Holy Tuesday Reflection: Foolishness and Salvation

Beginning Lent

“The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 NRSV).

“It is not all about me.  It is not all about you.  It is about something greater.”  The Rev. Kate Bradtmiller, Associate Rector at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul preached these words on the Fifth Sunday of Lent.  The Gospel text was the one used for Today’s Office and Mass, John 12:20-36.  Here on this Tuesday in Holy Week, in addition we have these words from 1 Corinthians 1:18.

It is not complicated to read these words of St. Paul and apply them in a way that we center them on ourselves.  There is a certain degree of arrogance about them, if we only take them at face value.  When we take these words deeper into our prayer and reflect on them, the meaning is very different.  They are not about us.  They are about something greater.

The meaning of the Cross and the hope of salvation can never be limited to just us.  On the Cross, Jesus gave up everything, including His relationship with His Father, only trusting in God by faith with His very last breath.  What does this mean?  The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing in their own self-centered carnality.  This can be any one of us at any given point in time.  Even in the most devout act of piety and/or so called “self-denial” for the sake of itself.  The Cross is the power of God unto salvation the more we accept and let go of the reality that it is not about us.  It is about something greater than ourselves.   It is about something that we can only contemplate and become centered around with simple faith and trust in God.  We can only catch a glimpse of it and not completely grasp it with our human senses, abilities or intellect.  It must be received through the act of self-sacrifice from a purity of heart seeking only union with God for the sake of God alone.  If this does not translate into a greater love of God and our neighbor, then foolishness is all it really is.

On this Holy Tuesday, may we know of the power of God’s salvation as we center on something greater than ourselves.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Holy Monday Reflection: Lazarus Was There

Mary Lazarus Jesus

“Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.” (John 12:1,2 NRSV).

I wish I could take credit for learning this on my own, but thank God I cannot.  A candidate for the Diaconate preached on these words at this mornings Mass at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The words she preached on were “and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.”

These words follow the chapter in St. John’s Gospel in which we read about Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus.  A man who was sick, had died, and then was raised is now seated at a table dining with Jesus.  What happens at this meal?  Mary anoints His feet, preparing Jesus for His passion, death and burial.

What a wonder this is to contemplate.  Sickness, death and resurrection all sharing a meal together with the Son of God.  Could this be a symbolic prefiguring of the Paschal Mystery?  Are we being given a glimpse of the Reign of God at the end of the age?

We are contemplating how we are viewed from God’s perspective.  Whether we come from the place of illness, death or resurrection all are welcomed into God’s presence.  We all have an opportunity to behold the vision of God receiving us, healing us and giving us new life and welcoming us to eat with Him.  If we are there to offer Jesus our love by anointing His feet with Mary, Jesus will receive what we give Him, because He sees our faith and love for what they are.  It is faith and love from the perspective of God.  We can surrender ourselves as we are into the service of God, because in faith we are all received and cherished as God’s Beloved.

Let us take that image with us on this Monday of Holy Week.  See if it makes a change in your life.  Celebrate that change.  That is what Holy Week is for.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Palm Sunday Reflection: Laying Ourselves Before Jesus

TriumphalEntry

“So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him.  We who have been baptized into Christ must become the garments that we spread before him.” (From a Sermon by St. Andrew of Crete.  The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume II, Lent Season and Easter Season, p.419-420).

As we begin Holy Week, we are led to ponder the thought of laying ourselves before Christ.  St. Andrew of Crete’s profound words invite us to something deeper than mere ritual for the sake of itself.  He urges us to the act of total self surrender.  To do less, is to miss what Jesus really did during Holy Week.

In The Rule of St. Benedict, whenever he wrote about a monk making amends for faults and/or respecting his seniors, the total prostration of the body was among the requirements.  Why?  Because to prostrate oneself on the floor before someone we have offended is an act of complete self surrender.  We gladly give up everything, including our “right’ to be right about everything.  We give over being the last word about anything and/or everything for the sake of the healing of the relationship.

Holy Week is about the healing of relationships.  It is about God identifying with our human condition with nothing held back.  God is completely in it with us now.  Including the experience of being betrayed by a dear friend, and/or having our friends whom we rely on disappear when we need them most.  Yes, Jesus has lived through that too this week.  Yet, the one thing that does not change is that God is there facing it with us.  Therefore, we too must hold nothing back.  We must lay ourselves completely before Christ as God’s people ready and willing to give up everything to and for God.

As we ponder the work of God in Christ this week, may we too be ready to lay ourselves before Jesus.  May we serve others in His Name in imitation of Jesus’ example of humility and obedience to God.  The greatest of contemplative experiences cannot be complete without it.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Lenten Reflection: Seek God With All Your Heart

St.BenedictStainedGlass

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NRSV).

In The Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 58: The Procedure for Receiving Brothers, he wrote in verse 7 and 8, “The concern must be whether the novice truly seeks God and whether he shows eagerness for the Work of God, for obedience and for trials.  The novice should be clearly told all the hardships and difficulties that will lead him to God.” (RB 1980, p.78,79).

Seeking God is the foundational piece of Benedictine Spirituality.  Prayer and work (also called in Latin Ora et Labora), is a means to seeking God.  In his book, The Benedictine Way Wulstan Mork, OSB connects the missing piece of what we are seeking God for.  Benedictines seek union with God through a life of continuous prayer.

The words taken from Jeremiah that were prayed during Matins today, tell of seeking God in a situation that is favored by no one.  The people have been exiled into Babylon.  Throughout chapter 29, Jeremiah is telling the people to make the best of the situation.  These words remind us to look for God with all our hearts in those moments and places where it is more difficult to search for union with God.  It is easy to seek union with God in moments of contemplative and/or centering prayer.  It is a lot more challenging to search for union with God while struggling with a difficult co-worker or a loved one with an addiction issue.  We can search for God quite easily at Mass or Sunday Worship, but searching for God with the person who just cut us off in traffic is much too difficult.  Yet, God is just as present in both places.  We just have to be willing to slow ourselves down a bit to search for union with God at all times, in all places and with all people.

May each of us take the time in whatever situation we are in, to search for union with the God who has already found us.  May we be open to listening to God in our hearts so that our searching and finding are more than lip service.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Annunciation Reflection: Letting Go

AnnunciationMoasic

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word.  (Luke 1:38 KJV).

These words of Mary in response the news brought to her by the Angel Gabriel, suggest a total surrender to God’s will.  Mary accepts what news she has received and lets go of everything to be God’s instrument of new and wonderful things about to happen for her and the world.

Centering prayer and contemplative prayer are about accepting and letting go.  These are two of the most difficult things for most of us to do.  The world around us is so full of violence and turmoil.  Our minds are overwhelmed with twenty-four relentless hours of news, media and information.  We all have our personal obligations of family, work, and relationships.  We all have so many questions and fears about what is coming next.

The news that Mary hears on this Holy Day of the Annunciation is that God is going to do something new and wonderful through her.  Mary is no fool.  She knows how much this news will change many things in her life.  Yet, no one is more unsure of what comes next than she is.  In her amazing faith, she recognizes God at work in her life at this moment.  She gives her total self and attention to the work God is doing in her life.  She trusts her entire self in the word of the Lord.  Mary lets go.

As we prepare for Holy Week during which time we will hear Jesus say similar words in the Garden of Gethsemane, let us take time to center ourselves on God.  May we contemplate the great mystery of God coming to us as one like us, who shows us how to accept and let go.  The mystical vision of God in contemplative prayer begins and ends with letting go of ourselves and trusting in God’s perspective.  May we have the faith and courage of Mary to trust God with everything we are and have; believing that only best is yet to come.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Lenten Reflection: Time

Time

“My times are in your hand.” (Psalm 31:15)

What would our lives really look like if the words of this Psalm where true?  If we wholeheartedly put our times in God’s hands with complete faith and trust, what would our lives be like?

One of the reasons St. Benedict asked His Monks to pray the Divine Office is to sanctify time.  Each of the various hours of the day are marked by praying the Psalms.  The Psalms are the heart of the Offices.  Through the words we pour everything within us in unity with the whole Church throughout the world into God’s hands.  The joys, celebrations, tragedies and sufferings of the Church and the world flow from the heart of the monastic who is praying them and through the “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit….” that concludes each Psalm and Canticle, our prayer becomes one with the prayers of Christ who is at the right hand of God.

The Holy Spirit tells us through the words of Psalm 31:15 to take to heart our need to let go and trust in God.  It is among the hardest things to do in our world of gadgets designed to control everything for and around us.  Yet, even those things are hardly a match for what goes on in the real world of life.  Faith and trust are beyond time, space and our limited world view.  They are gifts of God’s initiative given to us as God’s earnest desire to draw us to a closer relationship with God.

May all of us take some of that time to put our times in God’s hands for real.  May we all be given the grace to accept and let go, so that we walk by faith and not only by sight.  We do not have to have all of the right answers.  God is our reliable help in times of trouble, as we place them all in God’s hands.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Lenten Reflection: Waiting for God

Serenity

But as for me, I will look to the Lord,
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me.

Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be a light to me.
I must bear the indignation of the Lord,
because I have sinned against him,
until he takes my side
and executes judgement for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall see his vindication.  (Micah 7:7-9 NRSV).

The issue most of us have with waiting for God, is that we do not know what we are waiting for.  Waiting for God is not like putting coins into a vending machine and you may or may not get what you want.  Waiting for God means waiting not on what we want or even what we hope for.  Waiting for God is just what the words say.  To wait for God is to be prepared to negate our will and to look for God alone with a pure heart.  Most of us wait for God hoping that God will give us what we want.  If we get what we want we thank God for the time being until the next time we want something.  The cycle repeats itself.

Lent is about going beyond our typical cycles.  It is a time to deepen our relationship with God. It is a time of waiting with anticipation for the celebration of Holy Week and Easter.  The waiting time of fasting, prayer and alms-giving makes us yearn for a Holy Easter as St. Benedict wrote in Chapter 49 of The Rule.  In the mean time, we must wait for God.  As we wait for God not only in this Season, but also in our lives we are surrounded by our enemies from within.  Impatience.  A tendency towards poor charity towards our neighbor.  Looking for others to blame for our issues, while ignoring our responsibility to look after ourselves for the sake of others.  These and others I could mention seek to rejoice over us as they draw us away from God into our false-sense of self.

These words from Micah tell us to prefer to wait for God and to trust that “He will bring me out to the light; I will see his vindication.”  God’s light and vindication are not to be seen as revenge.  God’s way is mercy, forgiveness and grace through faith.

As we wait for God to come we eventually discover that God is already present.  While we were waiting for God to come as we thought God should, God shows up in new ways that save us from our certainty.  God comes to take us from our static and abstract understanding of how God works, to gently and lovingly escort us to a renewal of self in the Essence of God in union with our own essence.

As we wait for God, may we not close our eyes to how God is already present in the here and now.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB