Reflection on Psalm 23

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The Lord is my shepherd.  I lack nothing.  He lets me rest in grassy meadows; he leads me to restful waters; he keeps me alive.  He guides me in proper paths for the sake of his good name.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me.  Your rod and your staff–they protect me.  You set a table for me right in front of my enemies.  You bathe my head in oil; my cup is so full it spill over!  Yes, goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the Lord’s house as long as I live.  (Psalm 23 Common English Bible).

Psalm 23 is probably the single most well known and loved of all the Psalms.  And for good reason.  This is a Psalm of comfort and consolation at funerals time and time again.  It is used often enough that most of us can say it by memory from the original King James Version.

I invite you to join me for a contemplative look at this Psalm. The words on the surface may appear to take us from a moment of chaos to those peaceful meadows and calm waters.  If we think on these words from our minds alone and with our false-sense of self, we will miss the opportunity to meditate on them in our hearts.  Jesus the shepherd comes when we feel that we are lost, weary, restless, in darkness and feasting before our conflicts and makes them into opportunities for God to do wondrous things in us.  In the words of this Psalm, God offers us the truth of what the Resurrection is for the contemplative.  Our lives in their current state are not an end in and of themselves.  The Contemplative searches for union with the Risen Christ where the world sees hopelessness and despair.  The contemplative seeks the mystery of God’s unfolding grace as God takes all that is difficult, painful and confusing and uses them to draw us closer to God’s boundless love and tender mercy.

Yesterday, was the commemoration of St. Anselm who’s name I am so honored to have as my Religious Name.  I read the following words in The Liturgy of the Hours, Volume II on page 1775 written from the Proslogion by St. Anselm, and I believe they speak very eloquently of what Psalm 23 may say to us from a contemplative perspective.

“O God, let me know you and love you so that I may find my joy in you; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least make some progress every day, until at last that knowledge, love and joy come to me in all their plenitude.  While I am here on earth let me learn to know you better, so that in heaven I may know you fully; let my love for you grow deeper here, so that there I may love you fully.  On earth then I shall have great joy in hope, and in heaven complete joy in fulfillment of my hope.”

“When we have used [the tools of good works] without ceasing day and night and have returned them on judgment day, our wages will be the reward the Lord has promised; What the eye has not seen nor the ear heard, God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor 2:9).” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.29).

“The path you must follow is the Psalms” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

What is your experience of Christ as your good shepherd?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS

See The Community of Solitude

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Reflection on I Am the Gate

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“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