Healthy religion, as the very word re-ligio (“rebinding”) indicates, is the task of putting our divided realities back together again: human and divine, male and female, heaven and earth, sin and salvation, mistake and glory. The mystics–such as John of the Cross, Teresa of Ávila, and the author of The Song of Songs in the Bible–are those who put it together very well.
Our task as the body of Christ -the church- is to make things right in the world. Our world is fragmented and divided. In so many ways we are coming undone at the seams. Confusion, violence and evil are our calling cards. Religion no longer speaks to us and we don’t speak to it. The mystics suggest ways that we can rebind our lives to our God. John of the Cross said: “Reveal Thy presence, and let the vision and let Thy beauty kill me.” We are rebound when we invite His presence into our beings and permit that presence to be the primary force of our lives.
People scramble aimlessly to find peace in their lives and never look in the right place. Jesus said: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Isn’t that we what we all need, rested souls. I like to call this “soulrest”. “Soulrest” only come when we develop a supernatural relationship with God through Jesus.
Try to develop way to seek “soulrest”
- Observe a daily practice of silence
- Develop the discipline of sacred reading
- Write with God in mind
- Seek out a spiritual companion
These things and many more can allow us to rebind with our Creator and His creation.
Neal Obstat Theological Opining
Yesterday for the feast of the Lebanese monk St. Sharbel Makhluf, the homilist at Mass referred to this saint as a fountain of living water in the dry desert where he engaged in spiritual combat with evil. That image sent my imagination back to another memory…
My spiritual director from years ago, whom I quote often, once said to me after I complained of a vapid dryness in my prayer that made me want to cut my prayer time short as it felt like a total ‘waste’:
Don’t quit! That can be your best prayer time if you sit still. Tom, I’ve eaten dust in prayer for 20 years. But for One you love, you’ll do anything for as long as is asked of you. Here’s a secret — the gift of dry prayer is that it’s more selfless, more abandoned than sweet prayer. But it’s whatever God wants. Let…
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Abba John the Dwarf was very fervent. Now someone who came to see him praised his work, and he remained silent, for he was weaving a rope. One again the visitor began to speak and once again he kept silence. The third time he said to the visitor, ‘Since you came here, you have driven away God from me.’
—Abba John the Dwarf
Prayer and closeness to God is important to all believers. We have been taught for centuries that silence is a very good avenue to a close relationship to our creator. Today we exist in a world of clutter, noise and interruptions. The men and women who went to the desert felt very much the same . Their journey was to escape those things to have a deeper and closer relationship with God. People who don’t observe silence have a difficult time understanding and respecting those who do. This saying deals with that issue.
Abba John the Dwarf was focused in his work and prayer. Work and prayer are the heart of the monk’s calling. The well-meaning visitor simply wanted to engage the monk through his compliment. He had no sense of the way of truly engaging the Abba was to join in his work and silence. In that apparent void was the presence of God. The continual “noise” drove God away. Through our conversation, our constant chatter, we crowd out the presence of God. Our challenge is simple, give God space in our lives. Don’t insist that God comes on your terms but rather take time to be silent enough for Him to sit beside you.
Lord help me earn this lesson from the desert. Silence my lips and let me feel your presence. In my silence you fill the void instead of me filling my life so full that is crowds you out. Amen
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A Brother said to Abba Mateos, ‘Give me a word.’ He said to him, ‘ restrain the spirit of controversy in yourself, in everything, and weep, have compunction, for the time is drawing near.’
—-Abba Mateos of the Desert
The wise Abba tells us to refrain from controversy. Our world is wrought with controversy, because it appears as though we thrive on our divisions. Governments, families, and churches all seem to have a great need to live in a state of conflict. Many people think that this postmodern world is the cause of this state of affairs, but here we see this man of the desert approaching this subject fourteen hundred years ago. He describes controversy as a “spirit,” which says to me that it is a real driving force that wraps itself around us and produces negative results.
Abba Mateos’ advice to his fellow monks, and to us, is for us to have compunction. Which means we have a guilty conscience.We must allow our moral compasses to guide us in the situations that are given to us. Ultimately, it is our choice how we react to any event, statement or accusation. The challenge is to act as though the time to face our God was near. Mateos calls us to be in peace with those that disagree and hold to other beliefs. The compunction, moral code, of the Christian is to have a spirit of harmony. Just as Christ reconciled the world by suffering the cross we, as His followers, are called to stay away from controversy and to embrace His love. Let us strive to develop a spirit of compunction instead of a spirit of controversy.
Lord help me this day, and all the days that you give me, to be a person of peace. Let the Spirit that dwells in me guide my action to be your actions. Block out the temptations that lead me to become arrogant and mean, and to assume that my way is better than your way. I commit myself to live as though you were watching my every move.