Maybe you do not, but I keep wondering why I have to continue my practice and practice of trying to love God each day with all my heart, with all my strength, and with all my mind, plus my neighbor as myself, and nothing happens. I do my Cistercian practices as faithfully as an old buzzard who is 80 years old can, and it sometimes seems as though I am just waiting my time. Is my goal unattainable? Am I living in La-La land, as my wife thinks? If my contemplative practice is so good, why does God not answer me instead of allowing me to wait in that hidden room in my heart and keep thinking that I am in my Physicians’ waiting room? Why can’t I reach what I seek each day? There you have it. I face the struggle each day, just as surely as Christ had to face himself in that last temptation from Satan in the Garden of Gethsemani, “Not my will but your will be done.” All of this has to do with my human nature’s desire to put a cap on a thought or finalize any activity. Achieving what we seek for the moment is our nature’s default. That is called fulfillment. What Christ was asking the Father is a human default, the result of Original Sin. Let this cup pass from me. As I see it, He was saying, “Do I really have to give you the last drop of my blood to make restitution for the sin of Adam and Eve? My human nature has doubts about going through all this suffering for those who don’t even believe in me. ” To a much less degree but no doubt in the same feeling, I say this many time I go to Lectio Divina, Eucharist, Rosary, Reading Scripture, Liturgy of the Hours, spending time in the presence of Christ in Eucharistic Adoration. I say, “I don’t see how just saying prayers bring me into the presence of Christ? I feel like I am wasting my time focusing on Christ through the Holy Spirit when I could be watching First Things First and Get Up, my favorite sports programs” (I have given up watching calumniating national news channels.)
Silence and solitude, both Cistercian charisms, are forged on the crucible of my nature which is a contact battle for who is stronger. This is why prayer is a struggle, a good battle if I conquer my human nature in favor of my life in Christ, a bad one, when I am weak and do not wait patiently for God to overshadow me with the warmth of his presence.
Chapter 4 of the Rule of St. Benedict has tools for good works that I think of often when I am tempted to be more like me rather than take up the burden of my cross each day and follow the footprints of Christ. These behaviors are not ends in themselves but are only a means to an end. The End, in this case, is also The Beginning, The Alpha, and the Omega.
20 Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way;
21 the love of Christ must come before all else.
22 You are not to act in anger
23 or nurse a grudge.
24 Rid your heart of all deceit.
25 Never give a hollow greeting of peace
26 or turn away when someone needs your love.
27 Bind yourself to no oath lest it proves false,
28 but speak the truth with heart and tongue.
29 Do not repay one bad turn with another (1 Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9).
30 Do not injure anyone, but bear injuries patiently.
31 Love your enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27).
32 If people curse you, do not curse them back but bless them instead.
33 Endure persecution for the sake of justice (Matt 5:10).
34 You must not be proud,
35 nor be given to wine (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3).
36 Refrain from too much eating
37 or sleeping,
38 and from laziness (Rom 12:11).
39 Do not grumble
40 or speak ill of others.
41 Place your hope in God alone.
42 If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself,
43 but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.
If you wait for God to be present to you with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength, you will eventually, as I have, come to the embarrassing realization that Christ has been sitting next to you, waiting for you to be aware enough to sit there in the stillness of your being and wait. Your waiting is itself a prayer.