All of us are invited to be rich soil for God’s word, and all of us have become rich soil in baptism. All of us have heard God’s word in Scripture, in nature, in prayer, and all of us experience intimacy with God, especially in the sacraments (the external signs of a deep, interior reality). What makes the difference is both in the fullness of our response and in the level of consciousness of what is really going on within us. The kingdom of heaven is already within and around us, but because of our often lukewarm response of heart and action, we don’t have eyes to see or ears to hear. The mystics, however, cultivate awareness. They listen for God’s word; they respond with concrete, often heroic, actions when they hear it. A mystic, then, is one who shows the rest of us who we really are, who we can become, if only we would realize the gift of God that is already within us and respond in our concrete daily lives to God’s great gift of love. The mystic shows us how not to let God’s word return to God empty. The mystic uncovers the mystery, a mystery inside each one of us, and models what it looks like and what it accomplishes. In all of this it is important to remember that God takes the initiative—both in the ordinary believer’s life and in the mystic’s life. One cannot force God’s hand or woo God to make one a mystic. But once that initiative is taken, the mystic’s heart is changed, and he or she falls in love with God.
The mystics teach us that one who tries to know and love God sooner or later becomes aware that God is unknowable, but one can love God intimately despite God’s ultimate unknowableness. With this awareness comes the further realization that all one’s desire to know and love God has from the beginning been God’s work and that, try as one may, two things are certain: You cannot find God who has already found you by running away from yourself, your own problems, your own unresolved fears; and secondly, everything you leave in order to respond to God’s love is in the end redeemed, transformed and given back to you wholly new and in an unpossessive way. It is as if you have returned to the garden of paradise illumined and purified so that you can walk again with God in the earthly paradise God intended for you from the beginning.
—from the book Mystics: Twelve Who Reveal God’s Love
by Murray Bodo, OFM