ONE of the American spiritual writers in the 20th century who contributed to the depth of spirituality of many Christians was a monk named Thomas Merton.
In his book, “A Life in Letters,” Thomas Merton expressed his innermost desire to spend his life dwelling on God and being present to him every minute and every day.
He said that he could only do it if he loses himself, his ego, by living a life of prayer, simplicity, and anonymity. He shared that even his notoriety as a writer was preventing him from focusing entirely on God.
Thomas did not quite achieve this desire to be left alone. Because his writings on prayer and spirituality brought impact on the prayer life of people and their active apostolate, he kept receiving letters and invitation to write and give talks.
One thing became clear in Thomas Merton’s life. His prayer life, his intimate relationship with God, brought transformation to many people and the world. His letter on the need for world peace even landed on the desks of political leaders.
It’s incredible to think that a man living a contemplative life in a monastery would be a conduit of transformation and peace and impact the world.
Thomas Merton’s life would lead us to think of the necessity of prayer life and depth of spirituality. Would it be right to believe that a life of prayer, imbued with the graces of Word and Sacrament, be as essential as air, food, and water?
Putting it in a way that would challenge the mindsets of our government leaders in today’s pandemic, should the spiritual nourishment we get from our faith life and the church be considered non-essential? I’m sure that many of you would disagree with it.
If you’re like me, I don’t know how to survive the fears and anxieties of these times if not for prayer and the encouraging words of the Scriptures and the faithful witnesses of fellow Christians.
Friends, there is a way to hope, healing, and peace in this pandemic. It’s not only through isolation, social distancing, and the wearing of a mask. It’s through a relationship with a person, and that person is Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ words bring so much peace, consolation, and encouragement. In John 14:1-3, he tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and have faith in me also. In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”
A long-lasting relationship with Jesus and trust in his words and promises are life’s secrets to attaining peace and freedom.
Many of our moms taught us this lesson. My mom’s tenacity amid troubles and suffering came from her relationship with Jesus and her prayer life. I remember her always praying the Rosary at night. She held on to her Rosary through the challenges and pains of life.
So, keep fostering a good prayer life. Build up your relationship with Jesus through and reflection of his words. Trust in him who has promised us an eternal dwelling place in heaven. Thank him for becoming human like us to tell us of God’s will and his undying love. Amen.
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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.