Ash Wednesday: Pope Says 'Seek To Experience God's Presence Within'
In the experience of an awareness of God dawns a new horizon: all is new
"You may ask me: 'But, does God exist? And if he exists does he really concern himself with us? Can we reach him?' It is, indeed, true that we cannot place God on the table, we cannot touch him or pick him up like an ordinary object. We must rediscover our capacity to perceive God, a capacity that exists within us"
'Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.' In these revealing words, we are drawn toward an awareness of God's presence through the realization of our human finitude and dependence on the Other who is our origin and source of life.
"Though that is great stupidity, our own is incomparably greater if we make no attempt to discover what we are, and only know that we are living in these bodies, and have a vague idea, because we have heard it and because our Faith tells us so, that we possess souls. . . . All our interest is centered in the rough setting of the diamond, and the outer wall of the castle -- that is to say, in these bodies of ours" (Interior Castle 4).
We do not have to look long nor hard at contemporary society before something very disturbing is brought to light. There are millions of people whose lives are filled to the brim with clutter and bustle, with technology and media and Internet, with friends and dinner engagements and weekend getaway plans, whose interest is keenly centered on the sights, sounds and pleasures of physical existence. All attention is focused on the "rough setting of the diamond."
As Pope Benedict XVI has frequently noted, the sad tragedy of today is that man often lives as if God does not exist; he does not direct his life by an awareness of God's constant presence. Thus man has forgotten the reality in which he is immersed: God, by his power, knowledge and essence, is unceasingly and mysteriously present to each of us, aware of each and every intimate and hidden thought within our hearts. While this type of indescribable closeness between Creator and creature is beyond human understanding, those who have been touched by it are nonetheless certain it is real.
Fr. Moynihan, in his book The Experience of God's Presence, writes: "Awareness of God, whether it come to us thus by a dazzling rending of the heavens or through the gentle whisper of His voice in our conscience, is at the beginning and end of our spiritual life, at the beginning and end of all religion. It is the root of what is truly the most radical division of mankind, one which Holy Scripture constantly reverts, that between the 'wise' who keep God before their eyes and the 'fools' who ignore him" (8).
An awareness of God is at the heart of repentance and conversion; it marks the beginning of a doorway to the sacred in which our perception of reality is clarified, and in which the muddied waters of a long ignored self-knowledge are rinsed clean by the divine impulses of the Holy Spirit, as we thus begin to gaze upon ourselves through the lens of truth as men and women created in God's image and likeness. In the experience of God's sublime immanence, one in which we come to understand that God is indeed more present to us than we ourselves are to other created objects, an entirely new form of existence unfolds before us: we "see"; we feel; we know. As a feather is gently carried off by the wind, we move and breathe and live in the Spirit, docile and attentive to his unending currents of love.
Ash Wednesday: Rediscover The Capacity To Perceive God
Ultimately, the purpose of Lent is to draw us more deeply into the experience of God's presence as an eucharistic people through an acknowledgment of our sins and failings: by accepting what we have done and what we have failed to do, drawn deeply into repentance, we seek God's abundant, healing and regenerative mercy.
Thus we hear our call to sanctity and holiness, and embrace our life mission to become "little christ's" as we enter into the Paschal Mystery of our Lord, that we may be re-created and transformed into Him whom we receive at the Paschal Banquet. Moved to acknowledge in freedom and love God's gift of himself, we fall into his compassionate arms, living in him and through him and with him, sharing in his own supernatural life as members of the divine family. At the end of this journey, is the Resurrection of Christ celebrated at the Easter Vigil: the consummation of every hope and desire. Yet this path to be traveled must begin with an awareness of God.
It must be admitted that while we can know of God's existence by the light of human reason alone, we do not become aware of his presence unless he first reveals himself to us. It is God who first chooses. Yet we must also admit that it is necessary to rediscover our capacity to perceive God through the proper use of our free will. How is this accomplished? If we are to cut and polish the diamond in order that the divine light of God at its center radiates outward, igniting every recess of our soul and our entire being with fiery ...
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