…all sin is punishment for ingratitude. For as St. Paul says (Romans 1:21), the Gentiles, who “knew” God, did not know Him because they were not grateful for the knowledge of Him. 34

Every part of Merton’s statement here is fascinating.

  1. It is not that we are punished for our sins but rather, Merton suggests, “sin is punishment”.

When I am angry, petulant, unkind, harsh, vindictive, I am suffering. I am not punished for my anger as if some outside force inflicts pain upon me. My anger is punishment.

There is no escape from the painful consequences of living as less than I was created to be. The “punishment” is contained in the action, thought, or attitude itself.

This is a healthy corrective to the representation of God as handing out harsh punishments for the bad things I have done. The punishment for sin is built into the choice I make to live as something less than my true self.

  1. Sin is connected to “ingratitude”. When I am ungrateful, I fail to acknowledge that all of life is a gift. Without a power greater than my will, I would not breathe, my heart would stop, there would be no blood running in my veins.

Every moment of my life is a gift.

When I lose my awareness of the gifted nature of life, I start to view myself as the creator of my own life. I feel responsible for building my own life. This false belief is the source of all the tension, anxiety, insecurity, and fear that lead me to the place where I live as a being who is less than I was created to be.

  1. It is possible to “know” God without “knowing” God. It is entirely possible to have a well-stocked supply of concepts and intellectual formulations about God, while missing the intimate communion into which I am called.

I do not want to live my life knowing about that force of love who created me and is the power that rescues me from the “ingratitude” that so often causes suffering in my life.

How do I see myself suffering when I allow ingratitude to cause me to live as less than I know I was created to be?

What helps me to “know” God with an intimacy that goes beyond concepts and intellect?

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