“The eyes of the saint make all beauty holy and the hands of the saint consecrate everything they touch to the glory of God, and the saint is never offended by anything and is scandalized at no [person’s] sin because [s]he does not know sin. [S]He knows nothing but the love and the mercy of God and [s]he is on earth to bring that love and that mercy to all.”
From Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (New Directions Books, 1949, p 21)
I find this quote from Catholic religious thinker Thomas Merton very challenging. It requires that I reframe my interactions with others through the lens of what the other needs to be “effective” as a human being. It forces me to ask, in each interaction, how can we become “more human” together?
If you want to know what is meant by “God’s will”, this is one way to get a good idea of it. “God’s will” is certainly found in anything that is required of us in order that we may be united with one another in love. … Everything that is demanded of me, in order that I may treat every other person effectively as a human being, “is willed for me by God under the natural law.” … I must learn to share with others their joys, their sufferings, their ideas, their needs, their desires. I must learn to do this not only in the cases of those who are of the same class, the same profession, the same race, the same nation as myself, but when those who suffer belong to other groups, even to groups that are regarded as hostile. If I do this, I obey God. If I refuse to do it, I disobey God. It is not therefore a matter left open to subjective caprice.–Thomas Merton
New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (New Directions Press, 1961, p. 76-77)
Part of an adult experience of Lent is wrestling with thought’s like Merton’s below:
How many people are there in the world of today who have “lost their faith” along with the vain hopes and illusions of their childhood? What they called “faith” was just one among all the other illusions. They placed all their hope in a certain sense of spiritual peace, of comfort, of interior equilibrium, of self-respect. Then when they began to struggle with the real difficulties and burdens of mature life, when they became aware of their own weakness, they lost their peace, they let go of their precious self-respect, and it became impossible for them to “believe.” That is to say it became impossible for them to comfort themselves, to reassure themselves, with the images and concepts they found reassuring in childhood.
Place no hope in the feeling of assurance, of spiritual comfort. You may well have to get along without this. Place no hope in the inspirational preachers of Christian sunshine, who are able to pick you up and set you back on your feet and make you feel good for three or four days-until you fold up and collapse into despair.–Thomas Merton
“Justify my soul, O God, but also from Your fountains fill my will with fire. Shine in my mind, although perhaps this means ‘be darkness to my experience,’ but occupy my heart with Your tremendous Life. Let my eyes see nothing in the world but Your glory, and let my hands touch nothing that is not for Your service. Let my tongue taste no bread that does not strengthen me to praise Your great mercy. I will hear Your voice, and I will hear all the harmonies you have created singing your hymns. Sheep’s wool and cotton from the field shall warm me enough that I may live in Your service; I will give the rest to the poor. Let me use all things for one sole reason: to find my joy in giving You glory.” –Thomas Merton
From New Seeds of Contemplation (New Directions Press, 1961, p. 44)