The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived…

If we are to become spiritual, we must remain men. And if there were not evidence of this everywhere in theology, the Mystery of the Incarnation itself would be ample proof of it. … Jesus lived the ordinary life of the men of His time, in order to sanctify the ordinary lives of men of all time. If we want to be spiritual, then, let us first of all live our lives. 41,42

There have been times when I hoped my spirituality might save me from a life with which I was displeased. I hoped to be rescued from myself, to be elevated to a new plane of existence. I wanted to escape the human condition; I did not want to “remain” a man. “Ordinary” life seemed intolerable, mundane, too painful to be tolerated. Who would not want to escape into a blissful spiritual realm of light and purity?

Merton does not allow me to use my faith as spiritual diazepam. He is determined that I face reality; Jesus did not come to enable me to avoid “ordinary” life.

In John’s Gospel Jesus is reported to have said,

I came that they may have life…

But, Jesus according to John the Gospel writer is not content that I should just “have life.” John’s Jesus went on to say that he came that I may have life and

have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

Merton says, Jesus came “to sanctify the ordinary lives” of all people.

A sanctified life is not separate from struggle and pain. It is deeply present to the reality and complexity of the human condition. I live “abundant” life when, in the very midst of turmoil and suffering, I am able to find the presence of Love and Goodness.

I do not need to reject those parts of life I find uncomfortable. They are tools that open my heart to a deeper awareness of the presence of that One who sanctifies even the most painful parts of ordinary life.

What parts of life am I tempted to judge as unacceptable?

How does my perspective shift when I see every aspect of life as another tool to break my heart open to an awareness of God’s presence?