Mercy

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. (Psalm 103.8)

With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the Lord;
And in the midst of many I will praise Him.

For He stands at the right hand of the needy,
To save him from those who judge his soul. (Psalm 109.30-31)

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Maintain Inner Peace

“Peace is the simplicity of spirit, the serenity of conscience, the tranquility of the soul and the bond of love.

Peace is order, it is the harmony in each one of us, it is a continual joy that is born in witnessing a clear conscience, it is the holy joy of a heart wherein God reigns.

Peace is the way to perfection, or, even better, in peace dwells perfection.

And the devil, who knows all this very well, does everything possible to cause us to lose our peace.

The soul need be saddened by only one thing: an offense against God. But even on this point, one must be very prudent. One must certainly regret one’s failures, but with a peaceful sorrow and always trusting in Divine Mercy.

One must beware of certain reproaches and remorse against oneself which most of the time come from our enemy who wants to disturb our peace in God. If such reproaches and remorse humble us and make us quick to do the right thing, without taking away our confidence in God, we may be assured that they come from God. However, if they confuse us and make us fearful, distrustful, lazy or slow to do the right thing, we may be sure that they come from the devil and we should consequently push them aside, finding our refuge in confidence in God.”
–Padre Pio

Drawn

“Hope always draws the soul from the beauty which is seen to what is beyond, always kindles the desire for the hidden through what is constantly perceived. Therefore, the ardent lover of beauty, although receiving what is always visible as an image of what he desires, yet longs to be filled with the very stamp of the archetype…The divine voice granted what was requested in what was denied… the munificence of God assented to the fulfillment of the desire but did not promise any cessation or satiety of the desire… The true sight of God consists in this, that the one who looks up to God never ceases in that desire.”
Gregory of Nyssa, “The Life of Moses”

Enter In

Immigration is a big issue these days. But, the movement of people, individually and communally, has always been a feature of human existence.

There are those who are invited but will not enter. There are those who desire to enter but are not invited. Tumultuous and stressful. A lack of mutuality in a lot of ways.

Then, there is that very special condition of being invited and yearning to enter. Sweet. Both are fulfilled. This is how it is supposed to be in our relationship with God. God has a very specific no-negotiable, and sneak-proof immigration policy…All are invited. I am invited. You are invited. Do we really desire to “enter in?” Do we comprehend and appreciate what “entering in” involves and requires of us? Are we willing to enter in on God’s terms or only on our own terms?

Big questions that are essential to what salvation means in our life — personally and communally.

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“God, the Word, stirs up the lazy and arouses the sleeper. For indeed, someone who comes knocking at the door is always wanting to come in. But it depends on us if he does not always enter or always remain. May your door be open to him who comes; open your soul, enlarge your spiritual capacities, that you may discover the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace and sweetness of grace. Expand your heart; run to meet the sun of that eternal light that “enlightens everyone” (Jn 1,9). It is certain that this true light shines for all, but if anyone shuts their windows then they themselves shut themselves off from this eternal light.

So even Christ remains outside if you shut the door of your soul. It is true that he could enter but he doesn’t want to use force, he doesn’t put those who refuse under pressure. Descended from the Virgin, born from her womb, he shines throughout the universe to give light to all. Those who long to receive the light that shines with an everlasting brightness open up to him. No night comes to intervene. Indeed, the sun we see each day gives way to night’s darkness; but the Sun of justice (Mal 3,20) knows no setting for Wisdom is not overcome by evil.”
Saint Ambrose (c.340-397),  12th Sermon on Psalm 118

Shook Foil

“Life is simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true.” –Thomas Merton

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The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
–Gerard Manley Hopkins

Pilgrimage and Art

As someone who lived and ministered at a retreat house and led pilgrimages to the Holy Land, I know that journeys can change our life circumstances and us. Men and women journeyed from near and far to the retreat house; and I have journeyed to destinations near and far with common folks like myself to encounter God in a unique way and be changed by it.

As a matter of fact, pilgrimage has been one of the most important means by which God has performed His work of salvation in the lives of ALL of us. Yes, we are ALL, aware or unaware, recipients of the saving benefits of pilgrimage. Some pilgrimages take us half way around the world and some into the next room. Here is a wonderful reflection by Lisa Deam, that focuses on art as one of the means by which we can pursue this transformative discipline.

The Redemption of ALL Things in Christ Jesus

I start my day with prayer. Specifically, the Eastern Orthodox morning prayers. Among them is the “Prayer of the Optina Elders.” It is one of my favorites:

Grant unto me, O Lord, that with peace of mind I may face all that this new day is to bring. Grant unto me to dedicate myself completely to Thy Holy Will. For every hour of this day, instruct and support me in all things. Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Thy Holy Will. Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say. When things unforeseen occur, let me not forget that all cometh down from Thee. Teach me to behave sincerely and rationally toward every member of my family, that I may bring confusion and sorrow to none. Bestow upon me, my Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day, and to bear my part in all its passing events. Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love. Amen.

It reminds me and prepares me to enter the day with the conviction that ALL circumstances and events have been laid hold of by God in the incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and second-coming of Christ Jesus. The invitation God is offering me is to enter this day and everything in it in this spirit and participate in synergistic union with the Holy Spirit in all it holds. This is not something that MIGHT happen in the future. It is what is ALREADY the case.

This essential aspect of the gospel is crucial for us to accept and adopt as our matrix for viewing and responding to EVERYTHING and EVERYONE.

I am, by virtue of the way things appear in comparison with the way I believe they “should be,” notable to accept the radical proclamation that at the heart of the gospel is the redemption of ALL things. God is choosing, as He sees fit, to change some circumstances and not others. We still die, for example. All of us will die. But, the prayer says, referencing the gospel, death has been defeated and abolished not by removing it but by transforming it. God now uses death to serve His purpose not the one the enemy previously used it to accomplish.

The presupposition of the prayer is appearances, and my preconceived notions and emotions are not reliable for authentically conceiving of what is real and the meaning of events. They are in need of purification so I may participate in the Kingdom which is in our midst not just one that will coming some day.

I invite you to read the Bible with this presupposition and listen. Be prepared. The message will leap off the page at you ! ! Passages that seemed symbolic and metaphorical at best will seem to be mystically and deeply true without the need to rationalize their truth with qualifications.

Take, for example, the book of Job. Job holds out for the confirmation that his circumstances are not simply what they appear to be and result in an inevitable choice between two alternatives. He refuses to be put in the “either/or” position. He refuses to believe that praying harder or being morally perfect is the key to making things “all better” or convincing God to do so. What is more, he refuses to believe that God is impotent and that resignation to meaninglessness is the answer. He persists in desiring a “one-on-one” with God. He seeks the truth. What he gets is THIS truth. God redeems and saves by victoriously laying hold of his circumstance and transforming them without necessarily having to change its appearance. In other words, ALL things are laid hold of by God and consecrated – made Eucharistic. Most especially death and sin.

There is a time when all ask for one reason or another, “Can anything good come of this?” or “Who will show us any good?” (Psalm 4.6)

The Good News is “Yes!” This “Yes” is a Mystery in form and content as well as the means by which it exists. This Mystery is the dwelling place of the Psalmist on sooo many occasions. Here is an example.

Psalm 23.4-6
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff,
they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil,
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
for ever.

However, this core principle of the gospel, for those who seek to embrace and live in it, has a price. You can’t go back to reading the Bible and relating in the old way. There is no going back. It changes everything (pun intended).