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

Reflection on Saint Antony

Anthony

 

“Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21-22. NRSV).

Saint Antony (or Anthony), is one of the great Desert Fathers.  He had wealth, property and family.  When he heard the words of the Gospel of Matthew quoted above, he immediately set aside all he had and entered into a very austere life of prayer and meditation.  He was a great example of the word Monk as meaning “one” with God.

As time has moved forward, and dispersed Monastic Communities have been begun and flourished in which the members can be married, have jobs and live in their own homes; the question comes up about how we live into the words of Jesus that moved St. Antony.   Very few of us today would close up our bank accounts, divorce our spouses and put our family members into another person’s hands to be left there never to be seen again.  Does that necessarily mean that we are failing to live into the words of Jesus?

The answer at issue here, is not whether we have and/or make use of what God gives us.  It is how much we allow these things to possess us to the point in which we separate them from our relationship with God and others around us.  Most of us, including myself are glued to our phones, computers, jobs, seeking the applause of the crowds and wanting our false sense of self to feed our egos.

The message of Jesus, St. Antony and St. Benedict is simplistic, just not simple.  Are we willing to contemplate in silence and solitude, so that we seek union with God through all of the things God gives us to be used (not possessed by us) to serve God and others?   If you are like me, knowing that in my mind and living it from the heart are not simple by any measure.  Jesus, St. Antony and St. Benedict are not saying it is simple; they are saying that it is possible.  It is possible to live in relationship with God and others to find the mystical presence of the Holy in ourselves, others and the things we are loaned so that God is part of everything around and about us.

In the Prologue to the The Rule of Saint Benedict*, he wrote,

“This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.”

At the end of the same Prologue, Saint Benedict* wrote,

“Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run from the road that leads to salvation.  It is bound to be narrow at the outset.  But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.”

How are you being challenged to give up what you value to follow Jesus more closely today?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

*The quotes from The Rule are taken from the RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English and Latin, Published by The Liturgical Press, pages 157 and 165

Reflection on Seeking and Finding

sycamore

 

Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Today, salvation has come to this household because he too is a son of Abraham.  The Human One came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:9-10. Common English Bible).

I am continuing to read through Walking in Valleys of Darkness: A Benedictine Journey Through Troubled Times by Fr. Albert Holzt, OSB.

Today, I read his section on Seeking God in which he uses the Gospel story of Zacchaeus in Luke 9:1-10.

Zacchaeus was a ruler among tax collectors.  He wanted to see Jesus.  Zacchaeus was a very short man.  So, he climbed a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus as He walked by and the crowds around Him.  When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree, He called him to come down so that Jesus could have supper at his house.  Those around Jesus were critical of Him because He chose to go to the house of one who as so despised by them.  When Jesus went to Zecchaeus’ home, and he said the words found at the top of this blog post.  Holtz points out that Zeccaeus climbed that tree because he was seeking Jesus.  What he discovered is that Jesus was seeking him just as much as Zeccaeus was seeking Jesus.

As Fr. Holtz wrote,

While it may look as if Christ was eating at Zecchaeus’s table, the play on the verb “to seek” points to a deeper reality: Zacchaeus was now eating at Jesus’ table, being nurtured by the intimacy of God’s forgiving love.  Jesus had successfully sought out the seeker.

We can seek union with God through any number of means.  Work.  Prayer.  Routines of Liturgical prayer such as the Offices and the Eucharist.  Relationships.  While all of these are important in and of themselves; what is even more so is that we can learn from the Gospel story of Zeccaeus is that God is seeking union with us.   If we will allow ourselves to be found by our God who is seeking us: we will find the God with Whom we are seeking union with.

“Seeking his workman in a  multitude of people, the Lord calls out to him and lifts his voice again: is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to seek good days?” (The Rule of Saint Benedict. The Prologue v. 14).

How are you seeking and being found by God in your life?

Amen.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

Ascension Day Reflection: Seek The Things Above

sky-matthew-bohrer

Thank you to Matthew Bohrer for this splendid image that I have chosen to use for this blog reflection.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1).

As human beings who tend to think by logic, we have a real problem with the Ascension do we not?  We have the account of the Ascension in Acts 1:1-11.  However, we were not physically there looking up to heaven and witnessing Jesus taken from their sight with those first Apostles.  All we have to go on is faith and the oral and/or written tradition through which the Holy Spirit has handed us the story throughout the ages.

If we consider the Ascension from the perspective of contemplative and/or centering prayer; now we have something that is mysterious and as real as grass and water.  Contemplative prayer is a grace through which we are given a glimpse of heaven and earth from where Jesus is.  Though the Risen Body of Jesus bears our wounded humanity, in Christ we are already healed.  The Holy Spirit desires more than we could ever wish, that those wounds in our own lives that have been healed in Christ; would actually be healed for ourselves.  God also knows that it is only by our cooperation with God’s timing and grace that such healing will happen.  Contemplative prayer allows us to “seek the things that are above” and see what God sees.  The holiness of God and all humankind in and through Jesus Christ by the Power of the Holy Spirit in inexpressible love.  We cannot see such if we are clinging to the things of earth alone.  We must know it through our relationship with God and one another, as we journey together in faith, trust and obedience to God’s will to where Christ is seated.

As we contemplate this great mystery of the Ascension of Christ today, may we be given that extra special glimpse of God in and through the ordinary things of life.  May that vision bring us closer to God; with healing and reconciliation to our wounded and broken world.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB