Reflection on St. John the Baptist

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel”(See Luke 1:57-80 NRSV).

The Church celebrates today the birth of one of the most influential people of Desert spirituality. St. John the Baptist personified the vocation of solitude. It is more than fair to say, that the Monastic tradition of living in the silence and solitude of the desert has St. John the Baptist as our pioneer.

The desert life of St. John the Baptist was to “prepare the way of the Lord.” He accepted the unfavorable way of life. He abandoned the lure of wealth and power. His desert life was how he unlocked the mystery of the God that he and all of humankind was awaiting. John the Baptist knew that he was chosen by God for something so amazing, that he let go of everything that could tie him down. St. John the Baptist chose the freedom of solitude, to know the God that was to become the very essence of God’s presence in every human person.

“Like the Forerunner, you were intended for Christ,,,,,,, because the on,y reason for your existence on earth is to love and glorify Jesus” (The Hermitage Within: Spirituality of the Desert. Translated by Alan Neame., p.19).

Contemplation is the gift of God’s grace to grow in purity of heart. Contemplation is about letting go of all our pretenses so that we are liberated to experience the wonder of God. Contemplation is the grace of self awareness; that God is at work in ourselves and the world us in the mystical experience of which our human senses can neither comprehend or describe.

“As long as I am content to know that [Christ] is infinitely greater than I, and that I cannot know Him unless He shows Himself to me, I will have peace, and He will be near me and in me, and I will rest in Him” (Thomas Merton. Thoughts in Solitude, p.109).

“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 noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord” (RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, The Prologue, p.15).

“Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him” (From the Short Rule of St. Romuald).

How are you called to be a forerunner for God in your daily life?

Amen.

Peace be with all who enter here.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB

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The Stormy Lake

Stormy Lake Ontario

Jesus got up and gave orders to the wind and said to the lake, “Silence! Be Still!”  (Mark 4:29, The Common English Bible).

The lake can be a lovely place, but it can also be frightening.  A storm can come at any time.  The waters that seemed so tranquil and calm, become a mass of chaos.  As quickly as the stormy winds come and stir up the waters of the lake; they just as soon move on and the waters become calm again.

The words I am using for this blog reflection from Mark, tell us that Jesus stood and ordered the wind and the lake to be silent and still.  The verse after this one tells of how the Disciples were amazed to the point of dropping their jaw, that even the wind and water obeyed Jesus.  It is a beautiful story to read over and over again.

Sometimes Jesus does get up and commands the stormy wind and waves of our lives to be calmed.  Other times it can feel to us that Jesus is still asleep.  The problem can be our lack of faith.  It can also be that God wants us to reach out even more to God.  So often, we become too self reliant and arrogant even while we are experiencing personal turbulence.  Sometimes the storm is within ourselves.  Jesus would like to get up and command the wavy waters within us, but if we will not listen as He calls us to be silent and still there is only so much He can do for us.

It bears repeating that St. Benedict begins The Rule with the words, “Listen, and incline the ears of your heart.”  I believe this is the silence and stillness that Jesus calls us to embrace in Mark’s Gospel.  Jesus calls us to be silent and still so that we can listen to the Holy Spirit within our hearts.  This is not an intellectual exercise.  It is the experience of the contemplation of God within the whole of ourselves.  The silence and stillness is not merely to quiet exterior noise.  Rather, it is the noise, the wind and stormy waters within us.  You have to admit, if Jesus can calm the storms within our lives, He has to be pretty powerful.

Let us all listen with the ears of our hearts to Jesus calling to our windy and chaotic hearts to be still and silent.  In that silence and stillness, God will tell us how much we are loved, and call us in this moment to grow closer to God and one another in love and faith.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB

Lenten Reflection: Be Still

Lit Candle

Be still, then, and know that I am God… (Psalm 46:11a).

Yesterday, the devotional publication Forward Day by Day‘s entry was based on Psalm 37:1,7 which reads, “Do not fret yourself….. Be still before the Lord.”  The writer reminds us that when we do fret over things, we really accomplish nothing more than indulge in our false sense of self.  When we fret we become self centered.  Our faith diminishes, because we base the outcome on our ability to control something.  The more we try to control, the more out of control we become.

The very familiar words I used to begin this blog post from Psalm 46:11a are found in a poem that sounds very much like everything is in chaos.  It begins with talking about God being our refuge and strength in time of trouble, mountains being toppled, waters raging and foaming and later on moves to kingdoms being shaken.  It seems to be both a Psalm of exaltation and facing the realities of life around those who wrote it.  It appears to me, and perhaps it will to you too, that the words I quoted for this post come in the midst of all the turmoil to suggest not so much a stillness of the world around us, but a stillness of ourselves in the presence of God in spite of chaos.   In these words, is a word from God to know God from within the depth of ourselves so that whatever else may be going on, we are still and maintain our confidence in the power and presence of God.

It certainly seems that this stillness must have been in Jesus as He endured the reality of His passion and death.  Jesus experienced the depth of human rejection, betrayal by a good friend and the total surrendering of even His relationship with God to the point of His death.  Yet, He was never completely separate from God, as He was the Word of God in human form.  In spite of all that went on around Him, Jesus clung to God by faith in obedience out of love.  Though the world around Him and about Him fell apart; Jesus remained still in the presence of God trusting that no matter what He had to face, God was still with him.

May God help us this Lent to spend some time being still in silence and solitude.  May we have the faith and trust that Jesus had, and become a still and peaceful light of God’s presence in the chaotic world around us.

Amen.

Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB