Ah, Lord, my Maker and One True Light, these days though dryness seems to prevail, the living hope you gave me so many years ago is ever present, and in fact it has a newness so new that it almost seems foreign at times. This sounds cryptic, but I find no words with which to delve any deeper.
Oh God, whose breath animates the mortal frame I wear, whose breath made me a living soul, I worry so about offending You. It seems such an easy and all-to-natural thing to do, and it grieves me. The words of your magnificent servant, Fr. Louis, known to most as Thomas Merton, roll around in my heart and mind today and stir up dust of ages past in a place most untidy. He writes:
“As a man is, so he prays. We make ourselves what we are by the way we address God. The man who never prays is one who has tried to run away from himself because he has run away from God. But unreal though he be, he is more real than the man who prays to God with a false and lying heart.
The sinner who is afraid to pray to God, who tries to deny God in his heart,is, perhaps, closer to confessing God than the sinner who stands before God, proud of his sin because he thinks it is a virtue. The former is more honest than he thinks, for he acknowledges the truth of his own state, confesses that he and God are not at peace with one another. The latter is not only a liar himself, but tries to make God a liar also, by calling upon Him to approve of his own lie. Such was the Pharisee in the parable, the holy man who practiced many virtues, but who lied before God because he thought his piety made him better than other men. He despised sinners, and worshiped a false god who despised them like himself.
Prayer is inspired by God in the depth of our own nothingness. It is the movement of trust, of gratitude, of adoration, or of sorrow that places us before God, seeing both Him and ourselves in the light of His infinite truth, and moves us to ask Him for the mercy, the spiritual strength, the material help that we all need. The man whose prayer is so pure that he never asks God for anything does not know who God is, and does not know who he is himself: for he does not know his own need of God.”
(No Man is an Island, Chap. 3, Paragraphs 12 & 13)
As surely you must already know, I can identify with nearly every type and sort of sinner mentioned by Fr. Louis in the aforementioned quote. Without question, on countless occasions I have been and will most assuredly be again the man who never prays and tries to run away from himself. Where I have trouble here is discerning whether I am just simply a coward, or if there something perhaps more sinister at work. I have, on far too many occasions, also been the man who prays to God with a false and lying heart. Although to this, I must confess that somehow You gave me early on, a most severe distaste for. For whenever I find myself in such a place where I might pray as such, I am nearly always stricken in heart for it, deeply disturbed by my own hypocrisy and falsehood. Years ago, I would simply let it go at that, and think no further on it until the next time it happened. But these days, I am seeing the gift that is the conscience which You have given us, O Lord. I am severely guilty of having paid too little attention to mine for far too long. It grieves me so, Lord…
I have been at times the sinner who is afraid to pray to You, Lord, and have, strangely enough, found a kind of comfort in at least knowing the truth of it, of being afraid, or of finding no words, or having no direction. As unpleasant a place that is, there is still a kind of virtue, albeit a shady one, to at the very least being true to where one is at, and not trying to pretend otherwise. I am especially grateful for your Mercy at such times, my God and Redeemer, and am aware of how utterly unworthy I am of it…
The only one I cannot immediately identify with in Fr. Louis’ words is perhaps the Pharisee, although it seems very likely that I am guilty of the very same, I just don’t remember. Strangely, of all the types and sorts of sinners mentioned by Fr. Louis, the Pharisee is the one I feel a bit soft toward. It seems to me that perhaps he is the blindest of the bunch. And for that, I just feel sad. I wish it were not so for him, and that he could be free. I wonder about how his life turned out, whether or not he ever found freedom? Was he every able to reconcile the faith that he knew with the Word of his Messiah? I hope so. Surely he could not have been any more or less messed up spiritually, mentally, emotionally than the rest of us? The condition of his soul, as mentioned by Fr. Louis, finds a place in my heart, Lord and I suppose all I can do is let that be as it is, before You, who knows all and sees all that is, will be and ever was…
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you,
Blessed are you among women, and bless is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As is was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.