Mary Magdalene: Choose the Better Part

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[Jesus] answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41,42 NRSV).

Mary Magdalene is a wonderful example of contemplative prayer.  Aside from the Gospel reading I am using for this blog; Mary’s experience at the empty tomb found in John 20:11-18 is also an experience of contemplative prayer.  On the subject of Mary’s experience of the Resurrection, Thomas Keating writes,

“The realization of being loved by God characterizes the first stage of contemplative prayer.  It enables us to see God in all things.  Mary’s acceptance of that grace leads to a further insight; she becomes aware that she loves Jesus in return.” (The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience., p.71).

The scene in Luke 10:41, 42 shows Mary at the feet of Jesus listening intentionally to what He is saying to her.  What Martha is doing is not wrong or bad.  Many have suggested that what is happening in this scene is a prefect example of the Benedictine motto Ora et Labora (pray and work).  What we have here is Jesus telling Martha and us, is that whether we are at work or in prayer, listening to Jesus is the best way to know what God wants from us.  Whether the listening comes in the form of the prayerful reading of Scripture (i.e. Lectio Divina), sitting in the silence of centering prayer, or meditating on a particular mystery of Christ; listening in silence in a moment of prayer, or through living daily life is how we can hear Jesus clearly to respond in loving devotion.

As we contemplate the figure of St. Mary Magdalene, let us pray for each other that we will know God’s love and love God in return.  May we also listen intentionally to Jesus as He leads us into a deeper relationship with God and one another.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

July 11: Commemoration of St. Benedict

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Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, “I came as a guest, and you received me.”  (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Chapter 53, p.73).

We have very little information about the life of St. Benedict.  The Life and Times of St. Benedict that comes from book two of the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great, tell us about the high points of St. Benedict.  There is a great deal we do not know about the Father of Western Monasticism.  What we do know about Saint Benedict and what his philosophy about the Monastic Life, comes from The Rule.  He borrowed much of what he wrote in The Rule from St. Basil and St. John Cassian.  The Rule of St. Benedict is best understood as being about relationships.

Lonni Collins Pratt and Father Daniel Homan, OSB in their book, Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way of Love, write about three important relationships.  A Benedictine’s relationships are made up of the “cloister, community and hospitality”. (See chapter 7).  The cloister is the time the monastic spends with God and oneself.  The community is the time spent with those closest to her/him.  Hospitality is the relationship with everyone else.  In the end, Christ is present in all of these relationships.  It is in and through these relationships that the Benedictine learns to “listen and incline the ears of our hearts.”  At the end of the day, Benedictine hospitality is not as much about listening and greeting Christ in others to see what we can do for the individual(s).  It is about listening carefully to what Jesus may be calling us to through that other person.

Contemplation and the mystical experience within the context of St. Benedict is about being attentive to what God is saying to us through all aspects of life.  Prayer, work, the prayerful reading of Scripture, the things we handle, and living in relationship with others are all moments to be listening for God with attentive hearts.  They are opportunities to encounter Christ in that which challenges and changes us from the outside on inward.  By listening and engaging the presence of God, we are able to see all things a new from God’s viewpoint.

God our Father, you made St. Benedict an outstanding guide to teach us how to live in your service.  Grant that by preferring your love to everything else, we may walk in the way of your commandments.  We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

The Stormy Lake

Stormy Lake Ontario

Jesus got up and gave orders to the wind and said to the lake, “Silence! Be Still!”  (Mark 4:29, The Common English Bible).

The lake can be a lovely place, but it can also be frightening.  A storm can come at any time.  The waters that seemed so tranquil and calm, become a mass of chaos.  As quickly as the stormy winds come and stir up the waters of the lake; they just as soon move on and the waters become calm again.

The words I am using for this blog reflection from Mark, tell us that Jesus stood and ordered the wind and the lake to be silent and still.  The verse after this one tells of how the Disciples were amazed to the point of dropping their jaw, that even the wind and water obeyed Jesus.  It is a beautiful story to read over and over again.

Sometimes Jesus does get up and commands the stormy wind and waves of our lives to be calmed.  Other times it can feel to us that Jesus is still asleep.  The problem can be our lack of faith.  It can also be that God wants us to reach out even more to God.  So often, we become too self reliant and arrogant even while we are experiencing personal turbulence.  Sometimes the storm is within ourselves.  Jesus would like to get up and command the wavy waters within us, but if we will not listen as He calls us to be silent and still there is only so much He can do for us.

It bears repeating that St. Benedict begins The Rule with the words, “Listen, and incline the ears of your heart.”  I believe this is the silence and stillness that Jesus calls us to embrace in Mark’s Gospel.  Jesus calls us to be silent and still so that we can listen to the Holy Spirit within our hearts.  This is not an intellectual exercise.  It is the experience of the contemplation of God within the whole of ourselves.  The silence and stillness is not merely to quiet exterior noise.  Rather, it is the noise, the wind and stormy waters within us.  You have to admit, if Jesus can calm the storms within our lives, He has to be pretty powerful.

Let us all listen with the ears of our hearts to Jesus calling to our windy and chaotic hearts to be still and silent.  In that silence and stillness, God will tell us how much we are loved, and call us in this moment to grow closer to God and one another in love and faith.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB