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

 

The Presentation as Renewal

PresentationTemple

Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature created after the likeness of God in righteousness and true holiness.  (Ephesians 4:23-24.  The New Zealand Prayer Book. p.662)

The date of February 2nd, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple has several meanings in the Liturgical Year.  Today marks 40 days since we celebrated the Nativity of Christ on December 25th.  Eight days from today is already Ash Wednesday; the beginning of Lent.  The Presentation can be thought of as our “bridge” between Christmas and Lent.  Today, we make the turn towards recalling the events of the Death and Resurrection of Christ.

When I read the short verse for the Presentation from The New Zealand Prayer Book, the idea of it being a day for renewal struck me.  The Christmas event and the events of the Easter Triduum are about renewal.  So, I was surprised to learn to think of the Presentation as also being about renewal.

In The Rule of St. Benedict, his many texts throughout its many chapters point us to multiple opportunities to start over.  We begin by “listening with the ears of our hearts.”  We begin each day, each of the various hours of the day with the Divine Office.  Each Office is a new beginning at the specified time of the day.  Humility is the opportunity to ascend by our acts of humility, or descend by our attitudes of arrogance.   Yet, at the end of the twelve steps of humility, we are challenged to start over from step one.

The Presentation invites us to contemplate beginning again from the point of pureness of heart, obedience out of love and the sacrifice of our hearts as we search for union with God.   We all walk away from these yearly feasts and tread out a bit further away from what the Gospel of Christ calls us to.  In the Presentation, we are invited back to our sacred temples of prayer and repentance and receive the blessing of God to start over again.  We are “renewed in spirit” and “put on the new nature” so that we move forward with the love of Christ as our guide and goal.

How is God calling you to contemplate how you are being renewed today?

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Here I Am, O Lord

Seeking

 

“Sacrifice and and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me.  Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; so I said, “Here I am; your commands for me are written in the scroll.  To do your will is my delight; my God, your law is in my heart.” (Psalm 40: 7-9. The New American Bible).

 

The word “obedience” is a scary one for many of us to hear.  We live in the age of do as you wish and do not care about anyone or anything else.  Lest we be ignorant, all of us are affected by such.  Including myself.  I love that I can do anything I want without much competition.  I can make the choice to be locked up inside myself and give myself over to some form of instant gratification.  Some of those choices are not entirely choices.   Many of them come from the influence of my upbringing and other people, and the culture around me.

St. Benedict in the Prologue of The Rule writes about the importance of turning our ears and hearts to God that we may know what God is calling us to; beyond ourselves and our small world view.   St. Benedict understood that it is not possible to know what God asks us to be obedient to God without “inclining the ears of our hearts” to what the Holy Spirit is saying.   When we take the time to really listen, and I do not mean listen as if it hits us like lightening; but with an openness to hear what the Spirit is saying, not what we want to hear.  It takes some real silence and a willingness to obedience not out of fear, but for the love of God alone.

Our point of contemplation and the mystical experience is beyond what we see or know; it is how the God who made everything and has reached out to us in the Word Incarnate and now calling us to respond to God’s love and give ourselves in total surrender to God’s will.  Each of us will respond and say “Here I am” differently.  Mary responded in her way.  Saint Paul in his. The most crucial thing is to listen in the here and now and let go.

What might God be asking you to respond with, “Here I am, Lord” ?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Lenten Reflection: Respond in Love

Beginning Lent

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgement, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (1 John 4:16b-21, NRSV).

I recently gained a whole new perspective about Monastic Obedience.  In his book, The Universal Monk: The Way of the New Monastics John Michael Talbot writes about the point of obedience is to respond out of love as opposed to reacting out of fear.  This certainly is what St. Benedict means in Chapter 5 of The Rule in verse 13.  “Men [individuals] of this resolve unquestionably conform to the saying of the Lord, I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. (John 6:38).” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, p.30).

Yet, I know in my own heart that I am not yet totally free of that fear that is cast out by perfect love.  I am influenced more than I realize by things around me such as music, poetry, images and uncensored news blogs full of junk.  How am I to find my way to that obedience out of love and love my sisters and brothers authentically with transparency?

“The answer, of course is that the human is the only place we can can really be sure God is.  It is easy to love the God we do not see but it is so much more sanctifying to serve the God we learn to see in others” (Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB, The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, p.69).

If I (or those reading this blog post) needed an example of what it means to be obedient to the will of others out of love, and know nothing but the love of God at all times, I believe I know where the greatest instance is found.  The Cross.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Show Me Your Path

Pathways

Show me your ways, O LORD, and teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.  (Psalm 25:3,4 The Book of Common Prayer).

In The Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 7 on Humility, he writes about steps two and three.  Step two, Benedict writes is about not loving our own will; while step three is about being obedient to our Superior.  Why are these so difficult to comprehend much less do today?  It is because we live in a society where self sufficiency is the name of the game.  If you cannot do it all by yourself, there must be something wrong with you.  There is also the matter of how we define the word freedom.  Freedom is defined by our contemporary society as being able to do as we please, without being accountable to anyone.  Is it any wonder that wealth, power, consumerism and the stewardship of the earth’s many valuable resources are so out of control?

St. Benedict challenges us with these words about not loving our own will and being obedient to another, because we were created to live in community with one another.  It is much too simple to do our daily devotions, go to Mass, engage in conversation about the Scriptures; and still miss the mark of what living the Christian life is about.

Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB probably wrote it best in The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century.

It is so simple, so simplistic, to argue that we live for the God we do not see when we reject the obligations we do see.  Benedictine Spirituality does not allow for the fantasy.  Benedict argues that the third rung on the ladder of humility is the ability to submit ourselves to the wisdom of another.  We are not the last word, the final answer, the clearest insight into anything.  We have one word among many to contribute to the mosaic of life, one answer of many answers, one insight out of multiple perspectives.  Humility lies in learning to listen to the words, directions, and insights of the one who is the voice of Christ for me now.  To stubbornly resist the challenges of people who have a right to lay claim to us and an obligation to do good by us–parents, spouses, teachers, supervisors–is a dangerous excursion into arrogance and a denial of the very relationships that are the stuff of which our sanctity is made.

Rungs one and two call for contemplative consciousness.  Rung three brings us face to face with our struggle for power.  It makes us face an authority outside of ourselves.  But once I am able to do that, then there is no end to how high I might rise, how deep I might grow (pages 84-85).

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB