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    Entries in Spiritual Knowledge (2)

    Wednesday
    Sep142016

    Living What We Know

    In Thoughts in Solitude, Thomas Merton writes:

    A purely mental life may be destructive if it leads us to substitute thought for life and ideas for actions. The activity proper to man is not purely mental because man is not just a disembodied mind. Our destiny is to live out what we think, because unless we live what we know, we do not even know it. It is only by making our knowledge part of ourselves, through action, that we enter into the reality that is signified by our concepts.

    When Merton speaks of "man" he addresses all of humankind, both male and female, who are equally adept at the substitutions described above. Within the same chapter, Merton states, "Spiritual life is not mental life. It is not thought alone. Nor is it, of course, a life of sensation, a life of feeling--'feeling' and experiencing the things of God, and the things of the spirit."

    This understanding of the spiritual life does not exclude the mind or emotions. Merton states plainly, "It needs both." Spiritual life is human life, and encompasses every aspect of our being. Merton writes, "If man is to live, he must be all alive, body, soul, mind, heart, spirit. Everything must be elevated and transformed by the action of God, in love and faith."

    Jesus summed up the Law and the Prophets by saying that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and spoke a parallel command to love one's neighbor as oneself. Love directed toward God leads to proper self-love that overflows to those around us. Both Jesus' exegesis of the Old Testament and his sequencing is significant. When the entire self is directed toward God and then metamorphosized by God's grace, the natural result is action.

    Action within the spiritual life is characterized by living what we know. What we know is the God who has decisively been revealed in and through the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In John 17:3, Jesus says, "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."

    In John 20:21, the resurrected Jesus sends his disciples as he has been sent. To encounter the resurrected Christ is to be incorporated into his action, his mission. Jesus is no longer a concept, but the living Lord who calls us to act as agents in his eternal kingdom, which is our newfound reality.

    God's action always precedes our own. It is grace that initiates, sustains, and brings our faith to completion. Grace also calls, activates, empowers, and sends us forth to act as servants of Jesus Christ. Knowing him, may we live what we know.

    Monday
    Jan272014

    The Long Trail and the Warm Hearth

    Photo by Óskar Steinn

    "Nothing gives rest but the sincere search for truth."
    -Blaise Pascal

    Pascal has give us a paradox: rest is found in the sincere search; the end of which is truth. Truth is journey, and destination. Truth has revelatory and restorative power; it is both propulsive and enticing. It is a walk and an abiding; a long trail and a warm hearth.

    If we pause long enough to consider it, truth is something we simultaneously avoid and desire. It is always bearing down upon us. We construct and reconstruct our perceptions of reality in a way that aligns with the really real, or the really convenient. We live in reality, we persist in fantasy. The human heart longs for truth, but bends toward deception. The person who is at rest has found truth, has discovered reality, and is coming to terms with the way of the world. The person who is not at rest deals in fiction, abandons the sincere search, and persists with the instability of unreality. Too often, we delight in our folly.

    The spokesperson for Christ, in many respects, has an immense responsibility. We give witness to truth. We believe that Jesus, in his life and teachings, showed us the really real, and through trusting him and becoming his disciples, we too may enter that reality. He called it "kingdom." Truth, according to Jesus, is public. Matters of the spiritual life are not relegated to the private realm of "faith" or "mere belief," but are instead matters of knowledge. Anyone wishing to have this knowledge may have it. Those who seek shall find, those who knock shall have the door opened, those who ask, it will be given to them.

    Jesus once said that those who hear his words and put them in to practice are like the wise person who built their house upon the rock. But for those who failed to heed his word, that too has a consequence. For Christians obsessed with truth telling, we must remember that truth well told is enhanced by the texture of life well lived. Our greatest witness to the truth of the gospel is given by those who walk in the grace given in Christ, and whose lives are humbly committed to putting his words in to practice.

    Christians believe, very simply, that truth is not a proposition or set of propositions, but a person. Knowledge of the person, Christ, leads us to develop a language about him, consisting of words and our actions, sometimes taking shape as propositions, but most fully taking expression in a life at rest in God, a rest so filled with grace that the sincere search is not frantic, but easy, threaded with trust and defined as friendship.

    If you are truly seeking, if your search is sincere, ask God to teach you that which is realiable, sound, and most of all, true. Look to Jesus. Consider his words and begin by doing what he says. Let your yes be yes and no be no. Pray for your persecutors. Welcome the stranger. Consider how his words expose the human heart, uncover our propensity toward wrong actions, or, for the disciplined, our mixed motives. Let your inquiry be marked by an openness to knowing, not merely believing. And see if the confidence you gain in God does not lead to a kind of rest, a letting go, an acknowledgement that God is indeed God, and that you are not. See if a smallness does not set in, and a realization that salvation is a present need which God has already met in Christ.

    Truth, and the knowledge of truth, leads to freedom. Spokespersons for Christ believe that truth became flesh and blood, bled and died, and was raised again. Even now, he reigns, and invites us to live in the light.

    Let the wise sincerely seek truth, and may all who seek, find, and rest.