Easter Day Reflection

EmptyTomb

 

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. (Luke 24:1-12. NRSV).

One can only imagine the look on the faces of the women when they were asked why they were looking for the living among the dead.  As if they were not floored enough, the words that follow are even more amazing.  “He is not here, but has risen.”

Today is the Holy Easter that Saint Benedict told us to prepare for in The Rule, Chapter 49 on the observance of Lent.  Over the past forty days we have fasted and prayed for this day to arrive.  We followed the horrifying events of Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Good Friday.  Which one of us are not like those Disciples thinking that with the death of Jesus, it was all over.  Even if He said that these events would happen.  Now that they have happened, what will happen next?

The presence of those first women at the empty tomb shows us how God saves us from our sense of certainty.  We like to have our way mapped out.  We like to think that how we think things should go is how it will happen.  The experience of Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James was that nothing was as it was suppose to be.  It was frightening.  It was unthinkable.  It made no sense.  Their faith and trust in what Jesus told them was all they had to rely on.

On this Easter Day, we contemplate the movement of the Holy Spirit as our sense of certainty in how things are suppose to be, gives way to God’s way.  God’s way in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is about surrendering all that makes us cling to our false-sense of self; to embrace with faith and trust what God is doing.   It does not have to make sense.  It may be frightening.  It may be nothing like anything that has happened before.  Knowing the Christ rose from the dead as God’s plan for Him so that we may have everlasting life through Him, is all we need to know for today.

Then all of us can say with St. Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well.  And all shall be well.  And all manner of things shall be well.”

“He is not here.  He has risen.”

Alleluia.

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Good Friday Reflection

Crucifixus

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
and are so far from my cry
and from the words of my distress?” (Psalm 22:1.  The Book of Common Prayer, p.610).

 

Today, Christians commemorate the most extraordinary of contradictions.  All paradoxes meet each other and bond together.  Charles Wesley’s hymn “And Can It Be?” the first stanza ends with these amazing words, “Amazing love, how can it be?  That Thou, My God shouldst die for me.”

The mystery of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ meets every form of human suffering and confronts them all with God identifying with them and defeating them with only love as the chosen weapon.   The betrayal.  The abandonment.  The scourging and spitting.   The crown of thorns.  The insults.  The nails.  The seven last words.  The letting go of everything.  The humility.  The compassion and love that have no bounds or explanation.

Today the arms of God are forever outstretched to embrace every person.  All labels and worldly limitations are nothing in comparison to the love of God that is open to receive us without distinction.

Our contemplation on this Good Friday can take many directions.  Each person will come away from today with a reflection of God that is unique.  Yet, their experience is no more or less real than any others.  Today, all scapegoating, all forms of division are rendered powerless for those who seek God’s help to overcome them.

Jesus shows us how to live and die with only faith in God as our only guide to what is God’s will and way of salvation for each of us.

What does the Holy Spirit through the passion, Crucifixion and death of Jesus on this Good Friday say to your heart?  Whatever it may be, “Incline the ears of your heart” (The Rule of Saint Benedict, Prologue).

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

Maundy Thursday Reflection

WashingFeet

 

And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. (John 13:3-5 NRSV).

 

I sat in the pews on Maundy Thursday for many years during the washing of feet.  I found it very difficult to allow myself to walk forward to have my feet washed and then wash another person’s feet.   As the moment would approach, my stomach would get some butterflies.  Perhaps I was embarrassed to have another person see what my feet looked like, or what they smelled like.  Perhaps the other who washed them would pass judgement on me because of my feet.

In 2009 I decided to ignore the butterflies and the other thoughts that held me back.  I walked forward and had my feet washed.  After, I washed the feet of someone else.  I found that all of those things that I had allowed to keep me from the experience vanished as the love of God seemed to embrace me and the other.  All pretenses disappeared.  Now, I participate in the washing of feet every year on Maundy Thursday.

As time has gone on for me, I have found that participating in the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday as a wonderful opportunity for healing and reconciliation.  I have often washed the feet of someone that I might have had a clash with.  Suddenly, whatever grudges I may have had, gave way to the healing and reconciliation delivered by God’s grace.  I have found myself set free from many things that have held me back from growing closer to God through my relationships with others.

Washing the feet of another is a great act of humility.  When Jesus washed the feet of His Disciples, he stooped as low as the Godhead in the Son of God could go.  Their feet were probably muddy, calloused with dry cracked skin.  Their feet had stories to tell of where each of the Disciples had been or what they did.  Jesus was only concerned with serving each of them and drawing them closer to God and one another.

Today, Jesus invites all of us to contemplate this great mystery.  The mystery of God who is present among us, who walks where we walk.  God goes where we go.  God loves us with every step we take.  God is with us and listening to our stories as we walk with calloused, muddy and dry feet.  God invites all of us to listen for just a little while to the stories of others as they walk their own paths.

John ends today’s Gospel Reading with the most wonderful words from Jesus.

Jesus said, ” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).

How is Jesus challenging you to love another as He has loved you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Holy Tuesday Reflection

Grain of Wheat

 

Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.  (John 12:23-26a. NRSV).

 

Four months ago today, my mother died on the 22nd of November.  My mother died of complications from vascular dementia.  As with any illness that takes the life of a parent, watching my mother slowly wither away and die was a difficult experience to watch.  On the other hand, witnessing the wondrous grace of God at work in my mother as she gave over everything physical and material as she embraced the spiritual and eternal was something I would not trade for a movie ticket to the next popular film.  It was a moment of conversion of heart that will stay in my memory forever.

Accepting the reality of death is probably the most difficult of human experiences to accept.  No matter how good we are, or how smart, how popular, how good looking; every one of us will die.  It is a fact of life.

The great prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi ends with the words “It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”  These words echo what Jesus is saying in the Gospel for today.  Jesus had accomplished so much in the time He was with His Disciples.  He had healed the sick, made those who were blind able to see and those pushed aside found their place in the community of faith because of Jesus.  Yet, Jesus not only knew but lovingly embraced that if He was going to make an impact on salvation history that would change human history forever, it would require Him to give us His life for all of us.   Jesus’ great humility enabled Him to see His life as a mere grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies.  Only by dying can that grain of wheat be a source of nourishment for those who eat the bread made from it.

Jesus is calling each of us to to see ourselves as a grain of wheat that must fall to the ground and die.  Jesus challenges us to see our falling to the earth and dying to ourselves as our chance to grow closer to God with simple faith and trust.  That death may come to us by being at the side of another person who is ill and/or dying to be a comforting presence for her/him.   We may be called to give of ourselves for the poor, the disadvantaged or in even a more tangible way.  Jesus offers Himself as our example of how to let go and search for union with God with nothing held back.

In our contemplative prayer, may we ask for the grace to know how God is calling us to fall to the ground and die as a grain of wheat.  May we have that trust in God that Jesus had, to believe that our dying is not the end of the story, but only a change that leads us all to Eternal Life with God and all the Saints.

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Holy Monday Reflection

Mary&JesusFeet

 

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. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12: 1-3.  NRSV).

Our journey through Holy Week that began yesterday with Palm Sunday, brings us to this scene in St. John’s Gospel.  These scene changes may be a bit confusing.  Yesterday we were with those welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem while laying Palms along his path.  Today we are with Martha, Mary and Lazarus at a dinner in which Mary anoints the feet of Jesus in preparation for his death and burial.

We could say that Mary is giving us a preview of the scene at the Last Supper at which Jesus will wash the feet of His Disciples.  Mary could be doing for Jesus, what will not be done for Him at that Passover meal.

Whatever the reason, Mary performs an amazing act of faith and love towards Jesus.  Unlike Judas who is there criticizing Mary for using the costly perfume; Mary is caring for Jesus’ very limited time.  She loves Jesus with a holy love and prepares His feet for the holy journey towards our redemption in Christ.  Mary exercised the greatest example of hospitality towards Jesus as she allowed the guest that is Jesus to draw her into a deeper experience of faith in Him.

In The Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 53 he wrote:

All guests should be received as Christ, for he will say “I was a stranger and you took me in” (Matt 25:35).

Our point of contemplation today is to allow Christ in the guest to speak to and serve us.  This is as counter cultural as we can get.  We like to believe we have all the answers for the other.  In our electronic age of sending every message that inflates our ego should be sent; Mary and Saint Benedict invite us reach out for the guest, but open our hearts to Christ in the other.  To allow their lives and their stories to deliver a new message of love and conversion to our own hearts and minds.  In so doing, we open ourselves up to knowing God on a whole new level from God’s point of view.

What might God be saying to you through the thoughts and actions of another?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB