When Jesus summoned his first disciples, they left their boats and nets to follow him. There was something unique and irresistible in Jesus that spoke to them in their depth (though it will take time for them to grasp and live the fullness of this truth). Their day to day life, with all its happenings, was not strong enough to hold them back.
Paul, consumed by his love for Jesus would declare, “[But] whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philp 3:8).”
The desert Fathers and Mothers sought solitude and silence, not as escapism from the world, but to fulfill a deeper desire for communion and intimacy with God.
The Confessions of St. Augustine is the story of Augustine of Hippo who eventually comes to Christ; the truth he was searching for.
The wealth of his father could not deter young Francis of Assisi from following Christ.
Nothing could prevent the young Thomas Aquinas from his firm resolve to follow Jesus, as a Dominican, for the rest of his life.
Mother Theresa, Oscar Romero, Thomas Merton, C.S Lewis, M.L. King Jr, Abhishikananda, Bede Griffths, and many holy men and women who have embraced a life relationship with God are a witness to a life of unfathomable joy and peace in God.
Don’t we come across similar scripts in the lives of some of the great Non-Christian religious teachers as well: Buddha, Paramahamsa Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Kabir, Ramana Maharishi, Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Om Swami, Rumi, Rabia, and others?
A sincere and a genuine longing for God (Truth/Reality) and willingness to root their life in God alone is what set them apart from others. The words of the Scripture, “In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28)” defined their lives. They are shining witnesses to what St. Theresa says, “God alone suffices.”
God alone suffices - these three words are the foundation on which her beautiful prayer stands. Apart from this cornerstone, the rest of the prayer doesn’t make any meaning. What does Theresa mean by “God alone suffices?” Theresa, while tirelessly laboring for the reformation of the Carmelite Order, was aware that successes and failures, setbacks and glory, achievements and unrealized goals, praise and blame … will pass away but what never passed away was her deep longing and relationship with God (though she too would have experienced what most spiritual seekers experience the ‘dark night of the soul’). It is her relationship with God that held her being together, gave her meaning and purpose in life, lasting happiness, and peace in the midst of all that was happening in her life knowing that her life was in the hands of the one who never changes. She reminds us that the objects which give rise to our emotions and feelings (joyful and sad) are not permanent but the pure joy that comes from God will never pass away; God never changes. God remains the same; yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Isn’t it better to derive our joy, peace, and happiness from that which remains the same; God?
Does that mean one has to abandon one’s duties and responsibilities to be in a deep and personal relationship with God? From Theresa’s spiritual life we know that all her efforts at reformations sprang from her deep relationship with God. It is a question of priority. Isn’t the very first commandment of the Ten Commandments calls us to place God as our priority and foundation? It is from this fulcrum that the rest of the commandments focus on our relationship with others and to material objects. Jesus reminds us: “But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, …” (Mt 6:33). Ramakrishna Paramahansa used to say, “As a lamp does not burn without oil, so a man cannot live without God.” Is God the burning desire in us? Is there a deep longing in us – a longing that can never be satiated by anyone or anything in this world?
God alone suffices. Commitment to love God with one’s heart, soul, and mind is not rejection of people and things in our life. As social beings we find ourselves in various networks of relationships and definitely we need material things to live by; they have and fulfill a purpose in our life as well. God alone suffices implies that ‘Man does not live by bread alone.’ We need daily breads to live for the ‘Bread’ alone. The question is what and who holds our life together giving it meaning and purpose. Can it be the passing things of this world or the one who never changes? For spiritual seekers it is God alone who is the center and the foundation of life. Firmly rooted in the center they move to the periphery. Isn’t it true that anyone who has God lacks nothing? With and in God we can still continue to live a busy life. One of the practical ways of developing a God centered life is to form the habit of Jesus’ prayer (sacred mantra). In time we become the prayer itself and it becomes the silent background music that is constantly playing while the mind and the body is busy with the day to day mundane activities, duties, and responsibilities of this world.
Ponder the words of St. Augustine:
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient and ever new! Late have I loved you! And, behold, you were within me, and I out of myself, and there I searched for you.
Reflect on Ramakrishna’s metaphor:
The tortoise moves about in the water. But can you guess where her thoughts are? There on the bank, where the eggs are lying. Do all your duties in the world, but keep your mind on God.
Make Rabia Al Basri’s prayer your own:
Eyes are at rest, the stars are setting. Hushed are the stirrings of birds in their nests, Of monsters in the ocean. You are the Just who knows no change, The Balance that can never swerve, The Eternal which never passes away. The doors of Kings are bolted now and guarded by soldiers. Your Door is open to all who call upon You. My Lord, Each love is now alone with his beloved. And I am alone with You.
Let ‘I am alone with You’ become our reality not just in moments of solitude but even in the midst of the busyness of our life.
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