Reflection on St. John the Baptist

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel”(See Luke 1:57-80 NRSV).

The Church celebrates today the birth of one of the most influential people of Desert spirituality. St. John the Baptist personified the vocation of solitude. It is more than fair to say, that the Monastic tradition of living in the silence and solitude of the desert has St. John the Baptist as our pioneer.

The desert life of St. John the Baptist was to “prepare the way of the Lord.” He accepted the unfavorable way of life. He abandoned the lure of wealth and power. His desert life was how he unlocked the mystery of the God that he and all of humankind was awaiting. John the Baptist knew that he was chosen by God for something so amazing, that he let go of everything that could tie him down. St. John the Baptist chose the freedom of solitude, to know the God that was to become the very essence of God’s presence in every human person.

“Like the Forerunner, you were intended for Christ,,,,,,, because the on,y reason for your existence on earth is to love and glorify Jesus” (The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert. Translated by Alan Neame., p.19).

Contemplation is the gift of God’s grace to grow in purity of heart. Contemplation is about letting go of all our pretenses so that we are liberated to experience the wonder of God. Contemplation is the grace of self awareness; that God is at work in ourselves and the world us in the mystical experience of which our human senses can neither comprehend or describe.

“As long as I am content to know that [Christ] is infinitely greater than I, and that I cannot know Him unless He shows Himself to me, I will have peace, and He will be near me and in me, and I will rest in Him” (Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude, p.109).

“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 noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, The Prologue, p.15).

“Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

How are you called to be a forerunner for God in your daily life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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Reflection on The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me

JesusSynagogue

Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:17b-18a NRSV).

As the Church leads us through the Easter Season to Pentecost, we are reading about the Holy Spirit.  In this Gospel reading we join Jesus in the synagogue as He reads from this scroll, these words from the Prophet Isaiah.  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.”  In these words, Jesus is leading us into a deep meditation and contemplation of how God sees us through the person of Jesus.

The same Spirit that was upon Jesus is also upon each of us.  The Holy Spirit is also known as The Holy Essence of God; meaning that the source of divine truth in the heart of the Christ follower, leads us into a deeper relationship with God in our own essence.  As we seek union with God, we find that we meet the good news of Jesus in the poverty of our own spirit leading us to purity of heart.

If you are like me, you are a very long distance walk before arriving at having purity of heart.  The last thing most of us want is to seek union with God for the sake of God alone.  We want a relationship with God to get only what we want out of it.  That in and of itself is our poverty of spirit.  That is why we need the message that Jesus is anointed with the Spirit to bring good news to the poor one in each of us.

As we contemplate on how much God loves each of us that God anoints us with the Spirit to hear and respond to the good news that Jesus brings; may we also be open responding to the poor in and around us.  That would in thought, word and deed be very good news.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Lenten Reflection: Waiting for God

Serenity

But as for me, I will look to the Lord,
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me.

Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be a light to me.
I must bear the indignation of the Lord,
because I have sinned against him,
until he takes my side
and executes judgement for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall see his vindication.  (Micah 7:7-9 NRSV).

The issue most of us have with waiting for God, is that we do not know what we are waiting for.  Waiting for God is not like putting coins into a vending machine and you may or may not get what you want.  Waiting for God means waiting not on what we want or even what we hope for.  Waiting for God is just what the words say.  To wait for God is to be prepared to negate our will and to look for God alone with a pure heart.  Most of us wait for God hoping that God will give us what we want.  If we get what we want we thank God for the time being until the next time we want something.  The cycle repeats itself.

Lent is about going beyond our typical cycles.  It is a time to deepen our relationship with God. It is a time of waiting with anticipation for the celebration of Holy Week and Easter.  The waiting time of fasting, prayer and alms-giving makes us yearn for a Holy Easter as St. Benedict wrote in Chapter 49 of The Rule.  In the mean time, we must wait for God.  As we wait for God not only in this Season, but also in our lives we are surrounded by our enemies from within.  Impatience.  A tendency towards poor charity towards our neighbor.  Looking for others to blame for our issues, while ignoring our responsibility to look after ourselves for the sake of others.  These and others I could mention seek to rejoice over us as they draw us away from God into our false-sense of self.

These words from Micah tell us to prefer to wait for God and to trust that “He will bring me out to the light; I will see his vindication.”  God’s light and vindication are not to be seen as revenge.  God’s way is mercy, forgiveness and grace through faith.

As we wait for God to come we eventually discover that God is already present.  While we were waiting for God to come as we thought God should, God shows up in new ways that save us from our certainty.  God comes to take us from our static and abstract understanding of how God works, to gently and lovingly escort us to a renewal of self in the Essence of God in union with our own essence.

As we wait for God, may we not close our eyes to how God is already present in the here and now.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Lenten Reflection: Search Me, O God

SearchMe

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.(Psalm 139:23 NRSV).

As I briefly researched other translations of Psalm 139:23, I came across words such as “investigate” and “examine.”  Which ever word you chose, it appears that the Psalmist is opening her/himself up to let God look deeply into oneself.

One of the main pieces of centering prayer is to accept our thoughts and let them go.  It is about surrendering our whole selves to God in silence so that we can be with God at the center of our being.  In centering prayer we do not avoid thoughts or pretend they are not there.  We simply learn to accept them just as one accepts that there is traffic passing by outside.  Thomas Keating in Open Mind, Open Heart writes of being in the middle of a conversation and suddenly you hear a loud voice or noise; you acknowledge it, and then go back to what you were doing.  Centering prayer is the same kind of idea.  We acknowledge that it is there, but we detach ourselves from it.

Recently, I prayed these words from Psalm 139:23 as I began doing centering prayer.  I had given God permission to search the things that flood my heart and mind on a conscious level.  The more God searched, the more God found.  As God found it, I found the grace to surrender it into God’s hands.

God desires to search us to love us in those places where we wander aimlessly.  God wants to meet us where we accumulate “stuff” and help us to let it go.  God knows us better than we know ourselves. God also wants us to let go of our “need” to hang on to things.

Let God search your heart and mind today.  Let God love you where you hurt so deeply.  God will bring the grace of Jesus and the consolation of the Holy Spirit.  It is about the journey of faith.  It is about encountering the holy in the midst of what seems to be in chaos.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

With Us, God is Well-Pleased

BaptismoftheLord

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:9-11 NRSV).

Tomorrow, Christians will be celebrating The First Sunday after The Epiphany and The Baptism of the Lord.  Of this great feast, St. Maximus of Turin wrote:

For when the Savior is washed all water for our baptism was made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages.  Christ is the first to be baptized, then, so that Christians will follow after him with confidence. (The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume 1, Advent and Christmas Seasons, p.612).

At Christ’s Baptism, our identity as Christians was bestowed on us in the Person and action of Jesus.  Even more so, by the Holy Spirit descending and the voice from heaven that said, “You are my Beloved; with you I am well-pleased.” In God’s own words that proclaimed Jesus, God’s Incarnate Word; as God’s Beloved; with whom God was well-pleased; are also bestowed upon all of us by our common Baptism into the life of Jesus.

It does not matter what we have done in the past.  Those labels that others use to divide and define us, are meant to stamp us out for what we are.  God welcomes us to live into who we are, and who we are to become.

“You are my Beloved; with you I am well-pleased.”

That is just something much too wonderful not to contemplate.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Called by Name

OpenBible

And he [Jesus] called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Matthew 10:1-4 ESV).

I don’t know about you, but every so often I need an affirmation.  I am a Monk in training.  If I am completely upfront with others and myself; when and if I make solemn vows, I will always be a Monk in training.  We all have a lot to learn.

As I read these words from St. Matthew’s Gospel about Jesus calling His Apostles, I am encouraged and affirmed.  Jesus calls them all by name.  Jesus wants to impact the world so much through us, that He calls us each by our name.  Whether we are female or male or any other useless label humankind heaps upon us.  “….. for all of you are one in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Galatians 3:28b NRSV).  Jesus calls us by our name to live into who we are, not what we are.  In Jesus, we are called by name as God’s beloved, with whom God is well-pleased. (See Matthew 3:13-17).

God tells us through the Prophet Isaiah: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (43:1b NRSV).

Today, Jesus calls us by our name to be drawn more deeply into His life.  He wants us to know that we are not alone.  He wants to walk with us through our uncertainty.  Jesus wants to show us how to follow Him through daily life.  St. Benedict tells us how to do that in the very first word of The Rule. “Listen.”

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB