Tag Archives: Thomas Merton
Thursday Week 1 December 3
‘Come, let us return to the Lord;
for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;
he has struck down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;
his appearing is as sure as the dawn;
he will come to us like the showers,
like the spring rains that water the earth.’
What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes away early.
Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets,
I have killed them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings.
Question – What is God leading you to repent from this Advent?
Lord, Help me to look deeply into myself as I ponder the need to repent. Too often we see repentance as something for the other. Guide me to see my need.
It is not only our hatred of others that is dangerous but also and above all our hatred of ourselves: particularly that hatred of ourselves which is too deep and too powerful to be consciously faced. For it is this which makes us see our own evil in others and unable to see it in ourselves.
~~~ Thomas Merton
Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye?
Perhaps the most difficult challenge we have in life is to see ourselves clearly and honestly. Jesus the Messiah took up this issue in his much quoted and much ignored Sermon on the Mount, and mystic monk, Thomas Merton, brings it a little closer to home. It is easy for us to dismiss the idea that we have a great sin but much harder to deny that we have never been harsh towards someone when we see our own failing in them. Intrinsically, we know that we are less than perfect even when we deny it. I really don’t believe we ever fool ourselves completely, but we try hard to look like we have done so. If we can crush the sin in others that is like a mirror showing us our own failing, then we never have to deal with our issue.
Today’s call is to see ourselves in all our frailties and failures. For when we see ourselves in truth , there is a wide open door for help. That help comes in the form of grace. The grace of God allows us to live and thrive in spite of our shortcomings. In receiving the grace of God, we not only have personal forgiveness but can begin to forgive others and be a reconciler of the world around us. As long as we hold back for our own sin, we are likely to be harsh with others. This harshness creates a tension for all we encounter. Offer your weakness to the ultimate strength that is offered by the grace of Jesus.
Merton acknowledges how powerful and painful it is to see this part of ourselves. Jesus says that he wants to take that burden away from us and that his burden is light. We spend a great deal of life fighting our pain and sin, and we do it the hard way. None of us will ever be able to save ourselves or reform the world enough to save it. God knew this, and he made the provision of Jesus the Savior and Messiah.
As people who seek to be followers of this Savior/Messiah, we have to realize that salvation is an ongoing process and not a one stop acquisition. As long as we live we will have to remove one log after another from our lives, but it begins with the first log. That log is admitting we can’t do it alone. Let us do so today and renew that grace everyday we live.
SEE YOURSELF TODAY
Lord, Today is a day of confession and repentance. I confess that I have been hard on others, because I have failed to fully examine myself. I invite the Holy Spirit to convict me of my sin and shortcomings and ask forgiveness for them. I further ask that you remind me that I need a fresh dose of your forgiving grace everyday that I live and breathe. I ask this with a humble heart and a clear mind.
You cannot be a man of faith unless you know how to doubt. You cannot believe in God unless you are capable of questioning the authority of prejudice, even though that prejudice may seem to be religious. Faith is not blind conformity to prejudice – “ a pre-judgment.” It is a decision, a judgment that is fully and deliberately taken in the light of a truth that cannot be proven. It is not merely the acceptance of a decision that has been made by somebody else.
Merton has a fascinating premise when he says,”You cannot be a man of faith unless you know how to doubt.” Most of us have been brought up to think very differently, and that statement will require some thinking. Doubt is a bad word in most church cultures. Church people are taught to believe and leave the rest to God. If we are to accept doubt as an essential part of faith, then there are some things we need to consider.
We must first question the prejudice of following stagnate authority. Merton calls it the authority of prejudice. Things never change and ,quite honestly, that makes it easy. This authority assumes that we will walk in lock step with tradition, no matter how strange or harsh it may seem. We are trained to accept the thinking that comes from the authority, because it is just what we do. Why rock the boat?
Boat rocking begins with thinking for yourself. Maybe, just maybe, things have changed. That rule or practice was designed for people who used a horse and buggy to get around town. Perhaps that practice was started out of the prejudicial thinking of someone who never really learned to think for themselves. If we are to be independent thinkers, we must be people of prayer and study.
Prayer is simply talking to God and waiting for an answer. All of us need to develop a prayer life that will make us feel like God is listening to us and is concerned about our lives. The longer we know someone, and the more we talk with them, the more comfortable we will be. We are comfortable because we know and understand them. This concept is no different when it it comes to our relationship with God.
There still remains a rough spot. No matter how well you know someone there will always be things you do not know or understand. God is God, and we can never understand everything about him. God’s existence is a fact that cannot be proven. We can try, but we will always fail. He ,therefore, remains a mystery. It is in the acceptance of that mystery that true faith begins. When we get to know God and accept the ambiguity of his actions and existence then true faith begins to flourish in our souls.
Lord, Give me the courage to examine the cookie cutter answers that I was taught about you. Give me the determination to begin to know you for myself. Give me the wisdom to ask the hard questions that will refine my faith. Give me the drive to move forward in the mystery of being a person of faith.Give me the strength to move forward this and every day as a seeker of truth.
Compassion – The participation in another’s suffering; fellow-feeling, sympathy and pity inclining one to show mercy or give aid.
(Oxford Dictionary and Bible)
Monk and mystic Thomas Merton said, “Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.” Compassion is the ability to show mercy, forgiveness, make peace and continue to live life amid the confusion that comes in this world. Without the attribute of compassion, sickness and disease would run rampant and war would never cease. As God shows his compassion to us and we share it with others, our lives are forever changed and our world becomes a better place. It would be difficult for me to see our existence without compassion.
Compassion is the life-giving force that God has planted in us. It gives life when we touch the broken hearted with the love of God and man. Compassion allows us to understand in ways that only God could give to us. Compassion is the God force in us that makes us the salt and light of the world. Without compassion the world is a dark and tasteless void.
Compassion is the desire to see others rise up out of despair. God saw us through a lens of compassion. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) Sheep without are shepherd are confused, lost and in despair. Jesus saw this and had compassion on all of us. He made things right for us, and we can help others by sharing in the heart of compassion that God bestowed upon us.
Compassion is a life-giving force that we possess. When God touched us and gave us the gift of His Spirit, we were forever changed. We now have understanding and insight that eluded us in past times. We have knowledge that can only comes to those who trust in God. This life-giving force gives us the responsibility and the ability to show compassion to those around us. Compassion is the visceral participation in and the alleviation of the suffering of another. It is a life-giving part of God that he has shared with us through grace.
Let us use this, our time, to seek out and be compassionate to one another. If we live such a life, we will be blessed internally and externally. Let us appropriate compassion in our home, work and world that God has entrusted to us as caretakers.
~~ Steve Maraboli
Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.
There is a nobility in compassion, a beauty in empathy, a grace in forgiveness.
Compassion is about giving all the love that you’ve got.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
Until you have real compassion, you can not recognize love.
Look for a way to lift someone up. And if that’s all you do, that’s enough.
Use your voice for kindness, your ears for compassion, your hands for charity, your mind for truth, and your heart for love.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.
~~ Dalai Lama
Instead of putting others in their place, put yourself in their place.
~~~ Amish Proverb
Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.
~~ Thomas Merton
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
~~~1 Peter 3:8
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
~~~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
“I will strengthen Judah
and save the tribes of Joseph.
I will restore them
because I have compassion on them.
They will be as though
I had not rejected them,
for I am the Lord their God
and I will answer them.
~~~ Zechariah 10:6
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
~~~ 1 John 3:17
Lord, One of the most needed things in our world today is compassion. We all need to receive it and know how to give it. We know that you are a God of great compassion and mercy and ask that you will instill in us the qualities that you possess. A very small amount of compassion can make great things happen. Please bestow upon me this gift of being able to show compassion to all who are in need.
It is not humility to insist on being someone that you are not. It is as much as saying that you know better than God who you are and who you ought to be. How do you expect to arrive at the end of your own journey if you take the road to another man’s city? How do you expect to reach your own perfection by leading somebody else’s life? His sanctity will never be yours; You must have the humility to work out your own Salvation in a darkness where you are absolutely alone.
And so, it takes heroic humility to be yourself and to be nobody but the man, or the artist, that God intended you to be.
~~~Thomas Merton – New Seeds of Contemplation
We all seek to find ways to better ourselves. We want to be richer, wiser, more pious than we are today. The challenge becomes the way we achieve those goals. Most of us are convinced that God made a mistake when he created us. He meant for us to be smarter, better, and simply different than what we see in ourselves. Somewhere along the way some well-meaning Christian decided that it was a sign of humility to disown ourselves. I could not possibly say that I was, or was becoming, a perfected creation of God. If we could just find someone, some model that we could copy, things would be alright. We say that we must be like them in order to be humble.
Merton tells us that it is just the opposite. In denying ourselves in that way, we are denying the providence of God. That is not true humility. True humility is to continue to struggle with who we are and to become who God made us to be. God creates each of us in a unique way and want us to thrive in the reality of ourselves. He has something in mind for us and will get us to that point. He never promised it would be easy.
Next time you look at someone and think, that is who I want to be, remember, God wants you to be just the way he made you. The psalmist says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” God made you to be YOU.
Each of us has some rough spots that we must smooth, but he created us in his multifaceted image. That is why we are all different. We can never be someone else no matter how hard we try.
LORD, Let me be humble enough to be the person you created. My short comings and failures are the rocky roads that you have set before me as I journey to your Kingdom. Please give me the humility to live with the flaws that you have given me and know that they are the road to you. I must never stop trying to usher in your Kingdom.
One of the paradoxes of the mystical life is this: but a man cannot enter into the deepest center of himself and pass through that sensor into God, unless he is able to pass entirely out of himself and empty himself and give himself to other people and the purity of a selfless love.
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
One of the greatest tasks of living the Christian life is to die to self. Dying to self means that we must set aside our wants, desire and way of seeking God and turn ourselves over to God’s Spirit and direction. When we take such a step we become God dependent not self dependent. Suddenly, we can see through new eyes and hear through new ears. We see and hear as God hears and many things that made no sense to us before now make sense. Merton calls it emptying ourselves in order to see others as God sees them. This new sight brings us into a life changing relationship with God and our fellow man.
This brings us the purity of selfless love. With that purity secured in us , we are ready to pursue the kingdom of God in the here and now. We can empty ourselves and learn to serve those around us with joy and not bitterness or reluctance. We can give without expecting something in return. We can now have a full understanding of the concept “turning the other cheek.” With this attitude we can live a life of victory.
Jesus tells the same story to his disciples when he speaks a parable. The seed(wheat) must fall to the ground and die before the fruit is brought forth. The seed must give up its identity as a seed and become a plant to produce what it was created to produce. That is the product of dying to self.
A good challenge to us would be to examine how our lives would be different if we truly died to self. Who would we serve? How would we serve them? What would our priorities be? How would we carry them out? By asking these questions and more we can determine just how much we have died to self.
Lord, Help me to understand what you mean when you tell us to die to self. Guide me to examine everyday whether I have died to self and risen in you. It is only with constant self examination and communication with you that I can stay on the right path. Guide me this day to find that path and follow it where its leads, because I know that is where I will find YOU.
Even when I try to please God, I tend to please my own ambition, his enemy. There can be imperfection even in the ardent love of great perfection, even in the desire of virtue, of sanctity. Even the desire of contemplation can be impure, when we forget that true contemplation means the complete destruction of all selfishness – the pure poverty and cleanness of heart.
~~~ Thomas Merton
Ambition, by itself, is not evil. When we have ambition, we improve ourselves and the world. Ambitious business people have built great companies that have provided goods and services to people and improved their lives. Doctors and scientists have developed medicines, vaccines and medical procedures that have saved the lives of untold numbers of people. The entrepreneurs and others were ambitious people who wanted to make a difference. Ambition does have a dark side. It turns dark when it is no longer shares with the welfare of others, but it is simply for self-satisfaction and aggrandizement.
Merton says that we even try to please God and yet simply feed our ambition. If we are seeking to love, serve, be virtuous or live out the fruits of the spirit for our own satisfaction it is worthless. Even in contemplation we can feed our selfish ambition. We must seek to please God outside of our self-satisfaction. God is not impressed with the works we do, the purity we possess or the prayers we pray unless they are offered to Him and not for our own drive to succeed.
In my years as a pastor and teacher I have seen this scenario carried out countless times. A person is so driven to be a model Christian that they for forget why they should be Christian. Their works are so big that they make others look small. Their words are so high and mighty that they put others down by their very nature. Their walk with God is truly a walk with themselves. This is the type of spirituality that Jesus warns about in the Sermon on the Mount. “Be careful not to perform your righteous acts before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)- This is what ambitious Christianity can evolve into, and it is the opposite of the selfless lives we are called to live.
Merton gives us some sound advice and direction. He directs us to please God by emptying ourselves of self. The emptying of self means that we offer all that we do to our creator without expectation of return or praise. We may not even be deemed successful by our neighbors and peers. Remember God sees in secret what we do in secret and rewards us greatly. This allows us pure poverty and cleanness of heart.
Lord, Allow me to use my ambitions to please you and not myself. Help me to discern the difference between selfish ambition and pureness of heart, a pure heart the prays and serves to please you and not myself. It is extremely hard in our driven and competitive world to keep a selfless focus but with your grace and help I know that it is possible. Keep me on the right path this day and give opportunities to live out my mission to you.
Physical solitude, exterior silence and real recollection are all morally necessary for anyone who wants to lead a contemplative life, but like everything else in creation they are nothing more than a means to an end, and if we do not understand the end we will make a wrong use of the means.
We did not go into the desert to escape people but to learn how to find them; we do not leave them in order to have nothing more to do with them, but to find out the way to do them the most good.
~~~Thomas Merton (New Seeds of Contemplation)
Many times in our lives we find ourselves caught in turmoil, and all we seem to be able to do is react. I believe that the underlying reason for reactionary thinking is that we never have taken the time to be alone with God. This alone time with God gives us a perspective that we can never find in any other place. Merton reminds us that silence, solitude and recollection are morally necessary to living a life that is joined with God. When we do so, we can be of greater service to the world. Doing the most good has the prerequisite of finding unity with God. Too many lay and clergy attempt to deal with the world through the means of the world. They are usually angry, utter failures who are only venting to the world in the world’s own language. I lack answers for the great dilemmas of the world, but I have some suggestions about solitude, silence, and recollection.
Solitude is a scary word that we have all come to know from one experience or another. Most times of solitude are forced upon us by some outside circumstance such as a broken relationship, sickness or even a global pandemic, but God-centered solitude is voluntary. It is a solitude that we go into to seek the face of God. Most of us do not have gobs of time for solitude, so let us begin with 15 minutes to an hour of purposeful solitude each day.
Silence is boring in a world that demands noise. The purpose of silence for the Christian is to hear the “voice” of God. When we are silent, we are open receptacles of the words of God. His words are crowded out by the white noise of day to day living. As we practice silence our ears are open to His gentle nudging. That nudging leads to words and wisdom beyond our imagination.
Recollection is painful because it requires us to examine our selves for the good and the bad. It is not until we can face the reality of our failures that we can win the real victories that God wants to give us. Take time every day to recollect your day, from the eyes of God, and you will be surprised where it takes you.
Lord, Help me to see the necessity of taking time to be in solitude, silence, and recollection every day. Assist me to find the time necessary for these practices. I trust that you will use my practices for not only my benefit but the benefit of all creation. I ask you this day to allow me to grow in such a way that I will be pleasing to you in all that I do.
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can.”
Our job is to love one another without inquiring about their worthiness. That is not the entire context of the Merton quote, but I believe it is the heart of the matter. So much of our love, our service, our commitment is hinged on the worthiness of the recipient. When we think in this manner we spend a large portion of our efforts judging our brothers and sisters. Christ never acted in such a way. He said: “Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” As we learn to follow the example of Jesus it lightens our burden of judgment, assessment or whatever you may call it and makes us free to love and serve.
Today’s world is certainly one of wars and rumors of wars. The greatest war that most of us have to fight is a self-inflected war of harshness and unkindness to one another. We fail to help those who are in need because we are too busy trying to find out why they are in need and too selfish to give them the simplicity of God’s love. I can only imagine what the world would really be like if we were willing to carry one another’s burden without assessing the cost, risk and worthiness of the recipient of our kindness.
Perhaps we can take a lesson from the monk when he says to us: “…love itself will render both ourselves and neighbors worthy if anything can.”
Lord help me this day to look upon my brothers and sisters as, just that, brothers and sisters. May I see them as fruits of your creation that are worthy of my love just as they are recipients of your love. In this ONE truth we find the peace and harmony that will fill the vastness of the void that lies in our souls.