Reflection on Isaiah 48:17

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“Thus says the Lord your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go.”  (Isaiah 48:17.  NRSV).

Perhaps you have heard this joke. “Why did the People of Israel under Moses wander in the desert for forty years?  They forgot to stop and ask for directions.”

What a great invention the GPS is.  If you want to go somewhere you have never been, just program the GPS and it will guide you intersection by intersection until you arrive at your desired destination.  Yet, even the best GPS has its drawback.  If it is an older program, it may not be able to give you information about road construction, a street change or a different obstacle along your route.  Some GPSs do not give you the shortest and easiest route.  There is another major disadvantage.  Unless there is a malfunction in the GPS, we almost never have to ask someone for directions. We rely on a machine, not another human person to assist us. Nor does it allow us to help someone else.   Its true that crime and the concern for basic safety can be a hazard.  But, it basically gets us off the hook if you will, from welcoming the stranger.

On this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, we commemorate how Jesus through the Holy Spirit brought a life-changing experience to the man named Saul.  Once he was knocked off of his horse; Paul had a new direction in his life.

All of us make our plans and begin our journey of a new direction in our life.  We gather what we know and think we know it all.  We become content in our own little world.  We rely on our false-sense of self; based on labels, being happy with everything we have, those who like us the best, who agree with us and feed our egos.

The reading from the Prophet Isaiah that I quoted for this reflection, invites us to contemplate God’s perception of us.  God sees in us the potential to go in a direction that is based on seeking union with God with purity of heart.  God wants us to bring our brokenness, our being lost in ourselves into union with God’s will; and let God “lead us in the way we should go.”  God’s direction for each of us is different.  None of us will have the exact same course as another.  God invites us to live into who God is from our hearts as our God, our Redeemer, the Holy One.  God wants to teach us about our true selves in and from our essence of who we are and “lead us in the way we should go.”

“Listen carefully, my child, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice.” (Prologue, RB:1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, p.157).

What are you open to listening to God teach you today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

Reflection on Psalm 27

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“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?   The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1. The Book of Common Prayer, p.617).

At the break of dawn the light from the sun graces the sky.  As evening gives way to night, the sun goes down, but the moon brightens a place in the sky.  On a clear night when the moon is full, its light gives the night sky a glow that only the moon can.  Whether day or night, there is light shining through the darkness to bring hope where there is despair.

All of us have those moments when what is happening feels like the sun on a beautiful clear day.  When things happen that change us from within, it can be like clouds covering our view of the sun, or blocking the light from the moon.

The Psalmist begins Psalm 27 by proclaiming that the Lord is the true light and strength of our lives.  Therefore, we have no need to be afraid.  I don’t know about you, but I have had those moments in my own life when things have happened, and I read this psalm about “not being afraid” and I think to myself: “Oh yeah, right!”

As we invite the Holy Spirit into the circumstances of our lives, we find ourselves full of fears.  There are many scary things around us.  The whole of Psalm 27 seems to be full of faith and hope in some places, acknowledging the enemies that are about us in other verses, and acknowledges that all we can really do is trust in the Lord.

The Holy One wants us to turn ourselves over and find God who is our light and salvation reminding us that we are God’s Beloved, with Whom God is well-pleased.  Whatever we are facing.  Whatever direction a situation is going.  There is no place or situation where God is not there with God’s light and salvation leading us in the way of of the life of Jesus Christ.

“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).

How and where is God the light and salvation in your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Reflection on Saint Antony

Anthony

 

“Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21-22. NRSV).

Saint Antony (or Anthony), is one of the great Desert Fathers.  He had wealth, property and family.  When he heard the words of the Gospel of Matthew quoted above, he immediately set aside all he had and entered into a very austere life of prayer and meditation.  He was a great example of the word Monk as meaning “one” with God.

As time has moved forward, and dispersed Monastic Communities have been begun and flourished in which the members can be married, have jobs and live in their own homes; the question comes up about how we live into the words of Jesus that moved St. Antony.   Very few of us today would close up our bank accounts, divorce our spouses and put our family members into another person’s hands to be left there never to be seen again.  Does that necessarily mean that we are failing to live into the words of Jesus?

The answer at issue here, is not whether we have and/or make use of what God gives us.  It is how much we allow these things to possess us to the point in which we separate them from our relationship with God and others around us.  Most of us, including myself are glued to our phones, computers, jobs, seeking the applause of the crowds and wanting our false sense of self to feed our egos.

The message of Jesus, St. Antony and St. Benedict is simplistic, just not simple.  Are we willing to contemplate in silence and solitude, so that we seek union with God through all of the things God gives us to be used (not possessed by us) to serve God and others?   If you are like me, knowing that in my mind and living it from the heart are not simple by any measure.  Jesus, St. Antony and St. Benedict are not saying it is simple; they are saying that it is possible.  It is possible to live in relationship with God and others to find the mystical presence of the Holy in ourselves, others and the things we are loaned so that God is part of everything around and about us.

In the Prologue to the The Rule of Saint Benedict*, he wrote,

“This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.”

At the end of the same Prologue, Saint Benedict* wrote,

“Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run from the road that leads to salvation.  It is bound to be narrow at the outset.  But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”

How are you being challenged to give up what you value to follow Jesus more closely today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

*The quotes from The Rule are taken from the RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English and Latin, Published by The Liturgical Press, pages 157 and 165

The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ

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And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with Whom I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3:17 NRSV).

In a world where it seems that everyone is so critical and suspicious of each other, it is so wonderful to know that our God views us very differently.

The manifestation of Christ which is what we celebrate in this Season of The Epiphany also means revelation.   In the Baptism of Christ, Jesus goes an extra step forward.  Following Jesus’ Baptism, God says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with Whom I am well pleased.”

In Jesus, God takes on human flesh and reclaims our broken humanity.  We are renewed in body, soul, mind and spirit.  When God says that Jesus is God’s Beloved with Whom God is well pleased; God is saying that so are we who share in the mystery of our redemption in Christ.  In and through Jesus, we too are God’s Beloved, with Whom God is well pleased.

What wondrous words to spend time in silence and contemplation with.  We don’t need to talk very much.  What we need is to ponder with Mary in our hearts, that God is here among us and claiming us as God’s Beloved, and with us, God is well pleased.

Do you see yourself as God’s Beloved, with whom God is well pleased?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

“In his goodness, God has already counted us as God’s children.” (The Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue).

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A New Year: A New Beginning

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We pray, Lord, that everything we do may be prompted by your inspiration, so that every prayer and work of ours may begin from you and be brought by you to completion. (Prayer Based on the Prologue of Saint Benedict’s Rule.  St. Benedict’s Prayer Book for Beginners, p.113).

Saint Benedict among many things could be considered the Patron Saint of new beginnings.  In multiple places in The Rule, Benedict states in one way or another that we are always at a beginning point.   And so we are brought to the beginning of The Rule on New Year’s Day.

If you have a problem with your computer or phone and call a help desk technician, among the first questions and/or instructions you will hear is “have you tried restarting your device?”

Have you been lonely or discouraged as 2016 came up to its ending?

Have you been wondering how or when to begin after a bad time in your life?

We are on the Eighth Day of Christmas.  Jesus was born (a beginning) to start (a beginning) a new era in humankind.  No longer would we be left on our own with life’s ups and downs. God walks with us in our beginnings and ends in Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate.

Let us take time in the next few days to meditate on the words of the prayer I used from Benedict’s Rule.  May we rely on God in prayer and contemplation in this time of new beginnings.  May we turn ourselves over little by little and allow God to lead and guide us in our beginnings, our endings and everywhere in between.

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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