Reflection on Contemplating Forgiveness

Lord's Prayer

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. (Taken from Matthew 18:21-35, NRSV).

I have to begin with saying that I often dislike sermons based on this Gospel parable.  Jesus does sound a little like he is being mean.  What makes me feel that way?  Answer.  My false sense of self.

Admittedly, I have my father’s stubborn streak within me.  I struggle a lot to admit that I have made a mistake, offended someone or had a hard time forgiving someone else who may have hurt me.  What makes me feel this way?  Answer.  My false sense of self.

My false sense of self lies to me.  It tells me that unless I am correct about everything; I am not loved.  It tells me that unless I settle the score; I am useless.  It tells me that unless I get everything my way; I am without hope.

To contemplate God’s forgiveness means that I have to let go of it all.  If i am going to experience the mystical presence of God, I have to give it all up and trust in God, and not get everything right on my own terms.  Yet, I am still faced with a false sense of self here.  Who am I to believe  that if I don’t do all the letting go and giving up, that God’s enlightening presence cannot do wonderful things in and through me?  What if I am still hanging on to having to be right about letting go and giving up, is me holding on to a false sense of self?  The answer.  I need God to help me let go and to give it up.  Jesus said in John 15:5b “apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Here those words from the Prologue of Saint Benedict’s Rule apply. “Listen!  Incline the ear of your heart.”  Contemplation of God’s work of grace in forgiveness begins when we listen to God within ourselves even with everything in us that needs redemption.  God reveals God’s Self to us in what is messy and imperfect.  The Nativity and the Cross are our claim to God’s work in our stinky and brutal messes.  They reveal that God is closest to us, giving us God’s light and love even when we have emotions about memories that we cannot overcome.  When we have pieces that do not fit together, God is still seeing us from God’s perspective as God’s Beloved with whom God is well-pleased.

I have to wonder if our biggest barrier to forgiving others, is because we need God’s help to forgive ourselves.  Even seventy-seven times.

What is your contemplative experience with God in those places where it is difficult to forgive?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

 

 

Reflection on Consuming the Word

OpenBible

 

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16, NRSV).

There is an old saying,  “You are what you eat.”  In that case, many of us are pork, beef, chicken, vegetables and more.  As human beings we are always searching for something new to eat.  I look up new recipes all the time.  It is also true that when we eat something we like, we savor it.  We can’t seem to get enough of it.

Psalm 34:8 reads “Taste and see that the Lord is good…”

Our biggest obstacle to searching for God is our false-sense of self.  The notion that everything must bring us some kind of pleasure.  Nothing should challenge us to re-evaluate ourselves and what our hungry souls are really longing for.

The writer of Jeremiah is acknowledging that finding God’s words is such an immense delight, that he knows that God is calling him to something greater.  God satisfies more than just our hungry heart.  God’s words fill us with more than warm fuzzy feelings.  God gives us a revelation of God and ourselves that defies human logic and emotional sensations.  God fills us with a love when God’s truth in the Holy Spirit meets our wounded souls, and our search for union with God finds a place within our own spiritual truth.

In God’s words we can contemplate the wonder of God’s amazing love and faithfulness as we turn ourselves over in obedience to the One who has given all to redeem us.  The words will shake us up and call us to a conversion of life.  They will lead us to know with the Prophet that we too are called by our God who longs for us to find our true selves in Christ who calls us each by name.  Can anything be more wondrously mystical than that?

“What page of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest guides for human life?” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, chapter 72:3, p.296-297).

Have you found and eaten God’s words in your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on The Storms

Stormy Lake Ontario

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’” (See Matthew 14:22-33 NRSV).

There are a lot of storms around all of us these days.  Whether they are natural or human made, storms are scary.  They have a double nature of beauty and ugliness.  Storms are a good example of the uninvited guest that shows up to a dinner party and just won’t take the hint that they are not wanted.  Nevertheless, storms show up when we least expect and/or want them to be there.

Storms also mirror life in the sense that they are there, and they need to be lived through; even if we don’t like what happens after.

In today’s Gospel Reading from Matthew, we can take comfort that the Disciples of Jesus are as scared of the storm as we are of the ones in our lives.  Jesus changes the narrative and the outcome when He tells them “Take heart, it is I.  Do not be afraid.”   Incidentally, did you know that the words “do not be afraid” appear 365 times in the Bible?  I think there is a good reason for that.

Storms like a clear day with not a cloud in the sky, present us with the opportunity to contemplate the Presence of God.  In the best of times and the worst of times; God is looking for us to seek union with God, as God tells us, “do not be afraid.”   God calls us into relationship with God in all aspects of life.  The extraordinary and the ordinary.  The ups and the downs.  In either case, God is present.  The Holy Spirit is speaking to us.  It may be waiting for the still small voice that Elijah heard.  It may be like Peter beginning to sink, so that Jesus could reach out to him, pull him up and strengthen his faith. It may be similar to the storm that kept Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica talking about holy things just before her soul was lifted up into heaven.

Jesus is always walking with us on the  path of our storms and calling us into a mystical union with God.  It is God’s invitation for us to let go of our false-sense of self and find God’s revelation in what is real, true and holy.

“And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy.” (RB:1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 4 On the Tools of Good Works, p.185).

Are you seeking union with God during the storms of your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on Transfiguration

Transfiguration

“Master, it is good for us to be here…” (Luke 9:33 NRSV).

The Transfiguration is probably among the best examples of Contemplative Prayer and Mysticism we can get.  What greater mystic experience could we desire to contemplate than Jesus illuminated in all God’s glory?  To be completely detached from everything on earth and let everything else go.  To find ourselves there with Peter, James and John to experience the voice that declares that Jesus is the Beloved; would be something that we might be able to put contemplative prayer into descriptive words.

Like Contemplative Prayer and Mysticism; the Transfiguration is beyond explanation. They are beyond our human comprehension.  It may bring us into a vision of God that no one can begin to describe.  However, the mystery of God’s glorious Presence that we are to contemplate doesn’t leave us with an experience of emotional ecstasy that never goes away.  God cannot be limited to one moment in time.  God is present everywhere, reaching out to us and inviting us into a deeper relationship with God’s Holy Spirit.  When we let go and by faith trust in God alone; everything that we thought made us who we are and what we do; becomes the Presence of God working in and through us.

“It is indeed good to be here, as you have said, Peter.  It is good to be with Jesus and to remain here for ever.  What greater happiness or higher honor could we have than to be with God, to be made like  him and to live in his light?” (By Anastasius of Sinai, The Liturgy of the Hours: Volume IV, p.1286).

“Let them prefer nothing to Christ” (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 72).

Can you say with all your heart that it is good for you to be with God in the here and now?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on Seeds & Listening

Wheat Seeds

 

Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’  (Matthew 13:8 and 9 NRSV).

No wonder St. Benedict began the Prologue of The Rule with, “Listen.  Incline the ear of the your heart.”  It is only with an openness of our entire selves listening for the Holy Spirit to plant the seeds of God’s love into the good soil within us.  If our interior soil is to bear good fruit, we must first yield our entire selves to all of God’s Goodness.

Contemplative prayer is about letting our soil be tilled by God’s sanctifying Grace as God reveals God’s Self to us in solitude, relationships and within the depth of our heart.  Once the Word is planted deep within us, and we trust in God to provide the water, the sunlight and the sun; the God who knows us better than we know ourselves will give us the mystic experience of new life.  We do not have to decide what is going to happen as we grow all by ourselves.  However, we must let go of our false-sense of self so that the center where our eternal truth will search for and find union with God’s Spirit of Truth; so that our true sense of self can grow from the good soil that God cares for.

Are you listening for God to bring good fruit from within you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on St. Benedict

benedict

 

“There was a man, Benedict, who was revered for the holiness of his life, blessed by God both in grace and name.  While yet a boy, he showed mature understanding and possessed a strength of character far beyond his years, keeping his heart detached from sinful worldly pleasures.  While still in the world, he was in a position to enjoy all that the world had to offer; but, seeing how empty it was, he turned from it without regret” (Dialogs of St. Gregory the Great).

The year was 1993.  I was in my senior year of college.  I was facing a massive change in my life after graduation.  Where would I go?  What would I do?  What would happen to all the friendships I made?  As intriguing as these questions were, I knew that there was something in my heart that was yearning for a sense of direction.  I didn’t want to graduate from college without something to begin anchoring my spiritual life to.

That Fall, I visited Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham, Massachusetts.  I was introduced to Saint Benedict and his Rule.  When I first read The Rule, the first thought I had was “Is this guy crazy or what?”   Once I started to read The Rule, and experience the hospitality of the monks there, I knew something changed in my life.  I would never be the same.

Twenty three years since, my life has experienced many twists and turns.  Many successes and failures.  Yet, any time I felt like my life was going on a wrong path, The Rule of Saint Benedict time and again has redirected me to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thomas Merton in his book The Rule of Saint Benedict: Initiation into the Monastic Tradition wrote;

“The Purpose of the Rule is to furnish a framework to build the structure of a simple and pure spiritual life, pleasing to God by its perfection of faith, humility, and love.  The Rule is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. and it is always to be seen in relation to its end.  This end is union with God in love, and in every line of the Rule indicates that its various prescriptions are given us to show us how to get rid of self love and replace it by the love of God: (p.6).

Saint Benedict, his life and Rule, shows us how to live the contemplative life by being open to God’s Providence and listen to God “with the ears of the heart” (Prologue of The Rule).  If a mystical experience is to happen, it begins with letting go of all that holds us back.  It is a letting go of the many things we attach ourselves to, and see the power of God illuminating us with grace and “the inexpressible delight of love” (Prologue of The Rule).

Whoever your favorite Saint is, who’s spirituality you are drawn to and whatever draws you closer to God; it begins with letting go.  As Saint Benedict wrote in The Rule, Chapter 72, “Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.”

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org

Reflection on Enticed by God

RunnerLight

 

“O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed…..” (Jeremiah 20:7 NRSV).

Out of curiosity, I looked up the word “enticed”.  The synonyms for enticed are allure, attract, lure, tempt.

The Contemplative has been on a journey that began when she/he discovered an enticement within them.  Something was empty and hungry.  As the contemplative opens oneself to the presence of God, one discovers the mystery that one has been enticed by the Holy Spirit.  The lure within the contemplative was there by God’s initiative.  It allures the contemplative into something much deeper than austere practices and the practice of religion by itself.  The practice of religion certainly helps, but, it is something on the surface that can only do so much. We know that when we are hungry there is something about the aroma of bread being baked that seems to make our mouths water and warms our soul.  This is poor example, but close enough to what the contemplative experiences as God entices us in our hearts.

“The contemplation of God is arrived at in numerous ways” (The Conferences of St. John Cassian.  Conference One: On the Goal of the Monk).

God has many ways of attracting our attention.  Through our moments in solitude, walks or jogs along the beach and in the ordinariness of life; God is there, enticing us in ways that “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).    All we have to do is take one small foot step in faith with a little trust in the Holy Spirit; and God will do the rest.

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Prologue vs 4. p.15).

How is God enticing you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: http://www.cos-osb.org