Reflection on Enticed by God

RunnerLight

 

“O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed…..” (Jeremiah 20:7 NRSV).

Out of curiosity, I looked up the word “enticed”.  The synonyms for enticed are allure, attract, lure, tempt.

The Contemplative has been on a journey that began when she/he discovered an enticement within them.  Something was empty and hungry.  As the contemplative opens oneself to the presence of God, one discovers the mystery that one has been enticed by the Holy Spirit.  The lure within the contemplative was there by God’s initiative.  It allures the contemplative into something much deeper than austere practices and the practice of religion by itself.  The practice of religion certainly helps, but, it is something on the surface that can only do so much. We know that when we are hungry there is something about the aroma of bread being baked that seems to make our mouths water and warms our soul.  This is poor example, but close enough to what the contemplative experiences as God entices us in our hearts.

“The contemplation of God is arrived at in numerous ways” (The Conferences of St. John Cassian.  Conference One: On the Goal of the Monk).

God has many ways of attracting our attention.  Through our moments in solitude, walks or jogs along the beach and in the ordinariness of life; God is there, enticing us in ways that “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).    All we have to do is take one small foot step in faith with a little trust in the Holy Spirit; and God will do the rest.

“First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to him most earnestly to bring it to perfection” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Prologue vs 4. p.15).

How is God enticing you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

 

Reflection on Humility and Anxiety

St.BenedictStainedGlass

 

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NRSV).

I am drawn to these words today because I am a Benedictine who loves Chapter 7 in The Rule of Saint Benedict; and because I live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Before I continue on, I want to give a very strong word of advice to Priests, Ministers, Preachers, Spiritual Directors, etc.  Never tell a person with any kind of anxiety disorder to just hand it over, do not be anxious and all will be fine.  It never works that way.  In fact, the more things like that are said, the more anxious a person with an anxiety disorder gets; because she/he just can’t measure up to the high expectations.  There is a false sense of guilt for things the individual is not responsible for.  People with anxiety disorders upon hearing “do not be anxious” will shy away from the advice and the advisor.

I am drawn to these words from 1 Peter because I do have an anxiety disorder.  Just giving over anxiety in prayer helps relieve it, but it is never completely gone.   When I read the words, ” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.,” I hear the Spirit drawing me in with everything that I am and experiencing, accepting me with God’s extravagant love; with a home in Christ that is safe, and offers me consolation.

We are now in the time in our Liturgical Year between the Ascension and Pentecost.  The Apostles who lost Jesus once in His Crucifixion, were so happy after He was raised from the dead; now find themselves with Jesus gone again.  Can we just imagine for a moment the anxiety they must have experienced?  They were in a no win situation, until after Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

The contemplative is drawn through these words to relinquish everything that is shaking us up, and trust in God with humility.  It is time to stop trying to handle it all ourselves.  It is time for us to stop thinking that all this stuff defines who we are.  It is time to sit in silence, with all the noise within and let the Holy Spirit bring a peace into our hearts, because we are in the Presence of the God who cares about what shakes us to pieces, and is somewhere in the middle of it all.  In humility we are not being asked to measure up.  On the contrary, the Holy One is lovingly and tenderly moving us to let it go.  God is telling us “It is okay.  You are not alone. Let us work through this together.”

“Let a [person] consider that God is always looking at him from heaven” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, p.22).

How are you managing the anxieties of your life as you sit in the presence of God?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on If You Love Me

St.BenedictwRule

 

 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”  (John 14:15-17 NRSV).

Dean Paul J. Lebens-Englund at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis, asked the gathered congregation two very important questions one Sunday.   Do you remember the very first time you fell in love?  What was that one moment like for you?

I invite you to spend some time in contemplative silence on those words, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will send you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”   As we bring Dean Paul’s question about the first time you fell in love, how might the words from this Gospel of John apply to what you are remembering?

I would like to suggest that to love Jesus, keep His commandments and be ready to receive the Holy Spirit, God’s very Essence; requires us to be open to learning to love Jesus in ways today that are even greater than that first time we fell in love.

The contemplative knows and lives into  the first step of humility St. Benedict wrote about in The Rule. Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB in her book, Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light wrote,

“The first step of humility is to ‘keep the reverence of God always before our eyes’ and never forget it,” the Rule of Benedict says.  See everything in life as sacred.  The neighborhood calls something out in us.  This tree stirs feeling in us.  This work touches hope in us.  Every thing in life, in fact, is speaking to us of something.  It is only when we learn to ask what the world around us is saying to us at this moment, in this particular situation, that we tend to the seedbed of our soul.”  She goes on to say in another paragraph, “What is God demanding of my heart as a result of each event, each situation, each person in my life?”

Loving Jesus and keeping His commandments, so we can be open to the Spirit of God is about how we live in awareness of, and respond to the loving Presence of Jesus in this moment, this place and this opportunity.

Are you open to falling in love again and again with Jesus, by living His commandments, to receive the Advocate Who wants to live in us?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on I Am the Gate

GoodShepherd

 

“I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”  (John 10:9-10 NRSV).

As we are focusing on Jesus as the Good Shepherd today, I found myself stuck at the words, “I am the gate.”  John’s Gospel is full of Jesus proclaiming “I am” about many things.  “I am the bread of life.”  “I am the light of the world.”  “I am the way, the truth and the life.”  “I am the resurrection and the life.”   When Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd”  that is pretty easy to think of.  The words, “I am the gate,”  these words are going deep for me today.

A gate can be higher or lower than a door.  A gate can give us a look at what is on the other side, or it can block our view. A gate is often attached to a fence of some kind that is protecting something within.  Regardless of a gates size, color, shape, with or without windows; one thing remains true.  In order to take in what is beyond the gate, one must pass through it.    Once that gate is opened and we pass through to the other side, we are introduced to what or who we went through the gate to see.  When we are inside the gate our eyes are opened to new things.  What was outside is beyond our view now.  When we step inside a gate, we are now in the hands of who owns what is on that side.  We are entrusted with the individual’s property, their way of life, the people they have welcomed or the animals they are caring for.  Passing through a gate is risky.  There is a tremendous amount of turning ourselves over the the owner of the gate and fence.

Jesus says, “I am the gate.”  We often do not know or see what Jesus is the gate to.  Sometimes we would rather stay outside of Jesus the gate, so that we can remain in our comfort zones.  We want our freedom to roam from one place or thing to the other.  We want no stability with what God has in Jesus who is The Gate.

When we put our trust in Jesus, The Gate and enter through Him, we will find that “Sheep may safely graze on pastures, where their shepherd guards them well.” (Cantata No. 208, by J.S.Bach).

The Contemplative sees Jesus, The Gate as always inviting us to pass through Him.  There is no part of life where Jesus isn’t The Gate inviting us to experience new life with a new purpose in the ordinary and boring parts of life.   Jesus is the Gate that invites us to enter into the other side of life; where we confront our fears and trust in God to change us into that “new creation” Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 5:17-18.  The new creation where we know healing and reconciliation within ourselves; and are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation to a world that is swimming in the pool of wounds that many refuse to see.   Inside The Gate who is Jesus, is the opportunity for that abundant life promised to us for the taking.

“In (the Abbot’s) commands let him be prudent and considerate and whether the work which he enjoins concerns God or the world, let him be discrete and moderate, bearing in mind the discretion of holy Jacob, who said, “If I cause my flocks to be overdriven, they will all die in one day” (St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, Chapter 64. p. 91-92).

What side of Jesus The Gate are you on in your present state of life?

Amen.

Br. 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

 

Holy Monday Reflection

Mary&JesusFeet

 

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 NRSV).

I remember the last four days of my Mother’s life.   I was next to her bed day and night. The Priest from my Parish came to anoint Mom, but also to celebrate Holy Communion with us.  My Mother was no longer able to eat or drink.  The Priest knew that I needed the Body and Blood of Christ every bit as much as my Mother did.  It was a beautiful moment at a difficult time.

Mary knew that Jesus’ time was coming soon.   She knew that this would be her last opportunity to be as close to Jesus before His death.  In this moment when Jesus was about to enter into His Passion and death,  Mary imitates what Jesus is about to do, for Jesus.  She gives the most expensive gift she has in her house and uses it to love Jesus who loved her and all of us in total selflessness.

If we ponder nothing else today, let us ponder these questions:

What in your life is your greatest and most cherished possession?

Are you willing to give your great and most treasured possession to love and honor Jesus’ unselfish sacrifice?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

“We mean that without an order from the abbot, no one may presume to give, receive or retain anything as his own, nothing at all–not a book, writing tablets or stylus–in short, not a single item, especially since monks may not have the free disposal of their own bodies and wills.  For their needs, they are to look to the father of the monastery, and are not allowed anything which the abbot has not given or permitted.  All things should be the common possession of all, as it is written, so that no one presumes to call anything his own. (Acts 4:32).  (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 33 Monks and Private Ownership. p.231).

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