Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Foot washing Gospel Lectio Divina Lent Scripture Triduum Uncategorized

The light of Love

Image ©Turvey Abbey

All week we’ve watched tension, uncertainty and fear growing around Jesus and his disciples with the Gospels getting increasingly dark as we’ve journeyed through Holy Week. I often think of the gospel for this evenings mass of the Last Supper as a bright spot in the midst of that darkness.

As he gathers with his disciples to celebrate the Passover Jesus is fully aware that his hour has come. He knows that he is about to be betrayed and that he will soon be facing a brutal and humiliating death. In the midst of that darkness he chooses to wash the feet of his disciples in saying to them:

“If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.”

Jesus’s action takes us back to Mary anointing his feet and we can almost smell the scent permeating the air again. Both gestures treat the bodies of others with respect, honour and compassion. Later we will watch with horror. Later we will watch with horror as Jesus’ body is battered and tortured.

It doesn’t take away the darkness of fear, the or the suffering he is about to undergo, it won’t take away the brutality of crucifixion. It does show us that love cannot be overcome or destroyed whatever we face. It challenges us to discover ways that we can bring the light of that love into the dark spaces of our world today.

Where are you being called to carry the light of Christ love to those around you today?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Gospel Holy Week Lectio Divina Lent Scripture Uncategorized

Challenged , yet loved.

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Whenever tragedy strikes our instinct is to look for reasons why this has happened. While this might be a necessary process for us it can sometimes be less than helpful. I’m struck by how often it can lead us to be judgemental and blaming of others. We see something of this in today’s gospel as we are brought face-to-face with Judas, the disciple who who betrayed Jesus, handing him over for thirty pieces of silver.

Judas is often portrayed as a scapegoat, everything that subsequently happens is blamed on his betrayal. Yet, if we read the Gospels carefully we see that Judas is part of a bigger picture. Jesus makes that clear as he says:

“The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the Scriptures say he will…”

In “Entering the Passion, a beginner’s guide to Holy Week.” Amy-Jill Levine suggests that we read the passion narratives with compassion. While we can do that with Peter, and the other disciples, it seems much harder to apply to Judas. Judas presents us with a challenge. He compels us us reflect on whether we’ve ever compelled others to act in a particular way to meet our own needs.

He challenges us to ask ourselves, where we have let others down or felt unworthy and unresponsive to the redemptive love God offers us. The passion narratives show us both the best and the worst that we are capable of. Today’s gospel requires that we acknowledge the worst we can be, and then turn back to the God who is waiting to heal and redeem us.

Where are you being challenged to open yourself to the redemptive love of God today?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Gospel Holy Week Lectio Divina Lent Prayer Rule of St Benedict Scripture Uncategorized

Into the Father’s hands.

“The Son of man alone yet trusting goes.
His life into his Father’s hands commends.”

One of the things that holds the themes of Holy Week together for me is our Lauds hymn. Each day it its own verse that reflects a particular aspect of the Salvation narrative that we’re celebrating through this great and challenging week.

These are combined with a refrain that’s repeated each day, linking the themes and drawing them together across the days.

Today’s theme is trust. Alone, betrayed and deserted by those who love him Jesus hands himself over to the Father in complete trust. In stressful times I tend towards micromanagement, wanting to control and fix everything myself. So I find Jesus’ capacity to abandon himself completely to God’s will breath taking and challenging. It reminds me that I am also called to surrender and to put myself and my concerns into God’s hands rather than trying to fix everything myself.

Where are you called to surrender your life over to God this Holy Week?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Gospel Holy Week Lent Scripture Uncategorized

A Costly Freedom

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Each day in Holy Week the gospel seems to get darker, as the tension increases. In today’s gospel, part of his account of the Last Supper, John tells us that even Jesus is “troubled in spirit”.

It shows us a very human side of Jesus, anxious and troubled, knowing that he is about to be betrayed by those he trusts and loves. We can all identify with that experience. Yet, as we glimpse Jesus’ very human suffering we recognise his divinity in his clear sense of being at one with the Father as he goes on to say:

“Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified.”

Knowing what is to come and seeing the fear, suspicion and mistrust growing among the disciples, it’s hard for us to see how God could be glorified in this. It doesn’t speak of anything we’d recognise as glory in human terms, if anything it presents an image of the opposite.

The passage reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways, and that Jesus, completely attuned to God’s way, will always turn human values and expectations upside down. Although he speaks openly of betrayal and denial to Judas and Peter he neither blames nor criticises them.

He leaves them an open door both to making mistakes and to being forgiven. In doing so he offers them a valuable and costly freedom. I wonder how different our relationships and interactions would be if we were able to offer each other that freedom.

Where is Christ offering you a costly freedom this Holy Week?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Divine Office Gospel Holy Week Lectio Divina Lent Monastic Life Prayer Scripture Uncategorized

New Hope

New Hope

“There Love cries out despairing at his end
New hope to us, the loveless to extend.”

One of the things that holds the themes of Holy Week together for me is our Lauds hymn. Each day it its own verse that reflects a particular aspect of the Salvation narrative that we’re celebrating through this great and challenging week.

These are combined with a refrain that’s repeated each day, linking the themes and drawing them together across the days.

Today’s theme is new hope. Holy Week can feel so full of fear, despair and betrayal that it can be hard to keep sight of hope. Even as Jesus cries out in despair from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”, his love reaches across the despair with a new hope.

Where is Christ’s love calling out to you today?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Divine Office Lectio Divina Lent Prayer Scripture Uncategorized

The tree of life

“And stretching out his arms on Calvary,
Draw all the ages to him on the Tree.”

One of the things that holds the themes of Holy Week together for me is our Lauds hymn. Each day it its own verse that reflects a particular aspect of the Salvation narrative that we’re celebrating through this great and challenging week.

These are combined with a refrain that’s repeated each day, linking the themes and drawing them together across the days.

Today’s theme is the tree of life. It links the tree of life in the garden of Eden with the cross. It reminds me that death and life are linked, that by drawing us to himself on the cross Jesus draws us into the light of new life.

As we start Holy Week where do you feel Christ drawing you to himself?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Gospel Holy Week Lectio Divina Lent Scripture Uncategorized

The anointing at Bethany

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Even as the disciples gather in the safety of Martha’s home in Bethany there is a growing sense of tension. Jesus has told his disciples several times that this journey would lead him to Jerusalem and death. They struggled to believe him and now they watch the danger become a reality that touches all of their lives.

Today’s gospel is one of those moments of love that bring light into the stark darkness of Holy week. It’s not without cost. It’s risky for Mary to offer this act of consolation, and it’s risky for Jesus to accept it. Both of them become more vulnerable as a result of this physical, sensual action, and it is especially hard to be vulnerable in times of threat:

“Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus…the house was full of the scent of the ointment.”

Her action is interpreted in various ways. She is criticised by Judas, with an apparent concern for the pure, and praised by Jesus because she seems to understand his mission.

Mary offers no explanation. She may simply have sought to relieve the suffering of a friend. Or she may have had the insight to realise that Jesus was heading towards death, and was anointing him for that. Her action does nothing to remove the danger and tension they are living with but it offers a moment of respite in its midst. Mary’s action reminds that love, kindness and compassion are also part of the reality even in the darkest times.

Where are you being called to offer or accept love and consolation this Holy Week?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Holy Week Lent Palm Sunday Prayer Scripture Uncategorized

Palm Sunday, challenges and hopes.

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Palm Sunday starts out full of promise and hope as Jesus entered Jerusalem acclaimed the longed for Messiah:

“Hail, Son of David, our king and Redeemer of the world! The prophets foretold that you would come and save us.”

This promise seems a stark contrast to the passion gospel. It shows us human nature at its best and its worst. It’s full of failure and courage, despair and hope. In tense and uncertain times Jesus’ actions threaten a precarious status quo. That is always a dangerous thing to do, as the danger becomes more apparent and more threatening his disciples respond differently.

Judas tries to control the situation and force a response. Peter over promises, assuring Jesus he will never leave him, and then denies him. The other disciples numb themselves with sleep or run away when the danger becomes too much. Even Jesus, having deliberately chosen this path, has his moment of uncertainty as he prays:

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by.”

It’s tempting for us to assume that we would never behave in such ways. We would be the disciple who would stay loyally by Jesus’ side throughout the passion. This most challenging gospel calls us to greater honesty than that. It demands that we read it without judgement, and with compassion and honesty.

If it is to be transformative for us we have to be honest about our own failures, the times when we turn away or choose distraction over engagement, or when we give in to despair because hope seems impossible. Then, with those first flawed, brave disciples, we can call to Christ to “come and save us”.

As we begin our Holy Week where do you need to be aware of the Christ to comes to save you?

Benedictine Spirituality Gospel Lent Prayer Prophetic voices Resurrection Saints Scripture Uncategorized

Freedom and Truth

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I’ve been reflecting on these words from today’s gospel:

“If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples, you will learn the truth and the truth will make you free.”

They offer us a place where we can be completely at home, welcomed and free. They hold and extremely attractive promise, especially in these unsettled times of fake news and the multiplicity of “truths” that contradict each other.

The gospel offers us a deeper truth, the truth that will lead us to find our true freedom in the heart of Christ. It’s not a promise that is easily received, it’s one we have to struggle towards understanding and accepting. Even as we long for that freedom we know that accepting it is not so easy and we sometimes prefer to stay within the safe confines of our prisons.

Over the past few weeks the Gospels have shown us several disciples struggling towards accepting that truth. The Samaritan woman, the blind man and Martha all come to the freedom that truth offers through their frank conversations with Jesus.

There is no record of any conversation Lazarus had with Jesus after he was raised to life. Yet, I imagine, that he must also also have struggled towards a new understanding of the discipleship, of truth and freedom in the light of his experience. As we seek to surrender ourselves to the one truth that can offer us the freedom to to grow into true disciples of Christ we can draw strength and courage from their stories.

Where is Christ calling you to respond to the truth that will bring you freedom?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Gospel Lectio Divina Lent Prayer Prophetic voices Scripture Uncategorized

Revelation and recognition

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As I’ve listened to the Sunday Gospels over the past few weeks I’ve been struck by the themes of revelation and recognition that have gone hand-in-hand. As the stories of the Samaritan woman, and the blind man unfolded it seemed to me that this process has come about through challenging and honest conversations between Jesus and those he encounters. Those conversations that required deep thought, honest reflection and an openness to change.

This week, as we encounter Martha grieving for her brother, that pattern continues. Martha, a follower of Jesus already, is clearly a woman of faith, used to the theological reflection and conversation.

She is capable of standing her ground with Jesus, and even of questioning him. She is also capable of allowing his response to transform her whole life. It is through their hard, challenging conversation that Jesus is both revealed and recognised as Christ:

“I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though the day they will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

Central as this revelation is it is not enough by itself, and he requires a response from Martha, asking her:

“Do you believe this?”

The recognition of her response completes the revelation as she proclaims:

“Yes Lord… I believe that you are the Christ, the son of God, the one who was to come into this world.”

I’m left wondering about the implications of this for our own conversations with Jesus. If we are to come to the life changing recognition that Jesus is the Christ we too have to risk engaging in challenging conversations with him, acknowledging our uncertainties and allowing his revelation to transform our lives.

Where is Christ calling you into conversation with him this Lent?