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Given on Thursday in the first week of Lent at the Priory of Saint Dominic, Lymington:

During my retreat this week, I have been reflecting on the idea and reality of union with God. How, in the Christian life, can we achieve this, and what do we need in order to do so? I am a long way from really knowing, but the simplicity of today’s gospel provides us with a good place to start.

If we acknowledge God as a reality in our lives, and so truly desire to be forever in union with him, then we must also be aware that we need him above all else; that we are – or should be – utterly reliant on his mercy and his grace. If we realise that, then we should ask the Lord, with humility, for his strength in our weakness and for his mercy in failure.

To think that we can struggle on through life, hoping to avoid sin and temptation by our own strength is a kind of blasphemy, setting up a new Golden Calf (as it were) as a substitute for God. We cannot. If we truly desire union with God and a closer relationship with him, then we must simply acknowledge our need him, we must come into his presence, and we must ask him to give us what we need – what we desire – that is, his grace, in order to bring about that end.

If we do not, if through lukewarmness or hardness of heart we somehow create a narrative where we desire God on our own terms or by our own efforts, then in all honesty we must admit that is not God that we truly desire. ‘Ask and it shall be given unto thee’, says the Lord in the gospel; not because we can, then, but because we must.