Cross Gospel Lectio Divina Resurrection Scripture Uncategorized

Through the Cross

Today, as we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross I’m reflecting these words from John’s Gospel:

“God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.”

Living through hard and challenging times, personally and as a society, brings the Cross into sharper focus. In our times of suffering it can be a place acknowledge our pain and let go of the need to look like we are coping whatever life throws at us. It can be a place where we can mourn, weep and heal our broken hearts.

This gospel reminds me that Jesus did not come into the world to suffer, but out of love to show us how to live fully as human beings. While suffering is an inevitable part human life, it is not the whole story, it is neither its end nor its purpose. Jesus showed us how to accept the suffering that comes our way, and he showed us how to move through it. His life did not end with the Cross, but moved through it to the resurrection and the new life that is the source of all our hope.

As well as being a place to acknowledge our suffering the Cross is a reminder that we are created by and for love, and that it is love that holds us in being and sustains us through the hardships and suffering life brings.

How are you being held in love in the midst of the challenges you face today?

Benedictine Spirituality Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Prayer Resurrection Scripture Uncategorized

Chosen by love

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Often it takes a day or two for the message I need to hear from the gospel to clarify. It almost feels like it has to drop down unnoticed and then resurface before I can begin to reflect on its wisdom. Today this phrase has resurfaced from yesterday’s gospel:

“You did not choose me: no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last…”

We live surrounded by choices that often require a lot of time, thought and effort. This can give us a sense of control, but if I’m honest it can also feel overwhelming and limiting. As is so often the case Jesus’ words draw me to a deeper reality that is both truer and more liberating. Going to the heart of our Christian vocation they recall the words of psalmist quoted by St Benedict:

“Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days?”

I find these gospel words both hopeful and humbling. They remind me that my role is to listen and respond. They call me back to humility, telling me that control is not in my hands, but in the hands of Christ. They fill me with hope as they tell me I am already chosen, Christ has already chosen me, and each one of us, and is waiting with love for us to respond to his call to life.

How are you listening and responding to the call of Christ in your life today?

Benedictine Spirituality Eastertide Gospel Prayer Resurrection Saints Scripture Uncategorized

Moulded by Love

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Today we’re celebrating the feast of St Matthias, the disciple chosen to replace Judas. I often wonder if that was a particularly uncomfortable position to take up. I imagine that there was a lot of emotion and distress around whole situation. People would have been feeling betrayed and hurt by Judas’ actions.

In one sense the choosing of Matthias would have felt like a new beginning, but it would also have carried some pain. When new beginnings grow out of painful circumstances it’s not always so easy to walk away from the hurtful baggage. It may be that in those times of mixed blessings it’s particularly important to hear these words from John’s farewell discourses. Jesus tells the disciples:

“Remain in my love.”

So often in painful situations we are tempted to walk away from love. When we are hurting all our instincts tell us to put up barriers to protect ourselves. Yet, those are the very times when we need to find the courage to do the opposite, to allow ourselves to remain open to the possibility of love, even if that is a costly and risky prospect.

If we desire to embrace the new life the risen Christ promises, we can’t afford to walk away from love. We have to take the risk of allowing his love into our lives, letting it shape and change is, moulding us into the new creation he calls us to be.

How is Christ moulding you into a new creation this Eastertide?

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Glimpses of light

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Today I’ve been reflecting on these words from John’s Gospel:

“I, the light, have come into the world, so that whoever believes in me need not stay in the dark any more.”

I think I’ve been particularly drawn to them because I am very aware of how dark our world seems to be just now. It feels as if whatever direction we look in darkness threatens to engulf us. War, poverty, injustice, climate change and many other things that we see in our news emphasise the darkness that surrounds us.

It can be so easy to allow that to drain all the energy and hope out of us, leaving us exhausted and despairing. It seems particularly hard to deal with in Eastertide as we celebrate the new light of the risen Christ come into the world.

The words of the gospel turn our attention away from that darkness, not as a distraction or as an encouragement to ignore the reality. Instead the gospel reminds us of another reality, that the light of the risen Christ is here in our midst, waiting to lead us through the darkness into new life.

We might experience that light in glimmers and glances rather than in blinding flashes, but it’s a light that will not be overcome whatever we face. The promise of this gospel is that if we keep focused on the risen Christ his light will guide us whatever we have to go through.

Where are you glimpsing the light of the Christ guiding you today?

Benedictine Spirituality Eastertide Good Shepherd Gospel Prayer Resurrection Scripture Truth Uncategorized

Good Shepherd Sunday

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Today is both Good Shepherd Sunday and vocations Sunday. The Gospel with it’s call to listen makes the link between the two very clear:

“Jesus said “the sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and the follow me…They will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me.’”

It takes me back to the heart of Benedictine spirituality and so of my vocation, the call to

“Listen with the ear of your heart”.

There’s no shortage of voices trying to attract our attention in today’s world. We’re exposed to a constant cacophony of voices drawing us in opposing directions. It can be confusing, unnerving and debilitation.

In the midst of all those voices there’s another one, gentle and persistent that calls to us. It’s the voice of the Good Shepherd reminding us that we are made for love, and are held in being by love. It’s a voice that calls us back to our true selves.

It tells us that however uncertain or chaotic our times the love of Christ will never let us go. The Good Shepherd call us to allow his voice to silence the confusion of the myriad voices around us and to focus on the one really matters, the one that can lead us to a life shaped by and for love.

Where is the Good Shepherd calling you to respond to his love today?

Benedictine Spirituality Eastertide Gospel Monastic Life Prayer Resurrection Saints Scripture Truth Uncategorized

In the present moment.

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I’m still reflecting on yesterday’s gospel for the feast of Sts Philip and James. Philip is looking for certainty and security. He he has his expectations of the coming of the Messiah, and is looking for them to be fulfilled. Jesus’ comment to Thomas, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life … If you know me, you know my Father too.” isn’t quite enough for Philip. It doesn’t answer his uncertainties and he has the courage to step up and ask for what he needs:

“Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.”

I have a lot of sympathy with Philip, following Jesus led the disciples on a bumpy and uncertain path that was never what they expected. In response Jesus offers him a challenge:

“Have I been with you all this time Philip, and still you do not know me? To have seen me is to have seen the Father.”

His reply doesn’t dismiss Philip’s longing, instead he calls him to a deeper level of awareness and attentiveness. Jesus challenges Philip to pay attention with his whole being, to give himself completely to being in Jesus’ presence.

It’s a challenge for us too. Like Philip we can be so distracted by our expectations that we feel to notice that what we are seeking is already in front of us. We also have to turn away from our image of how we think things should be to focus on the present moment, where we will discover Christ is with us.

Where is Christ calling you to discover his presence in your life today?

Benedictine Spirituality Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Resurrection Scripture Truth Uncategorized

Breaking down the barriers

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I still have the words that Jesus spoke to Thomas in Sunday’s Gospel running through my head:

“Doubt no longer, but believe.”

Looking back at the Easter Gospels I’m especially aware of how in each encounter there was a barrier that had to be overcome before the risen Christ could be recognised. The barriers were different and personal to each disciples’ temperament and circumstances. Marys’ grief, Thomas’ doubt, the disappointment of the disciples returning to Emmaus, Peters’ guilt all prevented them from recognising the risen Christ. In each encounter Christ reaches out across the particular barrier to touch their hearts with the truth of his resurrection.

Each disciple needed to hear that truth in a different way and Jesus engages with them in the way that will most speak to them. He speaks Mary’s name, inflames the hearts of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, gives Thomas the opportunity to see and feel for himself, and allows Peter to assuage his guilt by his profession of love. In one sense the words he spoke to Thomas are being spoken to each of the disciples in the way they most need so that they can move from doubt to belief.

In our own hard and challenging times we also need to hear those words in the way that most touch our hearts to flame. Christ reaches out to each of us, just as he did to the disciples, breaching the barriers of doubt that surround us in the way that we most need to bring us to recognise the risen Christ in our lives.

How do you need the risen Christ to break down the barriers in your life?

Benedictine Spirituality Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Prayer Resurrection Scripture Uncategorized

Amazement and fear

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As it’s the feast of St Mark I decided to look at Mark’s account of the resurrection. It’s the most disturbing, and it’s one I’ve tended to avoid. I’ve always been uncomfortable with his description of the women’s initial response to the news of the resurrection:

“And the women came out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and amazement had gripped them. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

I’ve always been puzzled by how Mary of Magdala, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome, who felt no fear, or who overcame their fear to stay with Jesus through his passion and death seem to run out of courage when they are faced with the good news of resurrection.

It’s left me thinking about the link between amazement and fear. Both of them can turn our worlds upside down, challenging everything we thought we could rely on, everything that is certain, sure and trustworthy. That is never something that we face willingly or comfortably, but it rings very true just now. Our world is very full of such situations just now as people face the effects war, the aftermath of a pandemic that has not quite gone away and of increasing economic hardships.

I find myself more understanding of the women in Mark’s gospel who had to take time and space to calm their trembling and fear before they rediscovered the courage to go out and share the amazing news of the resurrection.

As we move through a challenging Eastertide where are balancing amazement and fear in your life?

Benedictine Spirituality Easter Sunday Easter Vigil Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Resurrection Scripture Triduum Uncategorized

A glimmer of light

One of the things that strikes me every year is how much darkness there is in the Easter gospels. It’s there in all the gospel accounts. I’m always struck by it in the beginning of John’s account as we hear it sung in a still dark chapel at the Easter vigil:

“It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb.”

I often have those words in my mind as we wait by the fire for the Paschal candle to be blest and lit. It’s such a tiny light glimmering in the deep dark before dawn, yet it allows us to proclaim “Christ our light”. It’s always a poignant and moving part of our Easter liturgy.

It was particularly so this year as the suffering of war added to the aftermath of pandemic makes the darkness seem very real and very deep. I keep finding myself thinking back to Mary setting out, grieving and afraid, on that dark early morning, thinking she had lost everything and having no idea how her life was about to be changed.

We are also living through dark, frightening and uncertain times that increase our sense of vulnerability in a way that echoes Mary’s dark and lonely walk. Yet, however deep the darkness the light of Risen Christ still shines and cannot be overpowered. However small that light might seem it accompanies us as we walk through these challenging and dark times, offering us new life and hope.

Where is the risen Christ bringing light into your darkness this Easter morning?