by: Marianne Williamson
Every morning when you wake up, your mind is more open to receive new impressions than at any other time. If you go directly to the news as the world defines it—to a newspaper, to radio or television that reports on the anguish and the despair of the world—and particularly if you add caffeine, don’t be mystified if you are depressed by noon. Turn to meditation or inspirational reading or whatever spiritual source material puts your mind and heart on track—on track with God’s will and on track with the deepest love, for the two are the same.
The level of thought is the level of cause. The level of your life experience manifested in the world is the level of effect. Therefore in order to change your life, you must change the nature of your thinking. Often the problem, however, is that this can be much easier said than done. And that is why spirituality supersedes traditional psychology. Sometimes it is difficult to change our thoughts. Sometimes our mental habits were formed very, very early in childhood and they represent the teaching and training of a fear-based world. And that is why we go to God. He renews your life by renewing your mind. But He cannot take from you what you will not release to Him. Take time to release to God all energies within you, all thoughts and feelings, all character defects, all wounds within you, which you know limit your life, block your growth, and keep from you the radiance and joy, which is your natural inheritance as a child of God.
As it is said in A Course in Miracles, it is not enough to bring the light to the darkness; we must bring the darkness to the light. If you go to the doctor with a broken hand, it’s not good enough to show the doctor your knee. Rather, we give to God, we place on the altar all that is wounded, all that is dark, all that is neurotic, and all that is painful in order that the spirit of God might lift up all that is low to that which is high, make all that is weak now strong, make all that is poor now rich and all that is bound by fear released into the arms of love. God Himself would replace all darkness with light. Make yourself available for the experience—and miracles will follow.
Here is a Morning Meditation for you to try:
We see in the middle of our mind a little ball of golden light. We watch this light as it begins to grow larger and larger. Until now, it covers the entire inner vision of our mind. You see for yourself in this light a beautiful temple. You see a garden that surrounds the temple and a body of water that flows through the garden. You see that the inside of the temple is lit by this same beautiful golden light. And here you are, for you have been born to this day in the spirit and grace of God. We surrender who we are. We surrender this day. May only God’s will prevail. You open your heart to all living things.
Thank you, God, for this day. Thank you for this new chance, this new opportunity for life. We call to mind everything that will happen on this day. Call to mind all the people in your life. For the relationships that are good and peaceful and abundant. Give thanks in your heart and commit within to participate even more fully, even more compassionately, to be even a greater space of love for these people with whom you share the fruits and goodness of your life. We place all these relationships in the hands of God.
Now gently call to mind the people with whom you are not in good relationship, the people or situations that annoy you, the burdens, the questions, the problems that you carry. Do not push them away. Do not allow yourself to become distracted. Rather call to mind all the burdens on your heart and gently, tenderly deliver them into the hands of God. In the mind of God lies a perfect day. You surrender now who you were yesterday. And ask that the spirit of God enter into you and lift you up to the better angel of your being.
May the spirit of God come upon you and smooth out all your rough edges. May the spirit of God come upon you and remove every burden you carry.
A path lies before you of perfect grace. It exists. Take the hand now of your Divine guide, be it an angel, be it Jesus, be it the presence of an amorphous light, allow your guiding light to walk across the bridge from your old self lost in fear and limitation and ego and pain, released now to the possibility of unlimited grace and radiance through the power and presence of God.
Give meaning to my life, health to my body and graciousness to my heart on this day and every day, may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, for me and for all humankind. Amen.
by Daniel P. Horan, OFM
“No one can really embrace the Christian asceticism mapped out in the New Testament unless he [or she] has some idea of the positive, constructive function of self-denial. The Holy Spirit never asks us to renounce anything without offering us something much higher and much more perfect in return … The function of self-denial is to lead to a positive increase of spiritual energy and life. The Christian dies, not merely in order to die but in order to live. And when he [or she] takes up his cross to follow Christ, the Christian realizes, or at least believes, that he is not going to die to anything but death. The Cross is the sign of Christ’s victory over death. The Cross is the sign of life. It is the trellis upon which grows the Mystical Vine whose life is infinite joy and whose branches we are. If we want to share the life of that Vine, we must grow on the same trellis and must suffer the same pruning.” — Thomas Merton
Merton’s call for us to follow the asceticism of Christian evangelical life is not simply an arbitrary practice that is an end in itself, but must always be seen in the broader context of Gospel living. As Merton points out, the penitential practices of lent are not to be self-serving, but should be oriented toward freeing us up to be more focused on the important things in life. “The function of self-denial is to lead to a positive increase of spiritual energy and life.”
There are a few things that I particularly find worth considering in Merton’s reflection here. One thing is the sense of death to self that Merton presents in association with Christian self-denial. It is the Pauline notion of “dying to one’s self” in order to be more focused on living as a member of the Body of Christ, as part of the Vine Merton describes here. St. Paul writes to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20), so too, Merton reminds us, are we called to live not for ourselves but as a member of Christ’s body.
The notion of being part of the Vine along the trellis poetically suggests that we don’t do this alone and in our own, arbitrary way. We have to look to God’s very self-revelation in Christ and in the historical manifestation of God’s disclosure in scripture. Here is the locus of our unity and communal support in living more fully the Christian life. Here is the trellis upon which the whole Body of Christ grows and supports one another as part of the Vine.
During this season of lent, we are challenged to pause and reflect on how we go about our everyday lives. Are we aware of our intimate connection to the rest of the Body of Christ? Do we try to life for ourselves alone, away from the Vine, apart from the branches, off the trellis of community where the Pilgrim People of God strive to flourish together? Perhaps we can follow the example of Merton and Paul, seeking in our daily lives — in big and little ways — to die to our own self-centeredness, our own priorities and concerns, and those things which constitute our own frivolous desires rather than the true and inherent aspiration we have deep within to be at home with one another and the rest of creation in Christ.