Devotional Thought of the Day:
14 But as for you, continue in the truths that you were taught and firmly believe. You know who your teachers were, 15 and you remember that ever since you were a child, you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, 17 so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (TEV)
We are witnessing today a kind of meditation in which religion becomes a drug. Its object is to find, not an answer to truth, but a liberation from the burden and misery of each individual existence.
Though Pope Benedict’s quote is nearly 20 years in the past, I see it coming true today as well. There is a definite tendency in Spiritual Development to create a modern monasticism. There is a tendency to want to turn out the world, not to contemplate the mysteries of God as much to escape the rat-race.
We want to be freed from the brokenness of the world, we want to be saved from the misery and anxiety of today. We want respite, a rest that would refresh us.
We don’t want to leave our mountaintop experiences and return to our broken lives. I’ve seen this on too many retreats, and those who would easily volunteer to work on such retreats, experiencing the refreshing nature by observing others going through a process exploring what it means to depend on God.
But we need to meditate, we need to contemplate the mysteries of God. Meditation is not to escape life, but to embrace life in Christ, To explore the how wide, how long, how deep, how high the love of God is, by experiencing it in the midst of life. To treasure the guidance of God in His law, because we depend on His wisdom and mercy, to be amazed at the promises He has made us, and delivers in the sacraments.
That is why Paul urges Timothy to study the scriptures, to treasure them continually, for they give us the wisdom that comes from knowing we are saved, for we dwell in Jesus.
Meditation is not an escape from the world, it is the rest we need in the midst of the world, the chance to remember that the Lord is with us, the chance to take a rest and concentrate on His love, on His presence. To remember the cross, to remember our baptism and what it means, to remember the Body broken and the Blood shed for us. To see His place in our lives, revealed in the pages of the scriptures.
This is what we need, this gives us peace in the storm, a peace that can be far more powerful than the peace we find escaping the storm.
So take a moment, breathe deep, and remember you dwell in Him, and in His peace.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 328). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought for our days:
11 Just as shorts fit tightly round the waist, so I intended all the people of Israel and Judah to hold tightly to me. I did this so that they would be my people and would bring praise and honour to my name, but they would not obey me.” Jeremiah 13:11 TEV
Loneliness is indubitably one of the basic roots from which man’s encounter with God grew up. Where man experiences his solitariness, he experiences at the same time how much his whole existence is a cry for the thou and how ill-adapted he is to be only an I in himself. This loneliness can become apparent to man on various levels. To start with it can be comforted by the discovery of a human thou. But then there is the paradox that, as Claudel says, every thou found by man finally turns out to be an unfulfilled and unfulfillable promise; that every thou is at bottom another disappointment and that there comes a point when no encounter can surmount the final loneliness: the very process of finding and of having found thus becomes a pointer back to the loneliness, a call to the absolute thou that really descends into the depths of one’s own I. But even here it remains true that it is not only the need born of loneliness, the experience that no sense of community fills up all our longing, which leads to the experience of God; it can just as well proceed from the joy of security. The very fulfillment of love, of finding one another, can cause man to experience the gift of what he could neither call up nor create and make him recognize that in it he receives more than either of the two could contribute. The brightness and joy of finding one another can point to the proximity of absolute joy and of the simple fact of being found which stands behind every human encounter.
“I weep when the Enneagram or the Myers-Briggs analysis replaces the almost erotic intimacy with Christ described by John the Cross in his “Dark night of the soul,” or the stunning challenge to discipleship and companionship presented in some of the great Ignatian meditations on the mystery of Christ. The psychological tools are fun and even helpful, but they create a fascination with oneself and in the end, leave us alone with that fascination. I grow very sad when the paradoxical wisdom of our heroines and heroes is replaced by the strategies and stages of the psychological paradigm. A language that was once very large and awesomely beautiful has been transformed into a language that is very self-centered and very small.)
How closely does God want us to cling to Him?
According to Jeremiah – as tightly as shrunken old underwear clings! (Gulp! How is that for a picture! No object lessons about this in a sermon – please!)
Gosh, that is close, very close!
That is what he always intended, a relationship that is that intimate, that close. That deep, that powerfully intimate and life changing. Nothing is going to get closer!
That is why Webber’s quote in green needs to be understood. There are a lot of great tools for helping people, but ultimately, it comes down to knowing Jesus. That is what sustained saints recognized and unrecognized by the church throughout the ages. This level of intimacy with God that simply leaves us adoring Him with all that we are. The level of intimacy we find in the sacraments, the intimacy that does fill the emptiness that no community can quench on its own.
Look at the way people have chased that kind of commitment, that kind of bond. Of course is our madness with sex and the sensual. But also the many fraternal organizations ( Kiwanis, Lions, KofC, even the Masons) and each tries to create those kinds of bonds and falls short. The same thing for religious groups and orders, they come close and show this intimacy we need can exist, but they ultimately can’t replace a relationship with God.
Oddly, the Jesus movement started by promising this kind of intimacy, then as it morphed over the decades, it dropped that aside in favor of behavior modification and political power and influence. This is why mountaintop experiences like prayer retreats and groups like Cursillo are so effective – they introduce that level of relationship, in a corporate environment. They force us into it, but often fail to demonstrate that relationship is in our everyday life, and in our home church’s worship. It’s there, but we have to learn to see it!
Ultimately, we are talking about a relationship sustained as we interact with God. In the sacraments, in our time of prayer, (remember the ACTS outline – do we take enough time to ADORE Him? We are talking about a relationship where He is allowed and welcomed into our lives, and we understand we are welcome to share in His glory.
The more we experience it, the more we realize our need for it and hunger for it. The more that happens, the more we cling to Him!
Even cling to Him like a pair of old torn shrunken underwear….
He is our God, we are His people. We need Him in our lives, and He wants to be there. This is how it was meant to be….
So go, spend some time with God… think about His love.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Webber, Robert E. The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print. Ancient-Future Series. ( Dr. Webber was quoting Fr. Peter Fink in this passage)