Benedictine Spirituality Christ Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Resurrection Scripture Uncategorized


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This Sunday we get another opportunity to revisit the Emmaus gospel as the disciples from Emmaus tell the other of their encounter with the risen Christ. I’m glad to revisit a story that is so full of riches that it always offers us something new to reflect on.

I imagine these disciples wearily trudging along the road despondent and hopeless, feeling that they have lost everything. It is in this low state that Jesus appears to walk alongside them. As they share their hurt and hopelessness, he offers an alternative vision of all they’ve been through. Gradually, as they listen to him, their perspective shifts. Some small spark of recognition is kindled in their hearts, which compels them to invite Jesus to stay with them when they reach home:

“They pressed him to stay with them: ‘it is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’”

On the surface their invitation expresses concern for a fellow traveller, on a deeper level it’s an expression of a glimmer of recognition that recognises Christ in this stranger they’ve encountered. Full recognition only dawns when they sit down to eat and Jesus blesses and breaks the bread:

“He took the bread and said the blessing, and then he broke it and handed to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him…”

Jesus stays with them throughout their journey, unfolding the truth gradually and gently, challenging but never forcing, moving at a pace they can cope with. If we allow him to the risen Christ will accompany us as we walk through life, a gentle, challenging presence that stays with us whatever highs and lows we experience.

Where do you experience the reality of Christ walking alongside you in your life?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Liturgy Resurrection Scripture Uncategorized

Recognising the risen Christ.

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A post from the archives for Low Sunday…

All week we’ve seen the risen Christ appear to the disciples in slightly different way. Each appearance is tailored in some way to touch the heart of a particular disciple, and this gives them their deeply personal and intimate quality. Today’s appearance to Thomas follows the same pattern.

He comes to his encounter with the risen Christ after what I imagine was a hard week. There’s nothing worse than being the one person in a group who missed a significant event. It must have left Thomas feeling isolated and on the fringes. His directness and honesty prevent him from taking their account on trust. He knows himself well enough to know that he needs to see this for himself, saying to the disciples:

“Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.”

I’m touched by how open and vulnerable Thomas is prepared to be about this need. Jesus’ response when he appears to Thomas is focussed on giving Thomas what he needs. He doesn’t judge or criticise, instead he invites Thomas to reach out and touch him in exactly the way Thomas said he needed:

“Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer, but believe.”

Jesus’ acceptance of Thomas with all his doubts and uncertainties leads him to the light of truth, freeing him to make his profession of faith, acknowledging Jesus as the Christ:

“My Lord and my God!”

What would help you to recognise the presence of the risen Christ in your life today?

Christ Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Resurrection Scripture Uncategorized

A resurrection challenge.

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A post from the archives for Easter Saturday.

Mark’s account of the resurrection is quite stark; it’s always left me feeling uneasy. There’s little joy of celebration in it, rather it seems full of doubt and recrimination. With very few details he describes Jesus’ appearance first to Mary Magdalene who rushed to tell the disciples only to be disbelieved. Later, the disciples who encountered Jesus on their way to Emmaus bring the same news and are also met with incredulity.

The response is understandable, these first disciples don’t have our gift of hindsight or two thousand years of belief and theology to fall back on. Even with all Jesus told them before his death, the idea of resurrection would have seemed completely incredible. When Jesus does appear to to eleven he berated them for their incredulity and then immediately sends them out to proclaim the good news to the world, saying to them:

“Go out to the whole world; proclaim the good news to all creation.”

Mark’s account challenges us to look honestly at the doubts we harbour about resurrection. He compels us to look at those dark corners of our lives and our world that feel beyond redemption, those places that we suspect new life will never reach, never transform.

He calls us to allow the light of the risen Christ to shine on those dark corners, offering the possibility of new life. Even in the presence of those dark corners of doubt he challenges us to proclaim the Good News to the world in whatever way we can.

How is the risen Christ challenging you to share the Good News of resurrection today?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Eastertide Gospel Liturgy Resurrection Scripture Uncategorized

On the beach

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There’s a lot to ponder on in today’s gospel. Peter’s decision to go fishing, returning to the safe and familiar in times that are disturbing and unsettling. Or the lack of a catch as they fish through the night. Or Jesus’ calling to them from the shore, telling them to try another direction, and the amazing catch that results from that. The dawning recognition of the who the stranger on the shore is. Or Peter’s impulsive dive into the sea in his eagerness to get to Jesus.

The image that most draws me is of Jesus preparing breakfast for them. I imagine him gathering driftwood, lighting the fire, preparing the bread, and then calling out his invitation to the cold, tired disciples:

“Come and have breakfast…”

Cooking them breakfast won’t remove the hardships and anxieties of their lives. Yet this action of Christ, the servant king, tells them they are loved and valued by the simple act of meeting these most basic needs. It grounds me in the messy and material reality of human life, the only place where we can encounter the risen Christ. They are an invitation to a new life of loving service where everyone is welcomed and valued.

 In times full of injustice and misery we often wonder how we can help. Today’s gospel gives us a simple answer. We can imitate the simple and straightforward service of the risen Christ helping those around us in small ways that can lighten burdens, bring hope and open hearts and minds.

What is the Risen Christ inviting you to this Eastertide?

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Pondering the resurrection.

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A post from the archives for Easter Tuesday…

By Easter Tuesday the mixture of adrenalin and energy that carried me through the Easter Vigil is waning, and I start to feel the need to slow things down. It’s rightly an energetic season, full of rejoicing, celebration and proclamation. While that delights me, I’m also aware that I need space in the midst of it all to pause and reflect.

In Christmastide we have the example of Virgin Mary taking space to ponder the events in her heart. She reminds us that we too need time to reflect on our encounters with God. We need a similar model in Eastertide, someone who will remind us to slow down, to allow the momentous event that is resurrection to really sink in.

Listening to today’s gospel, the appearance to Mary Magdalene, I noticed a stillness in the account that I’ve missed on other occasions. After her journey through the dark and the rush to find the disciples Mary is left alone. She stops and is still, waiting in her grief for something she can’t possibly understand. It is in this moment of stillness that she encounters the risen Christ. It brings to mind part of my favourite hymn:

“She awaits a new creation in the shadow of the tomb.
Hope and trust and expectation, from it will a vision come.”

Pondering this I realise that I too need a still, quiet moment to encounter the risen Christ as she did in the garden, remaining alone and quiet in his presence, allowing the new creation to take root in my heart.

Where are you finding space to encounter the risen Christ in the depth of your heart?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Divine Office Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Liturgy Resurrection Scripture Uncategorized

Held by the Risen Christ.

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The liturgy for the Easter Octave is so full and rich that it can be hard to know where to focus. It can easily feel a bit overwhelming. That first Easter must have felt even more overwhelming for the first disciples. Today, I’m reflecting on Matthew’s account of the women going to the the tomb.

They set out laden down with grief, fear, uncertainty. They’d lost someone they loved to a brutal and shameful death. They’d also lost the hopes and dreams he’d inspired. They’d possibly also lost their livelihoods and reputations by following and supporting him. When they set out they could not have imagined how theirs lives were about to be changed, how they would be moved from grief to joy. Matthew writes:

“Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.”

It’s understandable that the first thing Jesus tells them is not to be afraid. Such a huge upheaval would inevitably stir up fear and uncertainty before joy. Jesus acknowledges this and maybe the instruction to return to Galilee gives them and the disciples some space to adjust to the new reality.

We also come to the resurrection weighed down with our own griefs and uncertainties. These can make it hard to feel the joy we think we should feel in these day. In those times the Risen Christ waits for us, holding us in his loving presence until our hearts are able to glimpse his joy in the midst all we carry.

Where is the Risen Christ holding you in his love today?

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Going out to meet Christ.

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A post from the archives for Easter morning…
I love how the Easter vigil lays out the whole story of our salvation in word, action and sacrament. I find myself revisiting it over and over during Eastertide, allowing different aspects of it to enrich and nourish me. This morning I have these words from an Easter hymn by St John of Damascus running through my head:

“Let us rise in early morning
and instead of ointment bring
Hymns and praises to our Master
And his resurrection sing.”

This wisdom has been passed down through the centuries, from one generation of Christians to another, sometimes lost and forgotten, only to be rediscovered and valued anew.

It’s a call to sing the praises of the Risen Christ continually, whatever we are living through, whatever the prevailing view of our society. Nothing can separate us from his love, and nothing can undo the wonderful and mysterious reality of his resurrection.

However challenging or uncertain life is, he will be there inviting us to go out to meet him. Each year the challenges we face seem to become more daunting, leaving us more aware of our fragility. Yet however difficult our lives are, the risen Christ is there calling us.

The grieving Mary of Magdala found the courage to go out in the dark of the early morning to meet him. She discovered a joy she never expected or dreamt of. He invites us to follow her so we too can discover and rejoice in his presence, and to carry his love to our needy world.

As we begin to move through Eastertide where is the Risen Christ inviting you to go out and meet him?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Cross Discernment Gospel Lectio Divina Lent Resurrection Scripture Uncategorized

A costly risk.

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Today’s gospel is full of challenge. Jesus taking the Apostles to one side, telling them what to expect in Jerusalem. He is completely honest:

“The Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans to be mocked and scourged and crucified; and on the third day he will rise again.”

In response to the sons of Zebedee jockeying for power Jesus goes on to explain what it means to follow him with another shocking statement:

“Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

We are so familiar with these words that they have lost both their freshness and their ability to shock. Having heard them repeated again and again over the years we have become accustomed to them.

We also come to them with hindsight. Unlike those first Apostles we read them through the filter of Easter, of knowing that Christ is already risen. That can make it hard for us to understand just how baffling and shocking they must have been to the Apostles. They had left everything to follow Jesus believing he was the promised Messiah. They would not have expected that to lead to death and crucifixion… Or to resurrection. They are fearful and disturbed Jesus’ talk of suffering and death.

Familiarity makes it easier for us to put them aside. We can bind them up comfortingly in liturgy and tradition, treat them as inspiring thoughts that don’t really affect our day-to-day life. Yet, as followers of Christ, we are called, like the Apostles, to let these words challenge and disturb us, and to take the costly risk of allowing them to shape our daily lives.

What costly risk is Christ calling you to take this Lent?

Christ Lectio Divina Liturgy Resurrection Saints Scripture Uncategorized

All Souls Day.

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A reflection from our archives for the feast of All Souls. Every year I’m struck by the mood shift between the feast of All Saints to that of All Souls. All Saints is full of light and joy as we celebrate those who carried the bright light of Christs’ love into the lives of those around them.

As we move into All Souls the mood becomes more sombre. This is a day for allowing ourselves time to grieve and to mourn for all our losses and all that we lack.

Taken together these feasts speak of the intimate connection between life and death, sadness and joy, telling us that both are part of life and that we can’t have one without the other. I’m struck by how the readings for All Souls offer hope in the promise of new life and resurrection. I’m reflecting on these words from St Paul:

“Hope is not deceptive because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”

Hope seems easy when life is going well. When life is challenging or we are grieving hope becomes much harder and we’re more likely to mistrust it. It’s in these times that St Paul reminds us that Christ’s hope does not deceive. Whatever griefs we carry on this All Souls Day, the love of Christ that we hope in will sustain, console and lead us into the new life Christ promises.

As we celebrate All Souls what hope is sustaining you?

Benedictine Spirituality Christ Gospel Lectio Divina Liturgy Prophetic voices Resurrection Rule of St Benedict Saints Scripture Uncategorized

Hospitality of the heart.

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Today we are celebrating Martha, Mary and Lazarus, friends of the Lord, an important feast for Benedictines because of of its link to hospitality. Luke tells us that Martha:

“Welcomed Jesus into her home.”

She offered him hospitality, a safe place to relax and have a meal with his friends in dangerous and uncertain times. However, in today’s gospel John takes the hospitality she offers to a different level. He shows us a woman of faith, used to the theological reflection and conversation, and already a follower of Jesus.

Even as she grieves for her brother she is capable of questioning Jesus and 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 they die 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 don’t think it would have been possible for Martha reach this recognition if she had only welcomed Jesus into her home. To recognise him as the Christ she must also have opened her heart to him. By welcoming him into the very centre of her being she was able to allow him to transform her whole life. We too are called to offer the risen Christ hospitality in the depths of our heart, allowing him to enter and transform our lives with light, love and hope

What would help you to invite Christ into your heart today?