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Becoming a Mature Christian – Thomas Merton

March 14, 2023
Sunrise over Oakwood Cemetery in Austin, Minnesota where my mom is buried.

One of the many things that I admire and appreciate about Thomas Merton is how he sometimes gently and sometimes bluntly makes me stop and consider my own journey and vocation as a Christ-follower. In today’s reading from the Lent/Easter Devotion Lent and Easter Wisdom From Thomas Merton once again offers me a challenge to put aside selfishness and rather take on the selfless nature of Jesus.

We must be able to put aside the “economic” concern with our superficial selves, and emerge into the open light of the Christian “polis” where each one lives not for himself but for others, taking upon himself the responsibility for the whole. Of course no one assumes this responsibility merely in obedience to arbitrary whim or to the delusion that he is of himself capable of taking the troubles of the whole Assembly on his own shoulders. But he emerges “in Christ” to share the labor and worship of the whole Christ, and in order to do this he must sacrifice his own superficial and private self. The paradoxical fruit of this sacrifice of his trivial and “selfish” (or simply immature) self is that he is then enabled to discover his deep self, in Christ. Thomas Merton in Seasons of Celebration, p. 25 (from the book Lent and Easter Wisdom From Thomas Merton, Day 21)

One of the interesting learning experiences for me as we continue the journey with my dad as his dementia and health concerns is the lesson of love. Yesterday he was thanking Denise and me for taking such good care of him and mom during her last few weeks of life. I told dad that for years he and mom took care of me and that this was my/our opportunity to share that same loving gift with him and with mom.

The vast majority of our vacation time for the last six years has been spent traveling to care for our parents and loved ones. I guess you could call that time a “working vacation.” Yet it really is so much more than that. It really is a gift of love. To share these gifts of love with my mom, Shirley, Denise’s mom Jeanne and dad Roland, and her former mother-in-law and dear friend Betty who have all crossed the threshold from this life to the next has been a blessing and an honor for us. This gift of love continues for my dad, George who is on his own journey towards that threshold. In the words of Merton, we are living not for ourselves but for others.

The closing prayer for Tuesday in the Third week in Lent sums it up and so I’ll close this reflection with this prayer. May it be your prayer as well, dear reader, as your own journey continues.

Give me the grace, Lord, to transcend my limited and private self so that I might become a Christian adult responsible for those you have given me in Christ. You have called me into the politics that struggles for a just, equitable for all, society. Let me take my place among those who care for and do justice for the poor, the disenfranchised, and all those left behind by a society that worships idols and not the Father of All and for All. (pp. 44-45)

  1. What a beautiful reflection on loving those who have loved us, in the beginning of our lives. Thanks.

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