Reflection on Our Ability

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Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven will be as when a man, going on a journey. summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.”  (Matthew 25:14 NRSV).

There are some who are going to be surprised by what I am beginning this blog reflection with.  I am a disabled man.  I have Asperger’s Syndrome (also known now as an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, ASD).  I have other mental health issues and physical limitations.  I walk with a cane.  I require a handicapped parking placard.  I use a motorized cart when I go grocery shopping.   I was declared disabled in 2011.  It ended my long and beloved career as a church musician and organist.  I have lost a lot of my energy and ambition to do many of the things I was once able to do.  It is a struggle to adjust.  It is difficult for me to tell someone else that I need their help.   I know what it is to have had abilities to do things that I wanted and needed to do without thinking much about it; to this point in my life when I have to think a little bit longer to do just about anything).

What does this Gospel of Matthew have to say to me and all of us when Jesus said in the parable, “He entrusted his property…….to each according to his ability”?   Quite frankly I am tired of the guilt trips I have gotten because folks think my talents are being wasted or not used.   They have been used.  God did God’s work through me for the long years I did what I did.  But, the time has come for me to let it all go, and take what God has given me in this moment, in the here and now and let God use me according to my ability.

That is why I now live a Benedictine Monastic life as a hermetical.   I am not part of any community per say at this time.  But, I am still who I am called to be, and entrusted by God with God’s property to cooperate with God’s grace with the abilities I now have.

These words from Matthew are about letting go of what we want to do, or want to have to do what we think we should do.  These words tell us to allow God to draw us all into a deep, contemplative awareness of God, and find God’s opportunity for us in the mystery of God’s perspective of each of us.  God sees each of us through the lens of the love of Jesus Christ and the power of God’s Holy Spirit.   God sees the great potential we have in the work God has given us to do in the here and now.  God does not expect us to jump through hoops if we don’t have the legs and muscles to be able to do so.  God calls us as we are, with what abilities God has given us to seek union with God, in the purity of heart; by which we seek God for God’s sake alone and not what God can do.

The first step of humility, then, is that we keep ‘the reverence God always before our eyes (Ps. 35:2)’ and never forget it.  (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, by Sr. Joan Chittister, p.79).

What is God entrusting you with according to your ability.

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

see  http://www.cos-osb.net

Reflection on Blessed

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“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3. NRSV).

There is a big misconception that has been going on way too long.  It is the thinking that there is only one to four ways to experience contemplative prayer and mysticism.  Sitting is solitude and silence is probably the greatest way to experience contemplative prayer.  Lectio Divina is best done when we are quietly reading the Scriptures and going through the methodical progression of Lectio (reading), Meditatio (Meditate), Oratio (prayer) and Contemplatio (Contemplation).  This too is true.  Using a routine prayer form such as using Prayer Beads, or the Prayer Rope, or even walking through a forest, are great ways to enter into union with God in prayer.  All of these are amazingly good ways to practice contemplative prayer.

The biggest misconception is that contemplative prayer is about us.  It happens because of something we must do; and if we do not do it and experience some kind of emotional and/or spiritual ecstasy, then we must be doing something wrong.

Contemplative prayer that opens up the possibility of a mystical experience is about God’s grace meeting us where we are, and seeing in our hearts the yearning desire to find union with God.  A yearning search that is there by God’s initiative waiting for us to accept the opportunity to let God be God, and get ourselves out of the way.  Contemplative prayer is not about being perfect.  It is about God reaching us within the whole of ourselves, seeing us as we are, where we are, and us experiencing how blessed we are to be so poor in spirit, that God brings the Kingdom of God to live within us.

Jesus’ invitation to “seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33 KJV) is God seeing us from God’s perspective.  Our deep desire to experience God from the depths of ourselves is in the here and now; even if we are depressed, in despair and wondering where God is.  God is in the wondering.  God is in the searching.  The God we are searching for and wondering about, has already found us.  In Jesus, God has told us that we are blessed because we are poor in spirit.  God also told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is ours; not just in the world to come, but in the here and now.

“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere and that in every place the eyes of that Lord are watching the good and the wicked (Proverbs 5:3)”.  (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English. Chapter 19:1).

Do you know in the whole of your being, that God sees you as being blessed?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

 

Reflection on God Our Portion

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“I cry out to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142:5: The Book of Common Prayer, p.798).

I am drawn to the words, “You,,,,are my portion in the land of the living.”

The world around me tells me that I will never be satisfied unless I own the biggest, the fastest, the most pleasurable.   Some around me have a larger portion then I do. I probably have a larger portion than others in some things.  Consumerism says that unless I have the biggest portion of everything, I am missing something in life.  The weight loss consumer market shames me and others by telling us that unless we buy their products to make us look more like the status quo our lives are worthless.

In Chapter 34 of The Rule of Saint Benedict entitled Distribution of Goods According to Need, he quotes from Acts 4;35.  “Distribution was made to each as he had need.”  In the rest of the chapter,  Benedict offers advice for those who need more and those who need less.  He is telling us that God knows our needs better than we do. Benedict’s Rule is a balance between strictness and flexibility.   He recognizes our need to honor God in one another, but leaves the decision of what to work on up to us individually.

The Psalmist and St. Benedict are reminding us that God is our portion who provides for each of us from the fullness of God’s Self in grace and love.  Our false sense of self says we never have enough, or makes us guilty if we have too much because of circumstances beyond our control.  As we submit ourselves to God through contemplative prayer we are drawn into the mystical experience that God’s Truth is all we need.  In God is our true selves.  In God is our sense of love and acceptance of where we are.  In God is our grace to let go of ourselves and find strength and endurance to keep following the path to where God wants us to be.  After all, God is our portion in the land of the living.

How is God your portion in the land of the living?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on Save Us From The Time of Trial

Lord's Prayer

“Save us from the time of trial.”

I have had for many years now a real problem with the words, “And lead us not into temptation” in the traditional version of The Lord’s Prayer.  The words do not seem appropriate.  I am glad that the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer have given us the words, “Save us from the time of trial.”

These words should disturb us a bit.  It seems that God does not always save us from the time of trial.  Ask anyone who is suffering from cancer, bullying, dementia, being stalked or grieving the loss of a loved one if they feel as if they are being saved from the time of their trial.  Were the many Coptic Christians who have been killed over the past two months saved from their time of trial?  How about the martyrs?  How about Jesus’ moment of trial?

At Matins this morning, I read the following words from Resurrecting Easter: Meditations for the Great 50 Days by Kate Moorehead.

Resurrection is born out of the pit of death and despair. Moments of pain, moments of darkness and abandonment are the greatest moments to glorify God.

Jesus never promised us that we would not have moments of trial.  Jesus Himself faced his trials. At one point, he was condemned at a trial and sentenced to death.  Did God save Jesus from His moment of trial?  Yes.

In the Person of Jesus, God walks through our times of trial with us.  God helps us during the times of trial to learn new things about ourselves.  God helps us to draw closer to Jesus through The Holy Spirit in those times of trial, so that we may be given a greater insight into our relationship with God and others.  Whatever our trial is, we must believe that what is happening will not prevent God from bringing us to where God wants us.

As contemplatives, our “work” of grace is to search for union with God in all things, in all places and at all times; including, but certainly not limited to our times of trial.  It is in those moments, that we find God who has already found us.

“The fourth step of humility is that in obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, his [the monk’s] heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape. For Scripture has it: Anyone who perseveres to the end will be saved (Matt 10:22), and again, Be brave of heart and rely on the Lord (Ps26[27]:14)” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English, Chapter 7;35-37, p.197).

How and where do you find God helping you from your time of trial?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Reflection on If You Love Me

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 ‘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

Lent Reflection: I Am Resurrection and Life

Reflections

 

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’  She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ (John 11:25-27 NRSV).

Jesus gives new hope to Mary and Martha in today’s Gospel story.   They already demonstrated their courageous faith.  Their belief in who Jesus was, enabled them to believe that if Jesus had been there when Lazarus was dying, He could have prevented his death.  Mary and Martha’s faith and hope in Jesus was evidence of their openness to more than what they saw by sight.  Jesus responds by proclaiming that He is the resurrection and the life, and follows His claim up by raising up Lazarus’ body.   I believe that all of what we read about in John’s Gospel today is faith becoming visible and tangible.  There are new opportunities, because faith opened the flood gates.

This is where the contemplative experiences the presence of Jesus in which no words are necessary.  As contemplatives, we know that all we have to do is crack open that barrier just a little, and The Holy Spirit will gush in the holiness of God in abundance.   If we believe just a little bit that Jesus can change what is right in front of us into a moment of resurrection and life; we will experience this new life in the mystical moment of God’s grace.

In chapter 35 of The Life and Miracles of St. Benedict, is the story of how he was standing at the window of his monastery before the night office.  He was so deep in his watching, that he had the experience of a great light through which he could see all the world in that one moment of light.  The mystical experience was so transparent for St. Benedict, that he saw the soul of Germanus ascending into heaven.  Just a little bit of openness and watching, and Benedict saw resurrection and life in front of his eyes.

What is the barrier you are willing to open just a little, so that Jesus can be resurrection and life for you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Lent Meditation:Bread and The Word

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Jesus replied, “It’s written, people won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God” (Matthew 4:4. Common English Bible).

Jesus’ journey in the desert is a perfect model for contemplative prayer. The Desert Mothers and Fathers made the journey of Jesus their own.  They left behind everything else and searched for union with God out of their poverty.  This is why Lent gets its theme of wandering in the desert fasting, praying and acts of self-denial.

In the desert we loose all illusions of power, ownership, fame, fortune and that sense of knowing where we are going.  There is no corner store.  No internet network connection.  No Facebook.  No case with bottled water.  The only thing about wandering in the desert is that we are alone.  We will face ourselves as we are.  We will experience the best of ourselves and see the worst of ourselves.  In the desert, we will learn Who it is that we ultimately depend on for the necessities of life.

Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) is about letting Jesus the Bread of Life, the Word of God speak in the depths of our heart and change our lives.  I think this is at the heart of the temptation in which Jesus is tempted to turn the stones into bread.  It isn’t about being hungry, nor is it an excuse for ignoring those who are hungry.  Living the life of a Christian is about seeing God present and working in every aspect of life.  A life lived as a contemplative (or the interior life), recognizes that everything we are, everything we use, everything around us and in us is God interacting with us in Jesus, the Word.  The Word is speaking. Calling.  Loving.  Inviting.  Forgiving.  Molding and shaping us to live into the mystery of what Jesus said in John 15:5, “without me you can do nothing.”

How are you listening more closely to every word spoken by God this Lent?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

“What is not possible for us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English.  Prologue, vs. 41, p.165).

http://www.cos-osb.org