23 Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? 26Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’
From Thomas Merton’s No Man Is An Island, On the Will of God
• Prayer must be first as we seek God’s will – not only to discover God’s will but above all to gain the grace to carry it out with all the strength of our desire.
• The will of God, which the Holy Spirit teaches us in the secrecy of our inmost being, must always remain as much a mystery as God Godself. Our desire to know God’s will implies rather a desire to recognize certain signs of the mystery of God’s will, than to penetrate the mystery itself. If I do not remember this distinction, we no longer revere the holiness and the mystery of God’s will in itself.
• When we speak of God’s will, we are usually speaking only of some recognizable sign of God’s will. The signpost that points to a distant city is not the city itself, and sometimes the signs that point to a great place are in themselves insignificant and contemptible. But we must follow the signpost if we are to get to the end of our journey. It is one thing to see a sign, another to interpret it correctly.
• To know God’s will (which is mysterious) we must be silent in the presence of the signs whose meaning are closed to us. Otherwise, we begin to incontinently place our own superstitious interpretation upon everything – the number of steps in a doorway, a card pulled out of a pack, the shadow of a ladder, the flight of birds. God’s will is not so cheap a mystery that it can be unlocked by any key like these!
• Nevertheless there are some real signs that everyone must know. They must be easily seen and read, and they are simple. The come sparingly and are few in number. They show us clearly enough the road ahead, but not more than a few paces. Once we take those steps, what then? We must learn to be poor in our dependence on these signs, to take them as they come, not to demand more of them than we need, not to make more of them than they really tell.
• If I am to know the will of God, I must have the right attitude toward life. I must first know what life is and know the purpose of my life. God does not need our sacrifices, God asks for ourselves – charity, divine union, transformation in Christ: these are the end.
• This is why the will of God so often manifests in demands that I sacrifice myself.
• God’s will for us is not only that we should be the persons God means us to be, but that we should share in God’s work of creation and help God to make us into the persons God means us to be. God’s will for me is that I should shape my own destiny, work out my salvation, forge my own eternal happiness, in the way God has planned for me. And since no man is an island, I cannot work out my God’s will in my own life unless I also consciously help others work out God’s will in their lives.