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

Good Friday Reflection

Crucifixus

Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38 NRSV).

Before I begin, I am not going to try to answer Pilate’s last question, “What is truth?”   My reason is that each person who contemplates the words of the Scripture verses I have chosen on this Good Friday will answer it differently.  It is very important that everyone’s experience of Pilate’s question is respected whether we agree or disagree.

What might a contemplative do with these words from John’s account of Jesus’ passion?

“The contemplative simply stands in place and in the standing answers the question “Who am I” with the answer “I am the one who waits for the God within.”  In other words, the one who pursues the center of life. I am the one who is in search of the Light that is distant from my darkened soul and alien to my restless mind and extraneous to may scattered heart.  I am the one who realizes that the distance between God and me is me.

To lead a contemplative life requires that we watch what we’re seeking–and why we are seeking it.  Even good can become noise in the heart when we do it, not because it’s right, but because it will in turn do something for us: Bring us status. Make us feel good.  Give us security. Require little of our own lives.

God is more consuming, more fulfilling than all those things.  The grail we seek is God alone.  But talking about God is not the same as searching for God, all the simple saints, all the fallen hierarchs to the point.  To be a contemplative we must seek God in the right places: within the sanctuary of the centered self” (Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB).

When Jesus gave Himself over to suffering and death on the Cross, He taught us among many things, to ask ourselves the question “Who am I?”   I believe that when Jesus said “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice, ” He was telling Pilate an us to search for union with God by asking ourselves the question “Who am I?”   Not who we wish to be.  Not who we were in the past.  The question is, “Who am I?”  Right here.  Right now.  That truth that Jesus was speaking of is our true sense of ourselves.  Are we centering ourselves on being liked, preferred, approved of, what we own, what we do, our status, our title, our pride?  These things are part of our false-sense of self.  Our true sense of ourselves is letting go of all of that and living from the essence of who we are with total self sacrificial love for Christ who gave Himself up for us all.  I suggest that in the Death and Resurrection God tells us through Jesus that “Yes this is possible even for you, because I love you.”

“Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he bring us all to everlasting life” (The Rule of Saint Benedict in Latin and English. Chapter 72:11, 12. p.295).

What is your response to the question “Who am I?”

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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

Advent Reflection: No Need to Speak

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For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it.  (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

Saint Benedict regarded silence as one of the most important aspects of Monastic life.  In Chapter 6 in The Rule Benedict he wrote:

I was silent and was humbled, and I refrained even from good words (Ps. 38 [39]:2-3).  Here the Prophet indicates that there are times when good words are to be left unsaid out of esteem for silence.

The words from Paul to the Thessalonians and The Rule of St. Benedict are telling us that our faith is most often best known when we maintain silence.  The Word of God sounds forth from us as we spend time silently in the presence of God; allowing God to speak to our hearts in Contemplative and Centering Prayer.  When we live in silence from the essence of who we really are and seek union with God in all we do there is no need for us or others to speak of it.  Our faith in the Holy One who has made us not one, but not two brings us to the holy union that we desire with God in faith, trust and love.

In this Season of Advent as we await to celebrate God coming among us in Christ, our silence with the Word of God is imperative to be the faithful People of God we were created and redeemed to be.

How is your silence with the Word known so that there is no need to speak of it?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

Maundy Thursday Reflection

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And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. (John 13:3-5 NRSV).

 

I sat in the pews on Maundy Thursday for many years during the washing of feet.  I found it very difficult to allow myself to walk forward to have my feet washed and then wash another person’s feet.   As the moment would approach, my stomach would get some butterflies.  Perhaps I was embarrassed to have another person see what my feet looked like, or what they smelled like.  Perhaps the other who washed them would pass judgement on me because of my feet.

In 2009 I decided to ignore the butterflies and the other thoughts that held me back.  I walked forward and had my feet washed.  After, I washed the feet of someone else.  I found that all of those things that I had allowed to keep me from the experience vanished as the love of God seemed to embrace me and the other.  All pretenses disappeared.  Now, I participate in the washing of feet every year on Maundy Thursday.

As time has gone on for me, I have found that participating in the washing of feet on Maundy Thursday as a wonderful opportunity for healing and reconciliation.  I have often washed the feet of someone that I might have had a clash with.  Suddenly, whatever grudges I may have had, gave way to the healing and reconciliation delivered by God’s grace.  I have found myself set free from many things that have held me back from growing closer to God through my relationships with others.

Washing the feet of another is a great act of humility.  When Jesus washed the feet of His Disciples, he stooped as low as the Godhead in the Son of God could go.  Their feet were probably muddy, calloused with dry cracked skin.  Their feet had stories to tell of where each of the Disciples had been or what they did.  Jesus was only concerned with serving each of them and drawing them closer to God and one another.

Today, Jesus invites all of us to contemplate this great mystery.  The mystery of God who is present among us, who walks where we walk.  God goes where we go.  God loves us with every step we take.  God is with us and listening to our stories as we walk with calloused, muddy and dry feet.  God invites all of us to listen for just a little while to the stories of others as they walk their own paths.

John ends today’s Gospel Reading with the most wonderful words from Jesus.

Jesus said, ” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).

How is Jesus challenging you to love another as He has loved you?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Holy Monday Reflection

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Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 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: 1-3.  NRSV).

Our journey through Holy Week that began yesterday with Palm Sunday, brings us to this scene in St. John’s Gospel.  These scene changes may be a bit confusing.  Yesterday we were with those welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem while laying Palms along his path.  Today we are with Martha, Mary and Lazarus at a dinner in which Mary anoints the feet of Jesus in preparation for his death and burial.

We could say that Mary is giving us a preview of the scene at the Last Supper at which Jesus will wash the feet of His Disciples.  Mary could be doing for Jesus, what will not be done for Him at that Passover meal.

Whatever the reason, Mary performs an amazing act of faith and love towards Jesus.  Unlike Judas who is there criticizing Mary for using the costly perfume; Mary is caring for Jesus’ very limited time.  She loves Jesus with a holy love and prepares His feet for the holy journey towards our redemption in Christ.  Mary exercised the greatest example of hospitality towards Jesus as she allowed the guest that is Jesus to draw her into a deeper experience of faith in Him.

In The Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter 53 he wrote:

All guests should be received as Christ, for he will say “I was a stranger and you took me in” (Matt 25:35).

Our point of contemplation today is to allow Christ in the guest to speak to and serve us.  This is as counter cultural as we can get.  We like to believe we have all the answers for the other.  In our electronic age of sending every message that inflates our ego should be sent; Mary and Saint Benedict invite us reach out for the guest, but open our hearts to Christ in the other.  To allow their lives and their stories to deliver a new message of love and conversion to our own hearts and minds.  In so doing, we open ourselves up to knowing God on a whole new level from God’s point of view.

What might God be saying to you through the thoughts and actions of another?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

 

Lenten Reflection: Jesus Eating with Sinners

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And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’ (Matthew 9:10-17 NRSV).

There is a lot to contemplate from this Gospel Reading.

I cannot deny it, I love to eat.  It is my #1 worst weakness.  I am part Italian, which means my relatives never cooked and served a meal without plenty of left overs.  I have not done too well in not following their inspiration.

While those who were judging Jesus for eating with the tax collectors and sinners, Jesus’ concern is those He is eating with.  Jesus showed up to eat with them, so that they could see themselves from God’s point of view.  God’s perspective is unconditional love, mercy and grace that are never too far away those whom God loves.  That means all of us.

If we could only spend some time in contemplation of how God is so madly in love with us, that God wants to live in a deep loving relationship with us.   Then we would know in our hearts and lives the infinite love of the Holy Trinity; God’s relationship with all of us in a community of condescending love.

Can Jesus spend some time eating with you today?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB