27 September 2008

Union with God, The Goal of All Our Actions

"Seek ye first the kingdom and the rest shall be added unto you." Matt. 6:33

As we are bombarded daily with pessimistic news stories on the economy, society, the election, war, etc. it is easy to succumb to despair unless we are grounded in our faith. While it is important to be informed it should not overwhelm us nor cause us to neglect our primary duties. We can remain in the world but not of the world if we remember first a life of prayer and detachment.

Fr. Gerald Vann O.P. wrote in his book "Heart of Compassion" that it is possible to become saints in the middle of a busy world but to accomplish this "we must commit ourselves to daily prayer." We should try and set aside a half hour a day, but as a bare minimum 15 minutes, in silence and solitude for the purpose of prayer. "You can find God in the midst of a busy life, but not if you never for moment withdraw your mind from its business and wait upon Him."

Those who are filled with zeal for activity for the world, but are tempted to dismiss the need for daily prayer as a luxury in such times of crisis as these, may learn a lesson from the story of Elijah. He brought down fire from Heaven upon his offering and slew the idolaters of Baal, and he was jubilant, thinking he had served God well. But then he saw his triumph turn to ashes and was forced to flee for his life. And in his humiliation and self-contempt, he threw himself down under a juniper tree and begged God that he might die, because he was no better than his fathers. And God vouchsafed him a vision, and showed him why his success had turned to failure.

First there came a great wind, which overthrew the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces, but the Lord was not in the wind; and then there came an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and then there came a fire, but still the Lord was not there. But after all these symbols of wrath and might and terror, there came the whisper of a gentle wind, or, in another version, the sound of a still small voice; and when the prophet heard it, he covered his head with his mantle for he knew that this was the Lord. 3 Kings 18:36-40

The vision was to teach Elijah, first, that you cannot fight for a merciful, gentle God without the weapons of a merciful , gentle God; but perhaps we may see in it a further symbolism. For this zeal without wisdom, this determination to fight for God without understanding the nature of God, is the very thing we shall do unless we set out to seek Him before we attempt to serve Him. And if we seek Him, we must seek, not in sound and fury, but in the deep silence in which alone His voice can be heard.

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