This may be a bit challenging so I started you with a picture of God at work.
Paul speaks about the flesh (Rom 7:18-25a) which leads him to do that which he would not do and the inner self. This is Merton’s true self and false self. The false self seeks its own ends, its own fulfillment, its own pleasure. The true self is God dwelling within us, deep within our inner or true self. It is almost like Paul is expounding on the first step of a twelve step program. He is admitting that he is powerless, as Thomas Keating says, over his addictions.
Merton says we being in paradise, in original unity but, as we grow, develop, and individuate, we start creating false programs for happiness because as life rolls on our needs are not being met. Our needs for security, affection and esteem, and power and control are not always met. We develop, according to Keating, false programs for happiness, otherwise known as addictions. In his new book, Divine Therapy and Addiction, Keating reminds us that we are powerless, like Paul, in the face of our additions. By practicing centering prayer, quietly placing ourselves in the presence of God for defined periods each day, we can begin to experience the healing process. As the junk from our addictions emerges from the unconscious and comes into awareness, we gently let go. Keating says that we acknowledge the junk and then say, “Good bye.” When we let go and rest in God, God heals us.
Merton sees our life as a growing in wisdom (Sophia), age and a grace, like Jesus. Having lost our original unity, we now begin the process of divinization. Athanasius said, “God became human so that we might become divine.” In prayer, we come more and more into our true self which is Christ within us—Yes, Jesus living within us! The same Paul who is despairing over his powerlessness against the flesh, can say, “I live now not I but Christ lives in me.” This is the true self. The infinite and compassionate God has emptied Herself into creation and into us. We are the imago Dei. God lives within us and calls us to live in our true selves, in God’s love poured out within each and every one of us—no exceptions! Sophia, Wisdom, is God becoming one of us. Let your compassion and mercy come to me that I may live!
Why do you not know how to interpret the present time? (Lk 12:54) We do not know how to interpret the present time because we are living in our false selves where greed and consumerism are eating us alive. We want our comfort and our lifestyles NOW. “Drill now, drill often, and pay less.” No matter that fossil fuel reserves will run out some day.
We sit back and let government “leaders,” and corporate executives drive the bus even though we see where the bus is headed. We are too comfortable to challenge what is going on based on the application of Christian principles. We immerse ourselves in groupthink bolstered by the talking heads on Fox News.
Jesus tells us to come out of our addictions and to interpret the signs of the times in terms of his Good News—liberate the captives, give sight to the blind, set free the oppressed.
The oppressed are in the third world and now we are beginning to realize that they are in the “fourth world” in America and other wealthy nations. People lack food, clothing, shelter, education and health care and we form TEA Parties to protest spending to change structures and to alleviate human misery.
Read what Bishop Spong tells us about health care reform http://secure.agoramedia.com/spong/week371story1_prev.asp . Read what Merton tells us about war and nuclear proliferation. Listen to the Pope and Bishops on health care and economics (but not on invitations to Anglicans! In fact, I would like to apologize to our Anglican brothers and sister who have worked so hard for the rights of GLBT people and women in ministry. )
How do we interpret the signs of the times? Do we follow conventional wisdom, what’s in it for me, for us? Or, do we follow Jesus’ wisdom, “Do not worry about what you are to eat and drink?”