliable road map for the way to interpret and live the present, the days ahead, and the rest of our life.

However, our Christian tradition speaks a message that is different. The Spirit says that death has been defeated and life is victorious. The Spirit offers us a way to live in the present and journey forward that doesn’t match up with our senses, reason, and emotions.

St. Paul did not see death as an obstacle. He viewed death, however it might come, as being, by the death of Christ Jesus, transformed into an opportunity for the proclamation of the victory of death over life.

This puts us in the position of needing to seek illumination regarding not only death but grieving as well.

Once again, that simply flies in the face of what is true in the limited/penultimate sense. People actually die. If people continue to die then we tend to conclude that the victory of life over death has, somehow, been “postponed” to sometime in the “future.”

But that is not the case. The presence of death in the historical sense is redeemed by God the Father in Christ Jesus and used as an opportunity to make known the mystery of what is true in the eternal sense.

So, the question is not “if” we will die (in the historical sense). Rather, the question is “how” shall we “die.”

By the way, this is not a justification for responding passively to the approach of physical death. No. We fight for life with every heart beat and breathe in the most authentic ways and must make decisions about how to authentically engage in that battle in light of this larger mysterious context.

So the question is not “if” we will grieve (in the historical sense). Rather, the question is “how” shall we “grieve.” Grieving, in like manner, is not only the healthy, life-creating way to engage death but also the journey we take in order to do so. As C.S. Lewis wrote to a friend, “grief is not a state but a process – like a walk in a winding valley with a new prospect at every bend.”

The question is, whether or not we will we live in accordance with God’s embrace and infusion of the event of historical death with eternal life?? Shall we seek to proclaim persuasively in our historical dying that death has been defeated by living out that event with grace, mercy, love, gentleness, self-control, etc.?

Our historical death is not an obstacle to the message of the victory of life over death. Just the opposite. Our grieving is not to be a proclamation that death has won. That would be grieving as those who have no hope. No. Just the opposite. It is, perhaps, the deepest opportunity, in a practical sense, to testify to the fact that life has won and death has lost by using the event of historical death to testify against itself ! !

Be assured, there will come a day in history when this ministry of mysterious proclamation will come to an end and there will be no more physical death. In the meantime we have a ministry of mysterious proclamation to accomplish by the grace of God.

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; 3 and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21.1-4)

And so, in this present time, we approach what is true in the limited sense, the experiences of dying, death, and grieving, with the declaration of what is true in the unlimited sense, the mystery of the victory of life over death, not someday but, rather, beginning today.

And even now the Lord, who is the Coming One is present, along with all who are alive and continue, uninterrupted and completely unencumbered, their ministry in Him. Though they are dead yet they are only “sleeping.” Indeed, they are alive and enjoying the Sabbath rest of Christ Jesus. This “resting in peace” is the quality of life of those who NOW minister, and reign with Christ and by whom we are surrounded and supported.

So, “All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”

The question is not just “How then shall we live?” and “How shall we rejoice?” The question is also, “Will we die a healthy, life-creating death?” and “Will we grieve in a healthy, life-creating way?” Or to rephrase it, “How then shall we die (and how then shall we grieve) so those around us might believe that death is conquered?!”


Victory over anger is one of the greatest victories of a soldier of Christ. We generally become angry either at those we wish to turn back from sin, or at those who slander us. However, in doing so we forget that anger is a mortal sin, and in desiring the salvation of others we lose our own, according to the words of St. Macarius. Anger against our enemies is usually tied to another evil impulse, the desire for revenge. St. Eupsychius so overcame the passion of anger in himself, that before his death, he gave one portion of his great estate to the poor and another portion to his slanderers, because of whom he was being tortured and slain. He considered his slanderers as his benefactors. St. John Chrysostom writes: “Let us clip the wings of anger, and evil will not rise high. Anger is an evil sickness that can destroy our souls…. Anger is a terrible fire which devours everything…. If an angry man could see himself at the moment of his anger, he would need no other counsel not to become angry–because there is nothing more unpleasant than an angry face.” Abba Ammon confessed of himself: “I spent fourteen years in Scetis, praying to God day and night, to give me victory over anger.” The Prologue, September 7th

Nevertheless at Thy Word I Will

Luke 5:1-11 (KJV)
1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
6 And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.
11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.


There are many pivotal moments in the ongoing relationship between our Lord and ourselves. These moments are the ones in which we are invited and challenged to go deeper, farther, higher, in our maturity. To become more truly who we are in Christ Jesus and cooperate in His desire to express Himself through us.

For me, over and over again, the moment is characterized by the words, “nevertheless at Thy word I will…”

Notice the highlighted portions of the story. The narrative reveals a journey of fulfillment.

Those words sum up the circumstance perfectly. Repentance with hope confirmed in action. Change toward not just away from.

The deepest truth of the moment is not just the invitation and challenge. These are filled with promise. The moment reaches toward me from the future (the Omega), from the fullness of eternity and speaks a word of fulfillment and integrity. I am defined by my future not my past — “we have toiled all night and taken nothing.” Not by what was but by what will be from now on — “they enclosed a great multitude.” What was — emptiness. What will be that begins now — fullness beyond capacity of the present to hold it ! ! What will be desires to be what is now. The name that defines my “now” is “my will be,” and He is Christ Jesus.

“Nevertheless at Thy word I will…”

Steadfast Love of God

The fall harvest is upon us. The grapes are being harvested in the vineyards of Northern California. The feast of Sukkot will commence at the end of this month. All of this reminds me of the steadfast love and faithfulness of God. The God of growth the God of fruitfulness.

The steadfast love of God is the beginning of all life. He is life-creating. He holds all things in being. The steadfast love of God bears the fruit of life abundant in the life of His faithful who trust in Him. We give thanks to Him for He is the provider and provision.


Psalm 52.8-9
I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
I will thank you forever,
because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful
I will proclaim your name, for it is good.


It is the presence of God that, without cessation, draws the whole creation from the abyss of its own nothingness above which his omnipotence holds it suspended, lest of its own weight it should fall back therein; and serves as the mortar and bond of connection which holds it together in order that all that it has of its creator should not waste and flow away like water that is not kept in its channel.

God in the heavens is more my heaven than the heavens themselves; in the sun he is more my light than the sun; in the air he is more my air than the air that I breathe sensibly. He works in me all that I am, all that I see, all that I do or can do, as most intimate, most present, and most immanent in me.
Louis Chardon (1595-1651 French Dominican mystic and theologian), taken from The Time of the Spirit: Readings Through the Christian Year

Mercy of God

1 Thessalonians 5.9-10
9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him.


Lamentations 3:21-33 (RSV)
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is thy faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.

28 Let him sit alone in silence
when he has laid it on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
30 let him give his cheek to the smiter,
and be filled with insults.

31 For the Lord will not
cast off for ever,
32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve the sons of men.

We Understand/See/Know in the Context of Being Understood/Seen/Known

All is gift.

The moment of relational understanding, seeing, and knowing is not the result of a talent we acquire. It is a gift we are given. What is more, this gift is giving in the context of all of these being true regarding us. It is because we are understood that we can receive understanding. It is because we are seen that we can see, it is because we are known that we can know.

This is the one of the root lessons of the story of the encounter between Nathaniel and Jesus.

All is gift. All is to be received with gladness and gratitude — eucharisto.

Pope Benedict XVI articulated this mystery beautifully:

“…the Evangelist tells us that when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” (Jn 1: 47). This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: “Blessed is the man… in whose spirit there is no deceit” (32[31]: 2), but provokes the curiosity of Nathanael who answers in amazement:  “How do you know me?” (Jn 1: 48).

Jesus’ reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (Jn 1: 48).  We do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathanael’s life.

His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: “This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man”. And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1: 49). In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus.

Nathanael’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognized both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognize only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him. Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, October 4, 2006