Read Psalm 22.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? (Psalm 22:1)

You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! . . . he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him. . . . The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. (Psalm 22:23-26)

Who is it who shall eat and be satisfied? The poor. Who is it who shall praise the Lord? Those who seek. Who is it who shall glorify him, and stand in awe of him? Those who fear. Those who have been forsaken. The afflicted. The groaning. Those from whom God is so far from helping.

Note that those who may seek the Lord are not those who have already found him. Those who may eat are not the rich.

Who may aspire to know God, to serve him wholeheartedly, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be made like him? It is not those who already are made perfect. It is we. All of us. Christ died to save sinners.

The mellifluous Saint Bernard put it this way:

Every soul, even if it is loaded down with sins, ensnared in vices, entrapped by the enticements of pleasure, a captive in exile, imprisoned in the body, stuck in the mud, caught in the mire, bound to its members, enslaved by cares, distracted with business, shrinking with fear, afflicted with griefs, astray in errors, troubled by anxieties, disturbed by suspicions, and lastly, a stranger in a hostile land and, as the prophet puts it, sharing the pollution of the dead, counted with those who go down to hell—we have learned that every soul, even thus condemned and thus despairing, can turn back and can find that it can not only breathe the hope of forgiveness and mercy, but even dare to aspire to be the Bride of the Word, when it is not afraid to make alliance with God and to take on the sweet yoke of love with the King of the angels. . . .

Why, then, does it doze in idleness?*

Thomas Merton writes,

Why do we think of the gift of contemplation, infused contemplation, mystical prayer, as something strange and esoteric reserved for a small class of almost unnatural beings and prohibited to everyone else? It is perhaps that we have forgotten that contemplation is the work of the Holy Ghost acting on our souls through his gifts of Wisdom and Understanding with special intensity to increase and perfect our love for him. These gifts are part of the normal equipment of Christian sanctity. They are given to all in baptism, and if they are given it is presumably because God wants them to be developed.
Infused contemplation is intimately connected with the pure and perfect love of God which is God’s greatest gift to the soul. It is a deep and intimate knowledge of God by a union of love—a union in which we learn things about Him that those who have not received such a gift will never discover until they enter heaven.

Therefore, if anyone should ask, “Who may desire this gift and pray for it?” the obvious answer is: everybody.

But there is only one condition. If you desire intimate union with God you must be willing to pay the price for it. The price is small enough. In fact it is not even a price at all: it only seems to be so with us. We find it difficult to give up our desire for things that can never satisfy us in order to purchase the One Good in Whom is all our joy—and in Whom, moreover, we get back everything else that we have renounced besides!†

Do you wish to praise the Lord, to stand in awe, to see his face? The promises are for you, no matter your current state. Aspire. Strive. Seek his face. This is not the time to hold back in false humility.

*Selected works, Paulist Press, 1987, pp. 270-271 (Sermon 83).
† Thomas, Merton, What Is Contemplation, rev. ed., Templegate Publishers, 1981, pp. 7-11.

Harry Plantinga

Harry Plantinga is a professor of computer science at Calvin University and the director of and