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

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 much.

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 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.

Reflection on Arms Stretched Out

“Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (See Mark 8:27-38, NRSV).

I am sure the title of this blog entry and the Gospel quote might seem a little odd to some. Jesus is calling us to carry our cross, to give up our lives and follow Him. Yet, I titled the blog post as about the arms outstretched.

The mysticism of the Cross is that our God in the Person of Jesus stretched out His arms and embraced us. God’s love is so profound, so complete, that Jesus held nothing back.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “Christ carried us within him in love and travail, until the time of his passion. And when all was completed and he carried us so for joy, still all this could not satisfy the power of his wonderful love” (Canticle R Enriching Our Worship 1, p.40).

The contemplative experiences the love of God in such a way, that we know that love is more than a theological thesis. It is known in the depths of our hearts. Contemplation is an encounter with the loving arms of God stretched out, while we embrace that love in whatever comes our way. It will not always come in something warm and fuzzy. It happens because God’s grace has moved within us to stretch our arms to embrace the challenges we are given in the here and now.

Taking up our crosses is about faithfulness. Carrying our crosses is not about being perfect. Carrying our cross is God’s holy love forever outstretched for us to embrace God at any time, any where and in anyone.

“Listen carefully, my son, 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” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p. 15).

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, p.100).

Are you ready to carry your cross, knowing that the arms of Jesus are forever outstretched for you?

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 Longing and Sighing

“Everything I long for is laid out before you, my Lord; my sighs aren’t hidden from you” (Psalm 38:9 The Common English Bible).

Psalm 38 is one of the great lamenting Psalms. In the words is a deep concern for The Psalmist’s relationship with God. The author is feeling abandoned and betrayed. The Psalmist is being brutally honest.

The verse I chose for this blog entry comes from a very firm faith. A faith that recognizes all that is going on. Yet, the Psalmist is aware that God knows us so very well, that our longing and sighs are never far from God’s goodness.

As many of my readers know, I live with autism. It is a condition that challenges every aspect of my life. Finding the right combination of words in any given social situation is like playing the Battleship game. Finding people who affirm me in recognizing that I will never outgrow autism is very difficult. I can only learn to manage myself. But, I cannot do it on my own. I need therapists and good caring people around me to help me. In my false-sense of self, I might like to not be affected by loud noises that most cannot hear. I would love to be able to manage relationships without the fear of sensual overload. The fact is, I am what I am. Even if others don’t understand autism, it is still how God reaches me in the most wondrous of ways. It is because of my autism that Benedictine Contemplative Monastic Life is my path toward a deeper awareness of God’s love for me.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “When we contemplate God we are made like unto God” (All Will Be Well: 30 Days with a Great Spiritual Teacher, p.87).

The Contemplative seeks union with God by listening to God’s grace lead us to deeper sense of self awareness. Our deepest longing to know God within our hearts, with the sighs for healing and mercy are always in the very heart of God in the here and now. God wants us to reach out to God from the depth of who we really are, and not who we or anyone else would prefer us to be. Sometimes the very affirmation we need, comes from someone who helps us see how much God loves us in the here and now.

“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).

Do you believe that your longing and sighing are laid out before God?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

If you would like 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 Opening the Heart

“Say to those who are fearful of heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God'” (Isaiah 35:4 NRSV).

To this day, my very favorite words in the entire Rule of St. Benedict are, “Listen, my son, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart. Receive willingly and carry out effectively, your loving father’s advice,,,,,” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.1).

Life is full of uncertainties. Seasons change. We change. The people in our lives come and go. Who we are today; is different than who we were five years ago.

What is amazing is that it takes a huge change in our lives for us to wake up and pay attention to what is really going on inside of us. Nothing shakes up our lives quite like the death of someone close to us. When that someone is gone, we realize all the things we should have said or done. We remember things about the other person that made us so complete, but, may not have given it much thought while they were still with us. It is during a year of grieving that we experience the he healing of things within ourselves that we did not know were broken.

Our false-sense of self tells us that we must have everything figured out with all our ducks in a row. If we do not have it all together, we are doing something wrong. As long as we listen to our false-sense of self, our hearts will not be stilled and opened to listen to God. If we live with the idea that our heart are all our own, God cannot find a home there.

St. Julian of Norwich wrote, “And then our Lord opened my spiritual eye, and showed me my spirit in the middle of the heart. I saw the soul as wide as if it were an unlimited realm.”

The God-Life of contemplation tells us that God is present and speaking in the whole of ourselves, if only we will “incline the ear of the heart.” God invites us to experience the fullness of God’s life-giving grace; to give us hope where everything seems so hopeless. Our hearts full of fear from the things behind us, and of the things yet to come are restless. We need to embrace the presence of God within our hearts in the here and now.

What is God saying to your fearful heart 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 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.