THE UNBROKEN WORD

We often hear the words it’s the journey, not the destination, which can provide solace to some but can also create a feeling of desolation and abandonment. When we find our circumstances changing and, even when we set the direction it in motion, it does not turn out the way we want.

At the time of this pandemic, many find themselves somewhere they did not expect. Separated from others, loss of income, loneliness, even feelings of helplessness can be overwhelming. At the same time, we see the incredible outreach occurring. Generosity beyond expectations, sacrifice for those in caring roles. The juxtaposition of these scenes litters our daily lives.

So what is this all about? Our internal reactions to dealing with the uncontrollable and the unexpected are tested to the limit. Sometimes it is our observation of how others are dealing with the changes in their lives.

The knowledge of God’s presence in all of this can be our only reassurance in these matters. It is a time when we need to not just trust, but to embrace the love which comes from knowing God is within, and always with us. (Matthew 28:20).

This week we can perhaps have empathy for those who do not have faith in God, but are relying on themselves and those around them (you perhaps) to give them the certitude that things will work themselves out. And you become that loving embrace so many are seeking at this time; through your Christian response to their needs and difficulties.

Heading Home

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Here I am heading home again,

Across the desert,

Across the oceans,

On straight roads,

On windy roads,

In the summer,

In the winter,

But always,

 

With You.

 

Within Me.

THE UNBROKEN WORD

One movie I recall when I was a teenager was called the Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner. It was the story of a teen who went off the tracks in England in the late 50s early 60s, and ended up incarcerated in a prison system known as Borstal, where underage miscreants were taken from the their parents and housed until they had “done their time”.

In the movie the teenage boy, who was more than rebellious in nature, found himself getting involved in the cross-country team at the prison. He found solace in running, being with nature, a release from the hostage style lifestyle he felt he was living. A way to connect with his loneliness in a spiritual way. I won’t go on just in case you decide to watch the movie, which, by the way, has a very unexpected ending. This is not a feel-good movie, so don’t take this as a recommendation, more as an observation for this reflection.

Today we may find ourselves in another place, particularly those of you in a leadership position. We are having to manage ourselves, our remit, our staff, remotely. This may in itself, illuminate a type of loneliness which is not familiar to us. While we are together in whatever constitutes our teams, the family, friends, work colleagues and others we interface with there is nowhere to go to with new feelings and challenges which face us.

The Gospel of this recent weekend may inform us. The Good Shepard is an example of servant leadership, which perhaps has never been more requested of us. We have to care for the sheep, lie down over the “gate” during the evening to protect them for predators, call them when they are lost, and ensure they know our voice is heard when they call out because they are lost.

In a way, we are all sheep, but we are also the Shepard. Just as St. Paul calls us the put on the Mind of Christ, Jesus tells us in the parable of the Good Shepard we are not just cared for, but we are to be carers, Shepherds if you like as well.

So this week, maybe we can recognize that oscillation between sheep and shepherd. When we are called to lead, to lead with the love of Christ Jesus. We should understand this more than the average shepherd, given that we are sheep as well.

Something to pray on. Am I Shepard or sheep today? Or both?

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THE UNBROKEN WORD

Meister Eckhart was a priest, mystic, and theologian in the late Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Century. He was, as many preachers of his time, not always accepted by his peers and found himself the subject of the Church’s inquisition process. Today, many centuries later, his work is seen for the far-reaching insights which are perhaps even more relevant today.

One of his many famous sermons focuses on the issue of “inward and outer work.” Here, he talks of the struggle we all can relate to, how do we resolve the conflict between the inner life and closeness to God, and our outer life and its relation to the world.

In his own words:

“Suppose a man should withdraw into himself with all his powers,

outward and inward, then when he is in that condition there is in him

no image or motive, and he is without any activity within or without.

Then he should well observe whether there is any inclination toward

anything. But if a man is not drawn to any work and does not want to

undertake anything, then he should force himself into some activity,

whether inward or outward (for a man should not be satisfied with

anything, however good it may seem or be) so that, when he finds

himself oppressed or constrained, it may appear rather that that man

is worked rather than that he works; thus he may learn to co-operate with

his God.”[1]

So much of us have a segmented prayer life, times we allocate for dedicated prayer, and then the time when everything else fills the “prayer void.” What Meister Eckhart invites us to here is to remove “our agenda or our will” from the top of our activities. It is where our need for a result dominates the conversation, the work, the task, whatever that may be. This does not mean we remove our gifts and skills from the process, but instead we gradually erase a firm and thickly drawn line between our will and that of God. When Eckhart says “that man is worked, rather than he works”, we are gradually blending the two worlds of our outer and inner; then our soul becomes permeated with the will of God, as God “works us” rather than us trying to work Him.

He also notes later in that sermon,

“But if the outward work tends to destroy the inward, one should follow

the inward. But if both can be as one, that is best, then one is cooperating

with God.”

Following the inward also, funnily enough, is totally in line with scripture. Following the inward will always be basked in the warmth of love, and therefore leads us into the peace of Christ we all seek. Those who have it, or have felt it, know what a gift it is.

And while Eckhart encourages us towards the inner, it is the world where our outer is most visible; at work, at home, in community, in leisure, while helping others or just being creative, we will feel the results.

For Eckhart wants us to explore the God which we know is present in all. Eckhart invites us to ditch our ego and selfish agendas to ensure we stay in the room with Him forever.

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The Inward and the Outward

Here I go again,

The agenda is on the billboard of my mind,

Some added in giant type, readable to all,

Others less so, needing eyeglasses to perceive.

 

The dual nature of what dominates creates my to-do list for each moment,

Cluttering and countering the peace which fills the background,

Wanting to obscure and wash away my agenda.

Leaving no room for anything.

 

Save the work and peace which resides within.


[1] From the Complete Works of Meister Eckhart #23