Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Living Sacrifice

"To offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God" Paul wrote to the Romans that we offer God a worthy, acceptable mind, heart and soul to our perfect, merciful Father. Monks and Nuns elect a monastic lifestyle in response to an inner call to 'seek God'. In our quest, our desire to trust and obey ~ the 'becoming' more like Christ is a mindful choice to grow apart from titles and possessions of things ~ that we might be purified from elevating ourselves by vocation or contribution. "You shall love your God with all your heart...and your neighbor as yourself." The three objects of love that the Holy Spirit refers to are: God, Neighbor, Self. Prior to his calling, Thomas Merton was a complete agnostic. At the age of 18 he entered Clare College, Cambridge. He began attending churches and admired the eloquence of the silence more than the message spoken. A great mosaic of Jesus Christ compelled him to read the new testament. Merton felt his human emptiness and began to pray and ask God to relieve him of the darkness. In 1938 he attended a Mass at Corpus Christi Church near the university. He was baptized and received Holy Communion on 2/22/39. In October 1939 he told friends he wanted to become a priest. Merton wrote books about his pilgrimage and his dialogue with Asian spiritual leaders. Accept Jesus, Know God, Love all, Serve all."lf ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7) Out of necessity we must be in Christ to live unto Him, and we must abide in Him to be able to claim the largesse of this promise from Him. To abide in Jesus is never to quit Him for another love or another object, but to remain in living, loving, conscious, willing union with Him. The Monastic lifestyle certainly allows one to not become distracted with the world. All followers of Christ in a sense; abide in Him as He abides always within each soul that accepts Him. "Ask what ye will" Humans believe that the heart MUST remain in love, the mind MUST be rooted in faith, the hope MUST be cemented to the Word, the whole soul MUST be joined unto the Lord ~ at all times ~ however, we only can KNOW with certainty that God created us for His pleasure and that we are in constant need of His grace. Merton was an orphan at the age of 15. To love God, to love our neighbor as our self ~ is to trust and obey that we are to come together in community that we may encourage one another that we are beloved of God. When Jesus came He chose to walk among us, talk with us, go fishing with us, teach us, drink wine and show us His ways in action. WHAT IS CONTEMPLATION? A small booklet written in 1950 by Merton makes the Christian life so simple to understand. "These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled" ~ "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you. Not as the world giveth do I give unto you." What JOY it is to contemplate what Jesus entrusted with us ~ what our Lord and Savior gave us! Indeed it is a magnificent vocation to "be" or "live in response" to our call by God to be holy as He is holy. Like when our mother reminds her child "BE GOOD" ~ Our holy Father is honored, as is our mother, when we choose to delight Him ~ to be His best creation ~ that we may bring Him glory! What a living sacrifice to do His will and not mine! Contemplate His love. Excerpt from WHAT IS CONTEMPLATION by Thomas Merton: "Why do we think of the gift of contemplation, infused contemplation, mystical prayer, as something essentially strange and esoteric reserved for a small class of almost un-natural beings (monks and nuns) and prohibited to everyone else? It is perhaps because we have forgotten that contemplation is the work of the Holy Ghost acting on our souls through His gifts of Wisdom and Understanding with special intensity to increase and perfect our love for Him. These gifts are part of the normal equipment of Christian sanctity. They are given to ALL in Baptism, and if they are given it is presumably because God wants them to be developed. Their development will always remain the free gift of God and it is true that His wise Providence sees fit to develop them less in some saints than in others. But it is also true that God often measures His gifts by our desire to receive them, and by our cooperation with His grace, and the Holy Spirit will not waste any of His gifts on people who have little or no interest in them. It would be a great mistake to think that mystical contemplation necessarily brings with it a whole litany of weird phenomena ~ ecstasies, raptures, sigmata and so on. These belong to quite a different order of things. They are 'charismatic' gifts, and they are not directly ordered to the sanctification of the one who receives them. Infused contemplation, on the contrary, is a powerful means of sanctification. It is the work of love and nothing is more effective in increasing our love for God. In fact, infused contemplation is intimately connected with the pure and perfect love of God which is God's greatest gift to the soul. It is deep and intimate knowledge of God by a union of love ~ a union in which we learn things about Him that those who have not received such a gift will never discover until they enter heaven. Therefore, if anyone should ask, 'who may desire this gift and pray for it?' the answer is obvious: everybody. But there is only one condition. If you desire intimate union with God you must be willing to pay the price for it. The price is small enough. In fact it is not even a price at all: it only seems to be so with us. We find it difficult to give up our desire for things that can never satisfy us in order to purchase the One Good in Whom is all our joy - and in Whom, moreover, we get back everything else that we renounced besides! The fact is that contemplation will not be given to those who willfully remain at a distance from God, who confine their interior to a few routine exercises of piety and a few external acts of worship and service performed as a matter of duty. Such people are careful to avoid sin. They respect God as a Master. But their heart does not belong to Him. They are not really interested in Him, except in order to insure themselves against losing heaven and going to hell. In actual practice, their minds and hearts are taken up with their own ambitions and troubles and comforts and pleasures and all their worldly interests and anxieties and fears. God is only invited to enter this charmed circle to smooth out difficulties and to dispense rewards." Thomas Merton ~ taken from the first pages of "What is Contemplation" printed in 1950 ~ We repent, most merciful Father God, for all our sins; for each thought that was false, unjust or selfish. For every word spoken that ought not to have been spoken; for each action done that ought not to have been done. We admit that most of our secret, hidden words and thoughts are inspired by selfishness, rebellion, pride or the desire to cause another to suffer. We admit that we are weak and that lust enters at will while we lie to ourselves and deny to God that we have impure thoughts. Forgive us Father for each broken promise, for our joy of gossip, and for participating in slander. We are reduced by our guilt for having brought ruin to others, for every word and deed that caused others pain. In Your unbounded mercy, Lord Jesus we ask You to forgive us. O God, for all these sins committed by us, forgive us for our constant failure to think and speak and act according to Your wish. AMEN

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