Reflection on Emmaus

Emmaus

 

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:28-35 NRSV).

The Gospel we heard last Sunday about the encounter with the Risen Jesus and Thomas is one of my favorite Easter stories.   This Sunday’s reading of the Road to Emmaus and the breaking of the bread is also one of my favorites.  Among the reasons I love it, is that it is the chosen Gospel reading used at Vespers on Easter Day.  It is such a moving Gospel to read at that moment.

Imagine what this experience was like for those first Disciples.  The range of human emotions from the beginning to the end; coupled with the words and actions of the Risen Christ in the breaking of the bread are mysterious and wondrous.

The mystical moment in this story that is a source of deep contemplation is that Jesus listened intently to what was in their hearts, responded with truth and good counsel and fed their bodies and souls.  It is its own Lectio Divina moment.  The Word comes to us where we are, listens, responds and then grants us through God’s grace a vision of God’s Self that can be viewed only through the eyes of faith.  It is another example in which contemplative prayer is something we experience by God’s random act of grace, and leads us to God’s vision of how God sees us.  God the Holy Spirit comes to feed our hungry souls with Jesus, the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.  It is up to us as to how we respond to this experience, and how much we trust God in the here and now to lead us forward.

“What can be sweeter to us, dear brethren, than this voice of the Lord inviting us?  Behold, in His loving kindness the Lord shows us the way of life” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p 2).

Is your heart burning as the Risen Christ speaks to you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe,OSB

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

Reflection on Thomas and Jesus

St. Thomas

 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ (John 20:24-29).

How might we experience contemplative prayer and mysticism as we think about this exchange between Thomas and Jesus?  There is such a variety of messages in this Gospel Reading.  They will speak to each person differently, depending on where you are and what you may be doing.

I would like to look at a few points and see how the Holy Spirit touches each of us.

Thankfully, we have moved away from naming Thomas as the doubting prude who just could not get it right.  Alternatively, we now admire Thomas for the faith that he had to question the news he heard and wanted their experience to be his experience of the Resurrection for himself.  In Thomas we see not only his opportunity for growth by knowing where his faith might be lacking; we see a version of our own.  His insistence on seeing Jesus is his soul crying out to God to bring him to a place where he can see that Jesus experienced the same wounds that all of us experience, and know for himself that such wounds can be rendered powerless.

Jesus’ wounds are a sign of how God sees all of us with our limited human wounds that can keep us from knowing the Risen Christ and sharing it with others.  God does not see us as hopeless.  God sees our wounds in the Person of Jesus as the means by which God brought salvation to the world.  If we can only allow ourselves to see God’s unconditional love through our own wounds and be open to God’s perfect power in our weakness; we can be a source of acceptance and healing for the world around us.

“What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by his grace” (RB:1980 The Rule of Saint Benedict. The Prologue, vs 41. p.165).

How does the encounter with Thomas and Jesus reflect your own experience with the Risen Christ?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

See: cos-osb.org

Easter Day Reflection

EmptyTomb

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’(Matthew 28: 1-10 NRSV)

Alleluia. Christ is Risen.

The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia.

Imagine what the experience of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary must have been like.  They took the risk of going to the tomb of Jesus full of sadness that carried over from Good Friday.  The earthquake must have been frightening enough.  But, to see angels and hear them say, “He is not here; for He has risen…” ; who would not be a bit skeptical?

Every Easter when I read and hear those words, I get goose bumps along with joy and relief.  It is a bit like years ago before there were cellphones or internet to talk with people in other countries; when suddenly we would get a phone call from a relative we had not heard from in years.  There is a sense of “They are way over there, and we can talk to them here.”  The difference here, of course, is that the Risen Jesus is very close by.  I am sure for Mary and Mary hearing the news was something they may have questioned for a little bit, but eagerly went to tell the Disciples.

In The Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 49 The Observance of Lent, he wrote that we do the acts of self-denial and fasting, “and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing’ (RB:1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, p.253).

This is the holy Easter we have been longing for.  If this Easter fills us with joy; imagine what it will be like when we finally see the face of the Risen Jesus in Heaven.   On the other hand, what the contemplative does is looks for the Risen Christ in everything and everyone around us.  To be a contemplative, means to seek the face of the Risen Christ in those ordinary moments of life.  In our work.  In our families.  In our neighbor.  In our communities.  In those moments of deep personal suffering.  In that moment when we could leap for joy because of a new born child or a birthday present.  In all of these instances, the Risen Christ who only three days earlier identified with all of our human suffering in His crucifixion.  In His Resurrection, Jesus tells us and shows us that human suffering has met its match.  It is not a power unto itself for the sake of itself.  Jesus does not take it away.  Jesus walks through it with us, and raises us up in newness of life.

How are you experiencing the Resurrection on this Easter Day?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Good Friday Reflection

Crucifixus

Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38 NRSV).

Before I begin, I am not going to try to answer Pilate’s last question, “What is truth?”   My reason is that each person who contemplates the words of the Scripture verses I have chosen on this Good Friday will answer it differently.  It is very important that everyone’s experience of Pilate’s question is respected whether we agree or disagree.

What might a contemplative do with these words from John’s account of Jesus’ passion?

“The contemplative simply stands in place and in the standing answers the question “Who am I” with the answer “I am the one who waits for the God within.”  In other words, the one who pursues the center of life. I am the one who is in search of the Light that is distant from my darkened soul and alien to my restless mind and extraneous to may scattered heart.  I am the one who realizes that the distance between God and me is me.

To lead a contemplative life requires that we watch what we’re seeking–and why we are seeking it.  Even good can become noise in the heart when we do it, not because it’s right, but because it will in turn do something for us: Bring us status. Make us feel good.  Give us security. Require little of our own lives.

God is more consuming, more fulfilling than all those things.  The grail we seek is God alone.  But talking about God is not the same as searching for God, all the simple saints, all the fallen hierarchs to the point.  To be a contemplative we must seek God in the right places: within the sanctuary of the centered self” (Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB).

When Jesus gave Himself over to suffering and death on the Cross, He taught us among many things, to ask ourselves the question “Who am I?”   I believe that when Jesus said “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice, ” He was telling Pilate an us to search for union with God by asking ourselves the question “Who am I?”   Not who we wish to be.  Not who we were in the past.  The question is, “Who am I?”  Right here.  Right now.  That truth that Jesus was speaking of is our true sense of ourselves.  Are we centering ourselves on being liked, preferred, approved of, what we own, what we do, our status, our title, our pride?  These things are part of our false-sense of self.  Our true sense of ourselves is letting go of all of that and living from the essence of who we are with total self sacrificial love for Christ who gave Himself up for us all.  I suggest that in the Death and Resurrection God tells us through Jesus that “Yes this is possible even for you, because I love you.”

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all to everlasting life” (The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English. Chapter 72:11, 12. p.295).

What is your response to the question “Who am I?”

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Maundy Thursday Reflection

WashingFeet

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).

Up until eight years ago, I never participated in the washing of feet during the Maundy Thursday Liturgy.  Since that first time I had my feet washed and washed the feet of another person, I take part in this yearly ritual.  It is a very special moment in which all of my pride takes a back seat.  There is a tremendous amount of humility and vulnerability in having my feet washed and washing the feet of another person.  When having my feet washed the person doing the washing gets to listen a little to my own personal story of where I have walked, what I have done and where I might be going.  When I wash the feet of another person, I open myself up to listen to where the other individual has been, what they have been doing and where they might be going.   Feet get dirty.  Feet smell.  Feet may be smooth or calloused.  Yet, in that moment of washing feet there is an openness and an acceptance of God’s love for me and the opportunity to share that love with another person.

Among the many things that draws me to The Rule of Saint Benedict is in Chapter 53 On the Reception of Guests, he instructs the Abbot and the entire community to wash the feet of the guests.  After washing their feet they will all say together “God, we have received your mercy in the midst of your temple” (Ps. 48:10). Actually look up Psalm 48:8 in The Book of Common Prayer on page 651.  St. Benedict is allowing the guests to inconvenience the Brothers.  When Guests come it is their (and our) opportunity to put aside our own agendas and preferences and serve Christ crucified in the other.

What a great mystery to lead us into contemplative prayer.  Our loving God sees in us the goodness of Christ to give ourselves over in sacrificial love with Jesus to serve others in His stead.  As we enter into this wondrous moment, God’s love penetrates the deepest part of ourselves and calls us to union with God in purity of heart.

What are you willing to do today to serve the presence of Christ in another person?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Holy Wednesday Reflection

Judas

At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” (John 13:21 NRSV).

Jesus was not the only one who had a problem with Judas.  I have some problems with Judas, the role he played and his reputation.  It is true that Judas betrayed Jesus in the most horrendous way.  On the other hand, if it was God’s will for Jesus to be crucified as He was, didn’t Judas fulfill the role God intended him to play?  As I think of who Judas was and what he did, to me the most powerful thing was that in spite of what Judas did, Jesus still loved Judas.  In so doing, Jesus did Himself what He taught about “love your enemies” in Matthew 5:43-48.

Whatever it is that we are suppose to contemplate today; this part of the Holy Week story is mysterious at best.

Perhaps Judas reminds us of being at a holiday dinner table with the one relative that is the most challenging for us to get along with.  If you are like me, the hardest thing to do with someone like that is to keep my mouth shut and avoid letting that person get under my skin.

If Jesus’ encounter with Judas teaches us nothing else; it shows His humility in accepting what was to happen to Him.

Indeed, the hardest part of St. Benedict’s chapter 7 on humility in The Rule to understand and accept is rungs six and seven.  On rung six of the ladder of humility, St. Benedict tells the monk to be content with “the lowest and most menial treatment.”  On rung seven, the monk is told to admit “with his tongue and be convinced that he is inferior and of less value.”   It is a mistake for us to interpret Benedict as saying that the monk is suppose to have a low self esteem or accept abuse in any form.  What he is saying is that we tend to be all caught up in our false-sense of self.  We like our first place in line.  We like to be approved of.  Liked.  Cherished.  No one is as important as we are individually.  St. Benedict is telling us to live as Jesus did.  He is telling us to accept and live into from our true sense of self, our essence even when we are last on the likable list.  St. Benedict is teaching us to find our worth, our stature, our place in line; in God alone.  St. Benedict is telling us what Jesus is showing us.  Let go and trust in God alone.

How is Jesus challenging you to live from your essence today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

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. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.”  (John 12:23-26 NRSV).

In his book Monastic Practices, Charles Cummings, OSCO writes about the place of food in the daily Monastic life (see p.81).  It is not a simple matter of filling our bellies to satisfy us.  Eating is about participating and giving thanks for all the many ways the Monastic receives food.  Monastics do not just eat food; we take food.  In so doing, we remember each part of the food was the product of the sun, rain, soil, growing, farming, labor to harvest.   The food such as bread needed the wheat, the flour, the eggs, the yeast, the kneading, baking, packaging.   The grapes are tended to on the vine.  They are harvested and over many years become wine.  These things do not happen without something that is living dies, and/or someone giving over their time and talent to serve the common good of those who will eat.  We recognize that everything we are eating and sharing is from God’s graciousness and others participating as co-creators with God.

In today’s Gospel Jesus is accepting and announcing that the hour to give His life has come.  His Disciples still do not know what to make of this action Jesus is about to do.  As He does many times before, Jesus talks in symbolic language to help us to understand that what Jesus is about to do is about the fruit it will bear.  If His death is going to bear fruit, then He must endure the shame and hardship of the Cross to bring it about.   Furthermore, Jesus tells us that if we want to bear fruit as followers of Jesus; we must be willing to follow Him and give up ourselves in self sacrifice as Jesus did.  We may or may not be called upon to suffer a horrible death by crucifixion.  However, all of us are called upon to search for union with God seeking God’s will and letting go of ourselves to serve God and each other.

“Never swerving from his instructions, then, but faithfully observing his teaching in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom. Amen”  (RB: 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English. Conclusion of the Prologue  p.167).

What is Jesus calling on you to let go of, so that you may follow Him and serve others in His Name?

How can you live more intentionally into Jesus’ invitation to discipleship?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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