Reflection on Possessions

Then Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:38-44 NRSV).

In a Benedictine community, the notion that we “own” anything is unacceptable. In The Rule of St. Benedict, he charges the monastery cellarer to “regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.55). Later in Chapter 33, on Monks and Private Ownership, Benedict quotes from Acts 4:32 writing “All things should be the common possession of all” (p.56). Things and people in a Benedictine community are on loan and not ends in themselves.

We live in a society of consumerism on steroids. The holiday shopping commercials are already in full swing. The better the gift, the less expensive the deal, the more stuff accumulated and the more stuff possesses us. Our false-sense of self becomes more inflated, thinking our security is found in what we own.

In her book Praying with Benedict, Katherine Howard wrote, “The cure for our insecurity is not the accumulation of material goods, but trust in God” (p.101).

The contemplative is always searching for the One who is invisible in what is visible. A contemplative lives in the simplicity of learning that God loans what we use to us, out of God’s abundance. We seek union with God because God is always generous in the revelation of God’s Self disclosure in Jesus the Christ. God sees us from the perspective of being loved, as God gives to us from the fullness of Who God is. God wants us to let go of all that possesses us, so that God is all we desire. The contemplative searches for God with purity of heart. A purity that comes from our essence, that is our eternal truth of who we are in relationship with God. It is in God that we lay the foundation of our true selves.

Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, “Can a man lay a new foundation every day?” The old man said, “If he works hard he can lay a new foundation every moment” (Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, by Christine Valters Paintner, p.57).

Are you searching for union with God through the things in your life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Removing the Stone

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” (See John 11:32-44).

Mary and Martha had a good reason for putting a stone at the entrance of Lazarus’ tomb. There was already a stench because his body was decaying. Jesus did not see the stone or the stench as an obstacle to what God could do; but, first the stone had to be removed. The entrance needed to be cleared so that the power of God could do something amazing.

So many of us have good reasons for putting up stones at the entrances of our hearts. We have experienced our hearts being hurt by others or by things we do to ourselves. Many of us have stones at the entrances of our hearts, because of events that are not of our own doing. The death of someone close to us. A disability. An addiction. A relationship that ended . Jesus can meet us in our hearts to do the work of healing and reconciliation, but, we need to be willing to take the stone away, and let God in.

Contemplative prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit as we let go of all of the obstacles we put in God’s way. Lectio Divina (The prayerful Reading of Scripture) is a way of letting the Holy Spirit help us move those stones that we use to keep God away. The whole of ourselves needs a lot of healing and reconciliation, as our souls need redeeming. The stench of everything that is just not right in our lives is something God wants to bring God’s compassion and mercy to. We have to let go, and we have to do it as we are ready. God will wait with us, and love us without exception of what we decide to do about the stones in front of our hearts. The mystery of contemplation is that God is always reaching out for us, and speaking through what is happening with us. “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 NRSV).

“Sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything ” (said St. Moses the Black).

“What is not possible for us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply with the help of his grace.” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.18).

What is your response to Jesus’ request to take away the stone from the entrance to your heart?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on What We Want God to Do

Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. (See Mark 10:46-52 NRSV).

This past week one of the greatest teachers of contemplative and centering prayer Thomas Keating went to his eternal rest. The theme of letting go of our false sense of self by accepting then letting go of all the things that possess us, so that we can be with God for no other reason than God alone; was something that Thomas Keating lived into and shared with others.

Jesus asked the man who was blind as well as all of us, “what do you want me to do for you?” Many of us have become blind to what is within us, and what is going on around us. All of us have something that we want. Are we so full of the little things that we want, that we do not see what it is we really want from God?

Much of our spiritual blindness is because God has already revealed God’s Self to us. God is revealing God’s Self to us, in the here and now. The desires of our hearts, the longing for more than what is on the surface, comes from God’s longing for us. The question to be asked is, are we paying attention to God’s desire for us, in our desire for God?

In his book Open Mind, Open Heart, Thomas Keating wrote,

“The desire to go to God, consent to His presence within us, does not come from our initiative, but from the grace of God. We do not have to go anywhere to find God because He is already drawing us in a very conceivable way into union with Himself” (p.36).

God is offering us to enter into the contemplation of our relationship with God. It is a Mysticism with its own wonder, with no conclusion to be drawn by anything else, except faith and trust in God’s grace. It is the new sight that Jesus restores for us when we answer His question “what do you want me to do for you?”

“Let is open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice that comes from Heaven that every day calls out this charge: If today you hear God’s voice, do not harden your hearts” (The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.15-16).

What do you want Jesus to do for you?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Eye, Ear and Heart

St.BenedictStainedGlass

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (See 1 Corinthians 2:9 NRSV).

St. John Cassian in The Conferences, quoted Abba Moses who said, “Whenever the gaze strays even a little, we should turn back the eyes of the heart into the straight line towards [God].”

Christine Valters Paintner in her book, Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, Annotated & Explained wrote, “We often move through life skimming the surface with our eyes.  Our eyes become tired and blurry and we no longer see the sacred shimmering before us” (see pages 32-33).

In The Rule of St. Benedict, he quotes the words of 1 Corinthians 2:9 at the end of Chapter 4 On The Tools for Good Works.  St. Benedict invites us into contemplation that what God does with what we have is beyond anything we can grasp with our human senses.  When we let go of being the ones that must always determine the outcome of something we do or say; God’s plans for us still remain mysterious.  Yet, they are all that much more wonderful than anything we can “ask or imagine.” (See Ephesians 3:20, 21).

Anything that may be going on in our lives at this very moment, is an opportunity to let go and to love and trust in God.  Whether what is happening is something that goes as we had hoped for or not; God’s plans for us are extravagant.  In contemplative prayer we “listen to God with the ear of the heart.”  We do not have to have everything defined so neatly and perfectly.  Letting go of that desire is so very challenging, because we like things delivered to us perfectly wrapped up in a pleasant surprise.  God opens up our hearts to what God has for us, because of God’s love for us, and God’s desire in us is to love God with everything we have and are.  God’s mysticism is for us to open our hearts to thankfully receive; and to live into so that the world can be transformed and renewed by God’s Holy Spirit.

Where in your life are you experiencing God showing you amazing things?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on Being God’s Treasure

Jesus said to his disciples, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44 NRSV).

There is way too much negativity these days. Sadly, the Christian religion is used to send way too many negative messages. We are “the apple of God’s eye” (See Psalm 17). Our problem is that we often draw a conclusion of how God must see us based on our own view of ourselves. A view that has us caught up in our false-sense of self.

Contemplative prayer is about letting go of ourselves to know ourselves from God’s perspective. The contemplative knows that we are so much more than the labels the world uses to define our identity.

“I think that the eternal love of God, which created you out of nothing and then redeemed you from Adam’s curse through the sacrifice of his blood, could not bear to let you go on living so common a life far from him. And so, with exquisite kindness, he awakened desire within you, and binding it fast with the leash of love’s longing, drew you closer to himself into what I have called the more Special manner of living ” (The Cloud of the Unknowing, by William Johnston, p.38).

The contemplative seeks union with the God who has already found them. We know in our hearts that we are God’s treasure. Seeking union with God is important to the contemplative, because there is nothing we treasure more than God for the sake of God’s Self. We seek union with God to gain purity of heart.

In the Prologue of The Rule of St. Benedict, he wrote, “In God’s goodness, we are already counted as God’s own, and therefore we should never grieve the Holy One by our evil actions” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB., p.5).

God wants you and me to invest our true selves into the God-Life as our treasure. A treasure that is much too important to give away to just anyone or anything.

Do you see yourself as God’s treasure?

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 me support this ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.

Reflection on Being A Servant

“[Jesus] said to them, ‘whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (See Mark 9:30-37 NRSV).

Our false-sense of self wants us to put God and ourselves into a box of our own making. This kind of thinking suggests that God is the lump of clay and we are the artist.

In The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 5, he wrote, “The first step of humility is unhesitating obedience, which comes naturally to those who cherish Christ above all” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.29).

In Chapter 7 On Humility, he wrote, “The first step of humility, then, is to keep ‘the reverence of God always before our eyes’ (Ps.36:2) and never forget it ” (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, p.79).

Our greatness is found by contemplation of living into who God is, and who we are. God is God; and, we are not. Jesus is telling us in this Gospel, that it is more than okay for us to be last and servant of all. God lovingly receives us in Jesus as God’s Beloved; and blesses us beyond our imagination. We are affirmed as God’s Children to partner with Jesus to serve as He served.

Jesus by word and example teaches us how to live the contemplative vocation. The mystical experience of contemplative prayer is letting go of our self perceptions; to view ourselves from God’s perspective. God who blessed the life and servanthood of Jesus, blesses our servant life through the grace of the Holy Spirit. What a beautiful and holy way to live.

Do you see yourself as blessed to be a servant?

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 ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug.

Reflection on Waiting and Hoping

“So now, Lord, what should I wait for? My hope is set on you” (Psalm 39:7 The Common English Bible).

Waiting for anything these days is a lost art. Twenty nine years ago email was a very new thing. There was no Amazon. No way to buy a plane ticket online. Returning a phone call still meant waiting until you got home. Due to technology and consumerism that makes things so convenient; we can set our waiting time on our schedule for nearly anything.

The Psalmist seems to be at the end of their rope. “So now, Lord, what should I wait for?”

The false-sense of self says that what we wait for has to have a conclusion to our liking.

The Prophet Isaiah wrote, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (see Isaiah 55:6-11).

To be a contemplative, one must be constantly living a prayerful life; because we know that God must become all we are wanting. Searching for union with God is the foundation of Benedictine spirituality. Benedict would have learned this from the writings of St. John Cassian, who learned from the Desert Mothers and Fathers.

Abba Moses asked Abba Sylvanus, ‘Can a man lay a new foundation everyday?’ The old man said, “If he works hard, he can lay a new foundation at every moment.” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.30).

As contemplatives, the answer of what should we wait for is for God alone. God is present and speaking to our hearts. We just need to spend time in silence and solitude so we can listen carefully to God speaking to us through what is happening in our lives. Our experiences, our emotions, our relationships and our challenges are part of God working God’s plan in our lives. We need to let go of wanting to determine the outcome. Our prayer and work are to be listening and responding in faith and hope that God will become all that we truly desire. The prayer of St. Anselm ends with “Let me seek you in my desire, let me desire you in my seeking. Let me find you by loving you, let me love you when I find you.” (Saint Benedict’s Prayer Book for Beginners, p.118).

“And finally, never lose hope in God’s mercy” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.29).

What are you waiting for?

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 ministry, please scroll down to the bottom of the right sidebar and click on the Benedictine Coffee Mug. Thank you so very much.