This summer I filled out 24 pages of an application in order to teach contemplation and mediation to inmates in the prison system in Florence, AZ. When announcing I was entering the prison, some of my friends rejoiced that I was finally found out! Very funny friends. Actually, they remind me that “religion without humor is deadly.”
Thomas Merton is the singular person/priest who brought the Catholic community and eventually the Protestant community to the forgotten art of contemplation. That is the necessary ingredient in order to see others as God sees them, and to see ourselves as God sees us. Can you imagine any group of people who need to know “how God sees them” more than the incarcerated in our society? Many are stuck with a misplaced belief anywhere from “God is disappointed in me; to God hates me.” We will seek an experience to reverse that and help them to see themselves as God sees them, which is with arms of loving forgiveness.
In Louisville, Kentucky back in the 1950’s on the Corner of 4th and Walnut Streets (Now Muhammad Ali Boulevard), Thomas Merton had an experience. He said: “I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness. . . .”
Religion is a word that means “binding together that which has been separated.” Merton’s experience was the best definition of a true religious experience. How disappointing it is for you and I to realize that religion has been used as the greatest cause of separation rather than the agent of binding us together as God intended. And God is not amused by this terrible use of religion in all its forms.
In the words of the Apostle Paul, the whole creation today “groans” in anticipation of the day that we all awake from the “dream of separateness” and see each other and ourselves through the lens of God’s eyes. May we get a glimpse of that in the presence of each other until that promised day comes.
Peace to you,
Dr. Richard A. Wing, Co-Pastor