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Caught – Br. Luke Ditewig

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Boxes, boxes and more boxes. Each to be unpacked. Pieces to be unwrapped. Packing paper to stuff down lest it fill up the room itself. Lots of stuff unpacked. Where do we put it? Some closets and spaces no longer exist. Where’s the dust pan? Where’s the trash can? Where’s the trash bag? What was I doing before I went looking for the dust pan? Routines and norms are starkly missing. So is the box I still can’t find. Details overflow of things to address, people to call, problems—oh so many problems—to fix.

Disruption. Disorientation. Chaotic reconfiguration. Then the news of a tragic death and of a loved one with a major illness and surgery. Let alone political clashes, economic anxiety and global concerns, all swirling together in stress, tension and exhaustion. With a week like this, with a life like this, remember Elijah.

Elijah had run for dear life into the wilderness. Queen Jezebel was trying to kill him. Now he’s in a cave on the mountain presenting his case: I’ve been zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.

Have you been there? Been zealous. But now run down. Run after. Alone and afraid. Ready for it all to end? I’ve been zealous for the Lord. Now I alone am left, and they are seeing my life, to take it away.

Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by. A mountain-splitting wind, an earthquake, fire, but the Lord was not in them. The Lord comes in a sound of sheer silence. Not in forceful blowing, quaking or burning. But in the absence of action, in silence.

For how long? Elijah senses the Lord in it, wraps his face and moves out of the cave. But how long was that sheer silence? Long enough to make Elijah stop? Long enough to make him listen? Long enough to awaken awareness? Awareness of the blowing, quaking and burning inside himself?

God, who with all power could come in any form, surprises us in silence. We too are caught off guard because that’s upside down. So contrary from the force and pride we’re accustomed to in the use of power. So contrary from the words and noise we’re accustomed to in daily life. Instead, silence invites us to stop and listen deeply to what is in us and the other.

Guests here at the Monastery and at Emery House remark our ethos of silence invites slowing down, restoring sleep, savoring food, being attentive to self and the Divine. It’s a “healing gift”1 we intentionally foster to give and receive. Compared to the cacophony of the world, silence keeps catching us off guard. Inviting wonder at being so loved by God.

God surprises Elijah by coming to him in sheer silence. God surprises the disciples by coming toward them walking on the sea.

Jesus says, Do not be afraid. It is I. Peter says, Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. Jesus says, Come. Peter goes out and walks on the water toward Jesus. But then he notices the wind, he remembers the danger. The chaos, all that’s against him. He falters, he sinks, and he cries out Lord, save me. Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.

Caught by the hand of Jesus. Caught and saved right there. Peter, like Elijah, is caught by God. Caught off guard by Jesus walking on the sea. Caught off guard by God appearing in sheer silence. Caught off guard by Love surprising and saving them.

Now Elijah was told the Lord was coming. He had an impressive succession of wind, earthquake and fire before silence. Peter and Jesus were walking on water! These seem rather obvious. Do you know when you’re caught? Know when you’re caught by God? I often don’t in the moment. But later when I stop and reflect, stop and silence myself in order to listen, I do notice God catching me.

There are many ways to do this, to pay attention to God’s action in our lives. One way that helps me is to stop and pray near bedtime. I ask myself these questions: “For what am I most thankful today? When was I most fully alive? How did I receive love? How did I give love?”2 For often in these moments, God was catching me: appearing in a surprising form, being right there to save me. Stopping to reflect, I now see and say “thank you.”

When I’m hurting or afraid or anxious, it can be hard to go to sleep. So by reviewing the day, I remember I was caught, I was loved. Holding these memories close to my heart, I can go to sleep, trusting for gifts of love tomorrow. “For what am I most thankful today? When was I most fully alive? How did I receive love? How did I give love?”

This practice of prayer, from the examen of Saint Ignatius, helps many go to sleep. Sleep despite the chaos and disorientation of moving. Sleep despite the fear of running for dear life. Sleep despite the fear of wind on the sea. Sleep resting in the arms of Divine Love. Love by whom we are caught off guard. Love by whom we are caught and saved.

When like Elijah you’re surprised by sheer silence, listen to God speaking deep inside.

When like Peter you’re scared by the wind on the sea, look to Jesus right there with you.

When bedtime nears, stop and review how the Spirit caught you by the hand and caught you off guard with love. Hold these close to your heart and go to sleep.

 

1 SSJE Rule of Life, Chapter 27

 

2 These questions and the idea of holding memories of love to one’s heart in order to sleep are from:

Dennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn. (1995) Sleeping With Bread: Holding What Gives You Life. Paulist Press.

Their similar book (2006) Making Heart-Bread is great for teaching this to children.

 

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31 Comments

  1. Grace Buchanan on May 22, 2017 at 12:28

    Thank you.

  2. gwedhen nicholas on May 21, 2017 at 17:42

    Beautiful, Br Luke. Thank you.

  3. Marta Engdahl on June 21, 2016 at 23:32

    We are “called” into silence and a deepening relationship w/ God. Last night, I was awakened around 4 a.m. by the brilliant moon shining into my face. I was reminded of God’s brilliant light as God calls us more into God’s self.

  4. Shelley on June 21, 2016 at 19:01

    So much to think about in today’s message I especially appreciate Br. Luke’s point how we’re used to seeing power exercised by force and pride whereas God comes to us in silence. And thank you Paul for telling us about the pray-as-you-go app which I have downloaded and intend to use on a daily basis. God Bless.

  5. Hardelio M. Alfeche, Jr. on June 21, 2016 at 18:02

    thank you brother for this message…

  6. Rhode on June 21, 2016 at 15:22

    Being still can be different than being silent. How often have I said ‘why did I say that’?. Mostly, I blab to fill in perceived gaps and I end up feeling as if I sounded like Charlie Browns’ parents. Mwah, mwah, mwah. Even when I pray. I am trying to walk on water and failing. Stilling myself in the Lord leads me to a calmness within conversations. God is listening. I can trust God.

  7. anders on June 21, 2016 at 09:38

    We get plenty of earthquake wind and fire from our society, but silence is undermarketed and we are afraid of it among friends and in church. I will cultivate it.

  8. Christina on June 21, 2016 at 09:04

    Referring to Jane West’s reply last August.

    My bedtime thought is also: ‘Be Still and know that I am God.’
    Sometimes I also think of Nan Merril’s Psalms for Praying: ‘Be still and know that I am Love.’
    (A great little bedtime book.)
    Christina

  9. Thank you! on June 21, 2016 at 07:05

    It’s a blessing that as we age, we appreciate the silence so much more than when younger. God draws us closer into God’s silence . . .

  10. Cecil. on June 21, 2016 at 00:35

    Thank you Bro.Luke, A good app for practicing silence is ‘Centering Prayer.’ I find it so comforting.

  11. Tracy on August 19, 2015 at 04:43

    Just listened to The Examen for the 1st time – thank you so much for the suggestion as I found it wonderful.

  12. Paul on August 17, 2015 at 15:39

    Believe it or not, there is a free 11-minute app for praying the Saint Ignatius examen each night. It is called Pray-as-You-Go (PAYG) sponsored by the Jesuits of Great Britain. It also has a superb morning prayer of unsurpassed excellence, in my opinion. These have totally revitalized my spiritual life. I cannot recommend this app highly enough.

  13. Ralph Andrews on August 17, 2015 at 11:46

    Thank you Brother Luke. This brings back the silence I discovered at the monastery. I am still sleeping good sense my visit.
    Ralph

  14. Ruth West on August 17, 2015 at 10:23

    May pastor gave me a framed scripture which says “Be still and know that I am God.” It is in my bedroom where I see it every day and night. One of my favorite hymns is “Be Still My Soul…” Sometimes I blot out the whisperings of the Spirit with my loud mouth. Thank you for this good message allowing God to speak to me through you today.

  15. Christopher Engle Barnhart on August 17, 2015 at 07:51

    Thanks for reminding me, catching me off guard at a time when silence is what I need. Our world is crazy enought with all the stuff we have to do, stuff we see and stuff we hear that it important to remember to take time for silence.

  16. Jean Barnes on December 6, 2014 at 01:40

    I find it incredible that Love comes to us in Silence.
    Silence that’s all Powerful in its Gentleness and Awesome in its Beauty and Strength.
    God speaks to us in this Silence and gifts to us His Peace that passes all understanding.
    Incredibly lovely and Loving.
    Thank You.

  17. Jane on December 5, 2014 at 11:34

    Thank you for the reminder. I sometimes get so caught up in the daily grind, I forget to be still and listen. However, I do recount my day at bedtime and review all the blessings God has given me that day. It is surprising all the times I can identify as those God moments and his presence in my life.

  18. Eunice Schatz on December 5, 2014 at 10:35

    Caught! Caught off guard. But caught.

    By God. That makes all the difference.

  19. Lisa Nichols Hickman on December 5, 2014 at 10:12

    Dear Brother Luke and Friends at SSJE –

    A friend introduced me to this ‘daily word’ devotional just in time for Advent. These past five days, I have been blessed with joy and peace and hope and love by paying attention to your word and living into your daily written prayer. I am a Presbyterian pastor in western Pennsylvania and simply want to say thank you for this Christmas gift.

  20. Lorna Harris on December 5, 2014 at 09:22

    Thank you for this! I will remember those questions when the burdens of the day keep me from sleeping!

  21. Maggee Davs on December 5, 2014 at 08:29

    Sometimes when my world is about to come to wrack and ruin (in my opinion) I find God puts His Hand in to restore and protect. Sometimes wrack and ruin come as a natural consequence and I find God’s Hand in the aftermath.

    This past summer I walked through a difficult time at work with God by my side. I meditated on Him every morning, sometimes leading to sleep. I called to him constantly. Finally I practiced the discipline of stopping the ‘wrack and ruin’ thoughts and waited on Him since worry doesn’t do anything. Amazing! In the putting aside of the inner noise and distress. God didn’t catch me, he was there the whole time.

  22. Phaedra on December 5, 2014 at 05:17

    Thank you. Exactly what I needed to hear. My heart is touched, and my family’s nightly prayers amended to focus more on His peace-giving love. Thank you.

  23. Maureen on December 2, 2014 at 18:18

    Thank you.
    At this time of year, I also am amazed by God coming to us (me) as the tiny babe of a homeless couple, to a seemingly adulterous young teen. So adding to God’s silence and God’s saving hand, I add God-with-us by a most helpless-seeming infant.
    May God bring us the peace, healing, light, and love of Christmas!

  24. Patterson Moore on October 13, 2014 at 18:00

    Thank you so much, Luke. I know I will sleep well tonight!

  25. Pam on October 13, 2014 at 16:51

    Thank you for this Br Luke….. It is lovely. Yes, the silence between God and I, I have realized is such a soothing balm ….. A wonderful Father. We can just sit together with Him , can’t we. The monastery sounds wonderful ….. A bit of Heaven.
    Asking myself those questions, I found I had such a feeling of such appreciation for life which took me by surprise, especially when I asked the question about being alive. I shall endeavor to put this into practice. I have just bought Br Lawrence ‘s little book , Spiritual maxims and Practicing the presence of God …… Little things are such big things.

  26. Glenna Bailey on October 13, 2014 at 16:24

    Thank you, Br. Luke, for this message. I remember a movie from several years ago entitled “The Clearing” with Robert Redford and Helen Mirren. One of the last thoughts to survive the anguish of the preceding days
    was, in my mind, the message that Jesus felt through His Father and which we, through Him, believe: “As long as I know you love me, I have everything I need.”

  27. Anne on October 13, 2014 at 14:16

    Thank you so much; I needed this so so much . ..

  28. Terry Dougherty on October 13, 2014 at 09:57

    Greetings, and thank you, from PTSem . A beautiful and timely reflection!

  29. jane goldring on March 19, 2012 at 06:40

    luke thankyou for those words. i think more now then ever we need to sit down quietly and think about things in our life and how we can improve them. i always come back from holy week at the monstery much refresed and trying to put in action some of what i learned. i think it helps us to try and do better than we have been doing.

  30. John Braught on August 26, 2011 at 20:50

    Brilliant, Brother Luke. I’m glad I was there to hear you deliver this is person. It touched me then and it is wonderful to revisit these words now. Thank you.

  31. Arlene Dunn on August 12, 2011 at 15:10

    Thank you Brother Luke for reminding me that I too have often been surprised by silence, and caught by His love. Blessings on your ministry.

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