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Quotations I love: Thomas Merton on the present moment

Lynne Baab • Wednesday March 10 2021

Quotations I love: Thomas Merton on the present moment

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening or exactly where it is going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”
             —Thomas Merton

I’m doing something different today. Instead of expressing my longing that is revealed by the quotation I’m highlighting, I want to express my admiration. So many of you are doing exactly what Thomas Merton recommends. The pandemic has created one challenge after another, and I hear from family members, old friends, and blog readers just how hard you are working to “recognize the possibilities” in the present moment. I hear from so many people trying to embrace the present moment with “courage, faith and hope.”

Well done, friends.

Take a deep breath and rest for a moment. For my readers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and other places where life has been unbelievably difficult for a year now, I want to say that I can see that you have been working very hard. God honors you for your hard work.

God loved you before the pandemic, and God still loves you. God’s love surrounds you and enfolds you. God’s love has empowered you to think of creative ways to express love to those around you during these unbelievably challenging times. God has seen your moments of care, grace, and gentleness. God has seen you work hard to show love when you’d rather be irritable and nit-picky.

Well done, good and faithful servants.

God has invited you to rest in the Holy Spirit’s presence with you, and you have accepted that invitation. God has invited you to imagine Jesus right beside you in these hard days, you have watched for Jesus with you, and you have found him. You have experimented with new patterns of meeting God through walking, crafting, making art, cooking, putting puzzles together, and so many other ways. You have worked hard to find God in challenges.

Well done, friends.

You have done exactly what Thomas Merton recommends. You have tried to “recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” It’s been hard to plan, and you have tried to embrace the possibility of learning to be more flexible. It has been hard to be separated from your church family, and you have worked hard to stay connected through forms of technology that are helpful but inadequate and often frustrating, and you have strived to continue to love and pray for your church family. You have reached out to neighbors and to friends from high school you haven’t seen for years. You have showed courage, faith and hope.

Well done, good and faithful servants.

You may not feel that you have done these things. When you look at the past year, you may see a lot of irritation, laziness, and overconsumption. Mixed in, I am very sure, are many moments of hard work and striving to do exactly what Thomas Merton recommends. I hope you can pause and see the depth of your obedience to God’s commands and your embrace of God’s love – and the hugeness of God’s love for you.

Loving God, I pray for my exhausted friends, family members, and readers of this blog. And I pray for myself. Give us moments of rest from the stress of continual navigation of uncharted seas. For those of us who are grieving, comfort us. For those of us who are discouraged or even depressed, give us hope and wrap your arms around us. For those of us who are anxious, give us your peace that passes understanding. For those of us who are chafing at the demands of family members we see too many hours each day, give us perseverance in drawing on your love. For those of us who feel numb, give us your life and joy. Never have we needed you so much. Lord, have mercy on us all. Amen.

Next week: Pádraig Ó Tuama on the answer being in story. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love to get new subscribers. Sign up below if you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog.

Two articles that express some of my journey with grief:



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