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The Hunger of the Human Heart: Communion with God

6/19/2005 - 5:18 AM PST

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By Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
Catholic Online

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“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” Jesus, St. John’s Gospel 14:23

"Jesus, in whom the fullness of God dwells, has become our home by making his home in us he allows us to make our home in him. By entering into the intimacy of our innermost self he offers us the opportunity to enter into his own intimacy with God. By choosing us as his preferred dwelling place, he invites us to choose him as our preferred dwelling place. This is the mystery of the incarnation. Here we come to see what discipline in the spiritual life means. It means a gradual process of coming home to where we belong and listening there to the voice which desires our attention. Home is the place where that first love dwells and speaks gently to us. Prayer is the most concrete way to make our home in God…" --- Henri Nouwen

"MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone..." --- Thomas Merton

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Some contemporary books on prayer, spirituality and faith attempt to reduce the “spiritual” life to a formula that will make us feel better or perhaps help us to “achieve” something. In even attempting to do so (it can never be done), they fail to satisfy the hunger of the heart and miss the inner truth of the call to communion with the living God. They also fail to open up the true beauty of the spiritual vocation, the call to live our lives in God.

Prayer is the doorway, the threshold into a relationship of intimacy with the God of the whole universe who not only created the world -and all who dwell within it - but who fashioned men and women for communion with Him. In and through His Son, Jesus Christ, we are invited be re-created, made new, re-fashioned and redeemed. This is now made possible through the Redemption, the great “kenosis” or Self- emptying of Jesus Christ. The God who creates and re-creates us out of love, desires to come and make His home within those make a place for Him. That “making a place” and the dialogue that it entails, that communion with God in Jesus, becomes as well a communion with one another and the entirety of creation. This all unfolds, is cultivated and grows, through prayer.

The Christian revelation answers the existential questions that plague every human heart. It presents the path back to a full communion with God through our response to His invitation of surrendered love. This path is paved by the exercise of our freedom. We are called to empty ourselves and be filled with His presence. He is the God who comes to us. Our lives, lived now in God, through Christ, are to proceed through prayer. Prayer opens up the classroom of communion where we can learn and discern the truth about whose we are - and who we can become. In prayer, we can begin to understand the reason that this communion, for which we were created, seems to be so elusive at times; why we feel so lost, in an apparent struggle with our own disordered appetites and at odds with the beauty and order of the very creation within which we dwell. That is because prayer opens us up to revelation. True theological insight must be apprehended through communion. That is why the true theologians are mystics.

It is the Christian revelation that helps to explain the seemingly aimless plight of humanity, which is wandering, like Cain, in the land of Nod, East of Eden. It tells us that the communion with God was fractured by something that western Christians call “sin”. Christians of the East, Catholic and Orthodox, speak of the same reality, but often in different language. They focus us on the separation from God and fragmenting of the human that is its sad result, in order to lead us to a renewed communion. At its core, sin is a choice against God’s invitation to this communion of love. “Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself”, explains the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC Par. 1861).

The right exercise of our freedom is the doorway to a lifetime of response to the continual invitations to communion. God invites, we ...

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