Day 27 – Lenten Retreat with Thomas Keating



The True Self is who God created us to be. . . . We are made in the image and likeness of God. It’s not going to go away under any circumstances. We can try to change the direction in which we’re looking for happiness, but we will not succeed without the grace of God. For a long time we may think that we will, and this will delay the process. Effort is designed not for success, but to find out that it doesn’t work.

As soon as you let go of even a little bit, a crack occurs in our consciousness and some of the divine presence insinuates itself. The purpose of silence is to give an opportunity for the longing for God to break through the crust of the false self and our defense mechanisms, so that we can be motivated by the hunger and love to pursue the transformative process untiringly. It strengthens the soul to be willing to do almost anything, and it enhances its energy to pursue even difficult means in order to let go of whatever obstacles hinder us — hence, the willingness to let go of the things we most love, not as an end in itself, but as a means to free us from excessive attachment. God certainly wants us to love our family and all the pleasures of life. It is when we have been locked into the desire to make them substitutes for God that strong medication has to be applied. It is for that reason that I call this process “the Divine Therapy.” Therapy is not always pleasant, but the therapist isn’t out to kill us.

The Divine Therapist reveals himself to be a healer. What you are getting is an authentic, integrated view of yourself that is very realistic about your faults and over-dependencies. But you are less and less upset or humiliated by the knowledge of them. Even though this is who I am, God loves me anyway. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to improve, but you stop trying to succeed under your own steam. In other words, you wait for God to take away your faults rather than try to erase them yourself. Or, you pray that God will take them away. But if he doesn’t, then you put up with them, just as Paul had to put up with his thorn in the flesh, although he begged to be free of it three times, a symbol of his desperation. God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Not to be over-anxious about getting over your faults empowers you to wait patiently for God to take them away.

What he wants is you — that is, the deep you, the you that is beyond the superficial self of your resume and the ego self of your emotional life — the you of the True Self, which is a manifestation of God’s image in you. The spiritual journey is about finding out who you really are.

— Thomas Keating in Heartfulness

I suspect Keating rejects the doctrine of original sin. I could be wrong, I’ve not heard him say that, but as I understand his definition of “true self” it means to me that we are all created perfectly. And as we age in life, we are wounded and we commit sin. These wounds inflicted upon us and the sins we commit cover the true self. As we sit with God (Keating puts it “we consent to God’s presence), a process of pealing away those thing that cover the true self begins. Meditation with God is like pealing away layers of an onion; God heals our wounds and helps us live a less selfish, sinful life. We do nothing other than “consent to God’s presence,” right now. This practice can change your life. Dare you start today?  Try it for 5 minutes today. Just sit with God. Bask in God’s presence, just today.

Love in Christ,

Bishop +Ed


The writings of Fr. Thomas Keating are taken from Spirituality and Practice. The reflections are my own.

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M.Rev. Ed Jansen is the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Benedict and Rev. Dr. Trish Gaffney is its Vicar General


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