Reflection on Job: A Troubled Contemplative

Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (See Job 2:1-13 NRSV).

The Book of Job belongs to the Poetic Writings of the Bible in much the same way as the Psalms. Job is a legendary folktale for spiritual meditation, and and not a n actual story. Lastly, the Satan that is referred to in the first and second chapters of Job is not the evil one from Genesis or the tempter in the four synoptic Gospels. Satan in Job is an accuser, a prosecutor in the court. It is with this important information that we must begin with this reflection. Otherwise our reflection will become another doctrinal or theological argument, when Lectio Divina is not based on an intellectual understanding.

The experiences that have fallen on Job can be compared to being beaten up, and kicked on the gut all in one week. It happens to many of us. When a tragedy like COVID-19 happens, the grief is excruciating. One loss after another, and the sadness and heartbreak does not end.

Very few things make the experience of grief worse than asking ourselves questions such as “What did we do wrong?” “Were we not faithful or moral enough?” The situation is no better when we blame others for what they should or should not have done.

Job is a troubled contemplative. The worst things have happened to him. Before Job can begin to reflect on what God is doing in his life, he is getting all kinds of advice from the company he keeps. Job is a troubled contemplative, because he knows in his heart, that God is present in the good and bad times. Job is troubled, because he is turning in on himself to try to grasp what has happened.

Job is a great illustration about the importance of humility in contemplative prayer and mysticism. When we look inside ourselves, expecting to find God in our false-sense of self, we will discover an empty space. God is not only where we are most comfortable, untroubled, and whining about how come we are at the end of the happiness line. God is also in our pain, our disbelief and anger. God has given us the desire to search for union with God in whatever situation we are in. In The Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 7: On Humility, he tells us, “The first step of humility is to keep the reverence of God before our eyes, and never forget it”.

“No matter what kinds of ruins you stand in, keep moving, keep doing what you must do, keep showing up every day. Haul yourself before God no matter what.” (Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monk’s Insights for a Balanced Life, Lonnie Collins Pratt and Fr. Daniel Homan, OSB, p.43).

In the end, why good and bad things happen to us, and God’s participation in all our experiences are a mystery. What we do know through the mystery of the story of our redemption through Jesus Christ, is that God is always walking with us in what we are going through, right here, right now. That knowledge by itself, is why we must turn to and trust God to help us.

Will you let God into your troubled heart, and listen to God today?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this blog ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Visit Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship

Reflection on Storms and Faith

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33 NRSV).

Among the many lessons we are learning this year is how unpredictable life is. Our lives can be going fairly well. Just like a storm out of nowhere, the coronavirus swept us all under our feet. Whatever the cause, or reason; this virus has brought international hardship and an entirely different life to our world.

Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew could not be more suited for what we are living through. The disciples are in the middle of a storm. The lives of everyone of those people is in danger. I don’t blame Peter for being so scared, even when Jesus calls him to step out and walk on the water. Everything around Peter is not predictable, including and especially seeing Jesus walking on water.

The contemplative message of this Gospel narrative is that Jesus comes to be with us during the storms of life. God may not stop the wind from blowing, or the water overflowing. We might take a step to walk on the stormy waters, and lose our faith during the journey. The storm is happening right now and right where we are. It is in through those tumultuous times of our lives (and oh are we all in them), that Jesus comes to us.

As Benedictines, we take a vow of Stability. The vow of Stability is a promise to place ourselves in the hands of God, with everything about us, as it is. The masks to cover our fears and wounded souls come off, in the vow of Stability. Stability means that even in the face of the storms of fear and change; we do not run away. Stability is our tool for facing God as we are, where we are in the here and now. It is through our vow of Stability, that we contemplate what God is doing in our lives through what we are living through in this moment; right here, right now.

The storms are raging on. Life is in chaos for all of us. Jesus is coming to us as we live through the storms of the coronavirus. It is time to let Jesus in to our hearts, to let Him receive us as we are. “The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore” (Psalm 121:8. The Book of Common Prayer, p.779).

“Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away 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 faith, we shall run the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p. 19).

What is Jesus saying to you as you brave the storms of this difficult year?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB.

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this blog ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Visit Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship. Appointments are available.

Reflection on the Transfiguration

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen. (Luke 9:28-36 NRSV).

All of us could use a good transfiguration moment these days. The continuing sickness and death by COVID-19 is suffocating in so many ways. We hear of the rising number of new cases. Day after day we read about people who have died from the coronavirus. Will it never end?

The celebration of the Transfiguration of Christ is so very timely. Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John, and all of us up the mountain as we read and hear the Gospel account. When the voice from Heaven says “This is my Son, my Beloved, listen to Him,” Jesus is proclaimed by the agape (love) of God as also the eros (love) of God. The vertical and the horizontal love of God is one with us in Jesus the Christ. The Cross on which Jesus died, is the symbol of the vertical and horizontal love of God, with Jesus’ arms forever outstretched. Is it any wonder why Peter said, “It is good to be here” ?

I am doing a personal at home retreat for a few days. During this retreat, I am reclaiming and renewing my Benedictine identity and spirituality. I am reading through the book entitled Benedict’s Way: An Ancient Monk’s Insights for a Balanced Life by Lonni Collins Pratt and the Late Fr. Daniel Homan, OSB. Yesterday I read something that spoke to me so clearly of what we are living through.

No matter what kind of ruins you stand in, keep moving, keep doing what you do, keep showing up every day. Haul yourself before God. (p.34).

We are all living through a time with what seems like endless ruins. The debris from how our lives used to be are everywhere. No one is untouched. It is in the middle of the ruins that Jesus takes us up the mountain, where God shows us God’s love and power that brings life out of death. All God asks of us is to haul ourselves before God and to listen to Jesus.

As contemplatives, prayer is our pathway to our relationship with God. Contemplative prayer is a way of life, through which what is mundane and normal becomes a way to grow closer to God and one another. Contemplative prayer is being in the presence of God and desiring nothing more than God. The Transfiguration is a contemplative mystery. When life is a mess, as it is for many of us, Jesus takes us into the wondrous mystical relationship with God by His single devoted love of God for all of us. Jesus, will take us into that relationship if we will just listen to Him.

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all together to everlasting life.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.95).

Are you hauling yourself before God during these difficult times?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you feel led to buy me some coffee to help support this blog ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Visit Br. Anselm Philip’s Ministry of Spiritual and Grief Companionship