Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Great Work of Man

Abba Anthony said to Abba Poemen, “This is the Great Work of a man: always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his last breath.” He also said, “Whoever has not experienced Temptationtemptation cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” He even added, “Without temptation, no one can be saved.” Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, “What ought I to do?” and the old man said to him, “Do not trust in your own righteousness, do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach

—-Abba Anthony of the Desert

There are several very biting suggestions made here by the old Monk. Perhaps we can use his advice to bring us a little closer to God. I am convinced that all men seek closeness to God. Some call this closeness getting in touch with their inner bein., Others may call it karma, but I just call such closeness prayer, and prayer allows me to know  God. He is my creator, friend and redeemer.

Our first step is to take blame for our own sins. A good expression for this is “owning up.” We live in a world of excuses and explanations, but raw truth is always best. I confess to being amused when I heard the expression”alternative facts” this past week. Anthony tells us to simply take blame for our own failures. The scripture says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” That is the beginning of our path to heaven and peace on this earth.

He reminds us to expect temptation every day of our lives. On face value that is very depressing, but temptation drives us to the grace of God. The scripture reminds us that we have all sinned but it also says,“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Simply put, temptation drives us to a choice – God or self satisfaction. God created us with a free will and salvation is a choice, a serious and demanding choice that we all have to make. Our easy, comfortable and pleasure seeking world resists the concept of choices that limit our “freedom.” For those that choose Jesus, there is no greater freedom to be had.

Allow me to chase the “sin rabbit” for just a moment. God offers forgiveness and the world offers forgiveness. There is, however, an astounding difference between God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of the world. Convicted felons Forgive-Forgetwho have served their time and even expressed genuine remorse for their crimes are excluded from voting and holding public office, have limited credit privileges, can be denied a job,cannot serve on some juries, and are excluded from other rights in ways that vary from state to state. They have served their time, but their crime is not forgotten. ALL of us, whether we admit it or not , are unable to forget the sins (we may forgive and even move on) of those that have offended u., Only God can do that. God’s offer of forgiveness and salvation is the one that we can’t pass up. No one, I mean no one, offers such a gift but God.God says, “For I will be merciful towards their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” God is so good to us!

Now back to the monk, “do not trust your own righteousness but control your tongue and stomach” The tongue has the ability to destroy others and ourselves. When we utter a false wittiness against some we have the potential of denying that person so much. With our tongues we can cause people to lose their relationships, reputations and in some cases their lives. In World War Two there was an expression,”Loose lips sink ships.” The importance of keeping confidences and telling the truth cannot be underestimated. Control of the stomach is an analogy for controlling our carnal nature. We should think before we use our bodies in ways that dishonor ourselves and God. Control your carnal nature or it will be the end of you.

Work-of-Man

The great work of man is to trust God and control our nature with the tools He provides. I found a poem that calls this an act of wisdom.


He, in whose bosom wisdom’s seed is sown,

To waste a single day was never known;

Either he strives to work God’s will,

Or else exalts the cup, and works his own.

Omar Khayyam


Prayer

O Lord as I embark on my great work this day I do so fully aware of my dependence on you. Walk with me and keep me aware of your company. Rebuke when I need rebuking. Give me encouragement when I am down. Most of all remind me when I have moved into my own path while forgetting your path. In doing these things you give me the richness of your grace and the benefit of your remarkable love.

Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Abba Anthony, Abba Poeman, Temptation

The Conflict of Soul

We are caught in a bitter conflict between flesh and spirit. Jesus has delivered us from sin, but not from the weaknesses and desires of the flesh. We have to reproduce in our life the Cross of Christ so that, having died sacramentally to sin in baptism, we may also put to death sin in our flesh by restraining our evil desires and bad tendencies. This is the basis of monastic asceticism. (Or the Christian walk)

—-Thomas Merton

Baptism

Not one among us who has not felt the tug of war caused by the conflict of flesh and spirit. This conflict of soul lives in everyone, and the battle rages with little relief. As we face this reality and own it, the conflict takes on a new aspect. The acknowledgement of our fleshly weaknesses allows us to turn to the spirit that is promised by Jesus. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.(John 14:26) Through this Spirit we can achieve small victories over our desires, but we have to work at it and be vigilant.

Merton points to a very important and the often neglected reality of sacramental grace. Through our baptism the community lifts us up so that we 1-18-17-Postmight die to sin. That grace is an important tool in our battle with the flesh, and one that should not be neglected. When the congregation (community) says, “we will so order our lives after the example of Christ, that this child, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith,” that pledge is the communion of saints in action. We must never abandon the strength that can be garnered from the sacramental community.

We must all desire to be a part of the sacramental community that has been provided for us. Regular church attendance and partaking of communion is an essential means of grace. Our very participation in times of worship allows us to receive the grace that so freely flows when the community is gathered together for word and sacrament. Seize every opportunity that you can to be a part of your sacramental community. Our strength is boosted by the community.


Prayer

Lord help me this very day to resist the temptations that surround me. Give me the foresight to garner the grace that you so freely provide, for it is that grace that strengthens me in times of need and temptation. I ask you to protect and strengthen me for the journey that is mine.

Amen

1 Comment

Filed under Thomas Merton

A Word for Me

I have always been fond of the words of the Gospels and have found more recollection in them than in the most carefully planned books. If I keep close to this Master of wisdom, He may perhaps give me some thoughts which will help you. I do not say that I will explain these Divine prayers, for that I should not presume to do, and there are a great many explanations of them already. Even were there none, it would be ridiculous for me to attempt any.

…….Teresa of Avila

The words of the gospels have more recollection than the most carefully planned books. This observation of Teresa of Avila was made long ago and yet it resonates in our day. We have a plethora of books, websites, blogs and digital downloads that clamor for our attention and promise to make life grand and Teresa-1glorious. All that said, the words of the gospel can speak volumes to us today. In times of trouble, in times of need such words can be an anchor to the otherwise shifting sands of life. Teresa referred to the gospels as prayers. They are “God prayers” directed to us.

Just like Teresa I cannot begin to dissect or explain why these prayers/words are still so relevant. I can say that they are still real and reliable. The truth of the gospel is not subject to popularity or current event relevance. The Gospel stands head and shoulders above all else. There is not a subject vital to life that escapes discussion in the Word. God covered the bases for us.

The tragic mistake made by unnumbered generations is to try to improve on the perfection of God’s revealed Word. Gospel means “good news’ and the news of our redemptive and grace-filled God can never be changed or improved. By this assertion I do not mean to engage in the age old “inerrancy and infallibility “arguments that have squandered the real gift of the Gospel. The gospel is God’s living word to YOU; its speaks to YOU in the ways that YOU need. The voice of God can say different things to different people and all these revelations are true. The singular interpretation of scripture leads to broken relations, war and even murder – all these horrible things done in the name of God. I urge you to read the scripture and let it act as your personal guide to life. Let us allow the words of the gospel to guide us in the way we should go. Look at Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as your personal life coaches. The words that they write are like text messages received from a close friend. Treasure them and remember them by applying them to your life. The world has spent far too much time interpreting the Word rather than applying it to our individual lives.

Here are a few topics and quotes from the Gospel of Matthew –

Compassion and Forgiveness

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors […] For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:12-15)

But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

Hypocrisy

Therefore when you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:2)

When you fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:16)

Sin

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Wherefore I say unto you, ALL MANNER OF SIN AND BLASPHEMY SHALL BE FORGIVEN UNTO MEN: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. (Matthew 12:30-31)

Those are but a few topics from the Gospel of Matthew that require no interpretation or explanation but only application.


Prayer

Lord help me this day to allow your Gospel to speak to me as thought it was written exclusively for me. I ask you to cast out all my thoughts of distance from you and invite an intimate closeness that you desire. That closeness will allow your words to speak in every situation in which I find myself. May I know that you are present and have the best in store for me. Lord give me the faith and patience to believe and endure.

Amen

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible, Teresa of Avila