Catholic Contemplative Affiliation

Catholic Contemplative Affiliation
Sunday Readings

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, August 12, 2018

First Reading: 1 Kings 19.4-8

The desert is so terrible that the only remedy  could be to flee existence itself if it were not for the sustaining power of God.  The option of dying holds out some advantages at first sight.  But the theological virtue of hope binds the soul, with trust, to the God, full of love and compassion, full of life and regeneration.  Not to hope is not to have union with God.   The reason why hope is one of the theological virtues is that it binds us into God, allows faith and enkindles love.  The symbol of hope is the anchor: the ship of our soul lays anchor into God amid the turbulence of the storm raging around us.

The desert is real when two conditions are present, as we see in the Reading:

·. “Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert.”   All diversions as distractions are eliminated in the desert. There is nowhere to go.  We are stuck here in the desert.  The same condition prevails when we deliberately place ourselves in the more benign desert of  a silent retreat.

·. “This is enough, O Lord!  Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”  Interiorly there is no place to take  refuge in.  No self-exalting self-images are present to give a feeling of accomplishment.  The external void of diversions is reflected in the interior waste land of our hearts.  I am no better than the whole human race in its plodding ways, than all the misdirected efforts of  people in  history.  Our vulnerability is complete in the inability to claim anything that can separate us from the mass of the human race.   We are no better than our fathers, our mothers,  our brothers, our sisters,  our children.

True contemplative prayer practice will lead us to this desert state so that God’s healing of our self-centeredness can begin.  God’s grace will come inevitably.  It is inevitable because God’s loving compassion is inevitable, not presumed, but awaited out of His promises.
God will visit us again.  Let us sleep a second time in the rest of God.  God will feed us tenderly.  Then we can walk forty days  and forty nights in mission, intent upon accomplishing the Will of Him who sends us.  Ultimately our destination is God’s holy mountain.  It is the mountain we ascend, from desert, through the desert, but the ultimate resting place is the mountain of God.

Contemplative life is impossible without the theological virtue of hope.  Hope is the solid base of power, life, love into which we sink all our yearnings for life with God.  God calls us and empowers us to live in Him and with Him aside from the desert of our own weaknesses and sins.  Hope speaks to us:  Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!
Second Reading: Ephesians 4.30-5.2

It is easier to recognize negativity in our interior life when we have become sensitive to God within us in contemplative prayer.  Sometimes it is impossible to stop the commentaries and their concomitant negative feelings that plunge us into “bitterness, all passion, anger, harsh words, slander and malice of every kind.”  It will not take long to recognize these sentiments and their expressions as being alien to God who is love and compassion.  After a while, these sentiments of negativity become our cross.  Our own human nature with its fallenness becomes the instrument of our crucifixion. 

The hardest moments to enter into contemplative prayer is when we have come freshly from encounters of negativity.  We have just demonstrated anger and harsh words.  Now we take the posture of contemplative prayer in our sacred space.  We feel a rush of revulsion come up from within us.  How can I sit in the divine Presence with such a recent history of non-love?  I can enter into the prayer because I enter in bearing the burden of my human condition; this is exactly the posture of the publican in the Temple, standing afar off, asking for mercy.  Such a fierce and vivid experience of our obvious negativity is the background to the foreground of complete trust and hope in the mercy of God towards us.  As we learn to accept the compassion of God in the face of our obvious faults we learn to have compassion on others. 

That’s how God has acted toward us.  Be imitators of God as his dear children.  Follow the way of love, even as Christ loved you.  He gave himself for us an offering to God, a gift of pleasing fragrance.
Gospel: John 6.41-51

A whole chorus  of personages with great reputations, with power and prestige, of scholarship and academic standing is constantly murmuring against the full Mystery of Christ as held out to us within the fullness of the catholic and apostolic Church.  And a Mystery you and I have professed to live into as called to contemplative prayer.  “How can he claim to have come down from heaven?”

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  I AM the bread of life.

As those who celebrate the fullness of Catholicism and the mystical vocation to contemplative prayer we should slowly read, meditative, pray about and rest in the Sacred Words of the text, John 6.41-51.  Let us hope in the Words of the Word, who is our Bread of Life.  Let us move into the fullness of the Mystery of Christ, the daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist, Word and Sacrament broken and given to us so that we can share in the eternal life of the Triune God.

William C. Fredrickson, Obl. (Lay) OSB; D.Min.

For questions, comments or other communication, please contact:
William Frederickson