"The days of life continue to be given. Someone is giving them. All I know for sure is that I am born and merely a small part of a much greater birth. It is enough for a lifetime of wonder.
"And that is what it has been. Born into a working-class family in the middle of the Second World War in a small Kansas town, I was unprepared for the life that would follow. Yet forty-seven years later, I know that I am both utterly different and exactly the same as that little boy who I now remember as a distant but special friend. Who is the Master Worker who has put my life together with such sleight of hand? This God is both my source and my goal, someone I must meet although I am convinced it will be as much a recognition as a discovery. The evidence is around and within me. And the faith to seek and love this mysterious God feels like the same faith that drives me to seek and love myself. Someone is finding me. And I am in wonder.
"No matter what religion or denomination we are raised in, our spirituality comes from our life experience. The great Traditions only give name, shape, and ultimate direction to what our heart knows from other sources. This is not new or unorthodox but exactly what Paul said to the Romans: 'Ever since God created the world, God's everlasting power and divinity however invisible have been there for the mind to see in the things of creation.' Similarly, as the Old Testament said, 'It is not beyond your strength or beyond your reach. It is not in the heavens, so that you need to ask, 'Who will go up to heaven and bring it down to us?' Nor it is beyond the seas, so that you need to ask, 'Who will cross the seas and bring it back to us?' No, the Word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart' (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). We must honor the infinite mystery of our own life's journey to recognize God in it. Or is it the other way around? It seems that God is not going to let us get close unless we bring all of ourselves in love including our brokenness. That's why the Good News really is good news. Nothing is wasted.
"If I do have an ordered theology, I guess a secure childhood would be its beginning and foundation: reality can be trusted. The core is good. Despite all evidence to the contrary, what is is OK. As our Franciscan Doctor, St. Bonaventure, put it, 'Being and Goodness are the same thing. They differ only by reason of words.' That affirmation is not logically or even psychologically obvious. It is a gift of grace. Some call it faith, some call it hope, and some call it love. But it is surely the beginning of the spiritual journey. The Catholic Tradition calls these the theological virtues, which mean that both their source and their goal are the same God. These virtues are not worked for, chosen, or achieved. They are given to those who ask, wait, and expect. Until the foundational faith, hope, and love are received, most religion is a disguise, pretense, or a waste of time, more part of the problem than part of the solution.
"Until God has elicited that primordial act of confidence in ourselves, in others, in the natural world, it is actually a dodge and a deception to talk about having confidence in God-out-there. The words have no concrete meaning, and religion will only lead us to various forms of legalism, pharisaism, and fear, to cover up our basic lack of confidence in anything or anybody. Virtue is of one piece. You cannot be cynical about yourself and confident in God, because you really have not gone to the school that teaches confidence: the world of adversity. You cannot love anyone unless you learn how to love everyone. Loving, as opposed to liking, is a gift of God's pure being, not called forth by some and withheld from others. It simply is and has nothing to do with the object meeting our needs. Hope is not occasioned by things working out as we expected. If our hope rises or falls according to circumstances, we do not have hope. As Paul says so well in Romans, 'We can be happy right now. Our trials produce endurance, and endurance produce stubborn hope, a hope that will not disappoints us. It is the love of God poured forth in our heart' (5:4-5).
"These are two spiritual disciplines that keep me honest and growing: contemplative prayer and the perspective from the bottom. Regarding the first, I was always encouraged in contemplative prayer from my early days as a Franciscan novice. But it was only five years ago that I was freed for a year to pursue that part of my vocation. It was a major turning point. After a thirty-day solitude in Thomas Merton's hermitage in Kentucky, I spent the rest of the year at a Franciscan novitiate house in Cincinnati. I took as my guide a simple phrase: 'Don't think. Just look.' Father McNamara's definition of contemplation became transformative: 'A loving look at the real.' The world, my own issues and hurts, all goals and desires gradually dissolved into proper perspective. God became obvious and everywhere.
"You see, we do not earn or find God. We just get ourselves in the way. We let go of illusion and the preoccupations of the false self. As the cheap scaffolding falls away, the soul stands revealed. The soul, or true self, cannot be created or worked for. It is awakened. It is, and it is already. The soul is God's 'I AM' continued in me. that part of me already knows, desires, and truly seeks God. That part of me knows how to pray naturally. Here 'I' and God seem to be one 'I.' All we need to do is forget the false self. Don't fight, hate or reject it. Just observe it and let go of it. As you let go of your own 'house' you will find yourself living in a place that is both 'utterly different and exactly the same.' Merton called it 'the palace of nowhere' and Jesus called it 'the Father's house.' It is the only place you will ever want to live.
"I am not there, but I am being urged and led in spite of myself. Someone out there and within here is loving me and loving through me. The days continue to be given. And I am in wonder."