If I am to know the will of God, I must have the right attitude toward life. I must first of all know what life is, and to know the purpose of my existence.
It is all very well to declare that I exist in order to save my soul and give glory to God by doing so. And it is all very well to say that in order to do this I obey certain commandments and keep certain counsels. Yet knowing this much, and indeed knowing all moral theology and ethics and canon law, I might still go through life conforming myself to certain indications of God's will without ever fully giving myself to God. For that, in the last analysis, is the real meaning of God's will. God does not need our sacrifices. God asks for our selves.
~ Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
St. Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch at the beginning of the second century. He was condemned to the wild beasts because of his faith, and traveled under guard from Antioch to Rome during the summer and autumn of A.D. 120. On this, his last journey, he wrote a number of letters to Christian communities, including one sent on ahead to the church in Rome. When he arrived in Rome he suffered death in the arena.
I write to all the churches; and signify to them all that I am willing to die for God, unless you hinder me. I beseech you that your goodwill may not come unseasonably upon me. Suffer me to be the food of wild beasts; whereby I may attain unto God. I am the wheat of God, and I am to be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of God...
Remember in your prayers the Church which is in Syria, which now enjoys the Lord for its shepherd, instead of me; the Lord who said, 'I am the Good Shepherd.' He alone, together with your love to Him, will be their Bishop. My spirit salutes you, and the love of the churches which have received me, for the name of Jesus Christ, and not as a passenger only. For even those churches that did not belong to me, conducted me in the way from city to city.
These things I write to you from Smyrna, by the Ephesians, those most worthy and happy persons. As for those that went before me from Syria to Rome; to the glory of God, I suppose you are not ignorant of them. Signify to them that I draw near.
~ St. Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans
Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interest, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected, and is liable to burst forth suddenly in a moment of unawareness. At all events, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.
We carry our past with us, to wit, the primitive and inferior man with his desires and emotions, and it is only with an enormous effort that we can detach ourselves from this burden. If it comes to a neurosis, we invariably have to deal with a considerably intensified shadow. And if such a person wants to be cured it is necessary to find a way in which his conscious personality and his shadow can live together.
~ C. G. Jung, Psychology and Religion: West and East
Is anything more obvious than the presence of evil in the universe? its nagging, prehensile tentacles project into every level of human existence. We may debate the origin of evil, but only a victim of superficial optimism would debate its reality. Evil is stark, grim, and colossally real.
Within the wide arena of everyday life we see evil in all of its ugly dimensions. We see it expressed in tragic lust and inordinate selfishness. We see it in high places where men are willing to sacrifice truth on the altars of their self-interest. We set it in imperialistic nations crushing other people with the battering rams of social injustice. We see it clothed in the garments of calamitous wars which leave men and nations morally and physically bankrupt.
In a sense, the history of man is the story of the struggle between good and evil. All of the great religions have recognized a tension at the very core of the universe. Hinduism, for instance, calls this tension a conflict between illusion and reality; Zoroastrianism, a conflict between god of light and the god of darkness; and traditional Judaism and Christianity, a conflict between God and Satan. Each realizes that in the midst of the upward thrust of goodness there is the downward pull of evil.
Christianity clearly affirms that in the long struggle between good and evil, good eventually will emerge as victor. Evil is ultimately doomed by the powerful, inexorable forces of good. Good Friday must give way to the triumphant music of Easter. Degrading tares choke the sprouting necks of growing wheat for a season, but when the harvest is gleaned the evil tares will be separated from the good wheat. Caesar occupied a palace and Christ a cross, but the same Christ so split history into A.D. and B.C. that even the reign of Caesar was subsequently dated by his name. Long ago biblical religion recognized what William Cullen Bryant affirmed, "Truth crushed to earth will rise again," and what Thomas Carlyle wrote, "No lie you can speak or act but it will come, after longer or shorter circulation, like a bill drawn on Nature's Reality, and be presented there for payment—with the answer, No effects."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love
Those who seek the spirit and have discovered an exciting new reality through various forms of revelation ever escape God's tests—the challenges that must be overcome in order to strengthen the Self even more and make ready for the truth. The first revelations are uniting; they make us feel special, part of something greater. Then the polarity emerges: we are pulled to a place of doubt, insecurity, loneliness, and disbelief about what happened to us in revelation. We fear the loss of the 'old self' before revelation occurred. The burning question becomes "Where now?"
No one, not even the saints, is immune. It is through the ways we behave in suffering and torment and learn from loss, grief, or sickness that the verdict for our spiritual future is given. The experiences themselves are about breaking down and conquering the old ways of being and about finding more meaning in the present, as well as some faith and hope in the future.
The spiritual battle begins in recognizing the existence of the powers of darkness and of overcoming and absorbing these presences and energies. Trials form a training ground for God. Without recognizing darkness, one cannot see light; without living in doubt, find faith. Doubt necessitates the course of conclusion; in order to embrace the new we need to be strong, certain that we can live up to the responsibilities the spiritual life requires. Through such disciplines as prayer, meditation, and therapy, we have been given means to strengthen ourselves. We become able to face evil, to become familiar with the dark side, the demons n the world and ourselves. We can recognize the powers of darkness even when they parade in the guise of light.
To understand the necessity of suffering is to surrender to the purpose of change. And this is the way to truth and a deeper, more open relationship with God. And through this comes the greatest revelation—the liberation and freedom of truth—the reward of love.
~ Lucinda Vardey
Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone—we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own isolated meditations.
The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love. And if this love is unreal, the secret will not be found, the meaning will never reveal itself, the message will never be decoded. At best, we will receive a scrambled and partial message, one that will deceive and confuse us. We will never be fully real until we let ourselves fall in love—either with another human person or with God.
~ Thomas Merton, Love and Living
The source of humility is the habit of realizing the presence of God. Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself one way or the other at all.
Humility means that you feel yourself, as a distinct person, out of count, and give your whole mind and thought to the object towards which they are directed, to God Himself in worship and to the fulfillment of His will in Christian love; and humility, in that sense, is quite plainly a source of effectiveness. The humility which consists in being a great deal occupied about yourself, and saying you are of little worth, is not Christian humility. It is one form of self-occupation and a very poor and futile one at that; but real humility makes for effectiveness because it delivers a man from anxiety, and we all know that in all undertakings, from the smallest to the greatest, the chief source of feebleness is anxiety.
There is nothing big enough to hold a man's soul in detachment from the center of himself through all the occupations of life except the majesty of God and His love; and it is in worship, worship given to God because He is God, that man will most learn the secret of real humility.
~ William Temple, Christ in His Church
Your soul is not a passive or theoretical entity that occupies a space in the vicinity of your chest cavity. It is a positive, purposeful force at the core of your being. It is that part of you that understands the impersonal nature of the energy dynamics in which you are involved, that loves without restriction and accepts without judgment.
If you desire to know your soul, the first step is to recognize that you have a soul. the next step is to allow yourself to consider, "If I have a soul, why is my soul? What does my soul want? What is the relationship between my soul and me? How does my sol affect my life?"
When the energy of the soul is recognized, acknowledged, and valued, it begins to infuse the life of the personality. When the personality comes fully to serve the energy of its soul, that is authentic empowerment. This is the goal of the evolutionary process in which we are involved and the reason for our being. Every experience that you have and will have upon the Earth encourages the alignment of your personality with your soul. Every circumstance and situation give you the opportunity to choose this path, to allow your soul to shine through you, to bring into the physical world through you its unending and unfathomable reverence for and love of Life.
~ Gary Zukav, The Seat of the Soul
The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery—even if mixed with fear—that engendered religion.
A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms—it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.
I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavor to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifest itself in nature.
~ Albert Einstein, The World As I See It