Br. Nicholas BartoliLuke 11:5–13

Jesus said ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Be persistent, and you will receive the Holy Spirit from our Father in Heaven. That sounds simple and wonderful, but sometimes, it can seem so much harder than that. When our relationship with God seems distant, and our spiritual life feels dry, when life seems more like a burden and less like a gift, it’s easy to believe that all our seeking is going nowhere. Something gets in the way, and the version of this saying found in the Gospel of Thomas gives one suggestion on what that might be.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Gospel of Thomas, it was found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt as part of a library of ancient parchments. It’s a collection of Jesus’ sayings, and it can be hard to date since it was probably added to over time, but estimates range from around 50 AD to perhaps 140 AD. This would place the Gospel of Thomas after most of St. Paul’s letters, and somewhere in the neighborhood of the four Gospels we have in the New Testament.

Saying #2 reads: “Jesus said, ‘Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will rule over all.’” I can see why there might have been two versions of this saying floating around. If you’re trying to encourage someone on their spiritual journey, mentioning the bit about being disturbed by something might not make for a good selling point. It would be like the dentist telling you, “actually, this is going to hurt a lot.” But it’s also true that forewarned is forearmed, and sometimes we want the dentist to give it to us straight. Our lifelong journeys following the way of Jesus, seeking God… well, it is probably going to hurt.

So how can this hurt get in the way? The tradition of the desert Father’s and Mother’s and other early Christian contemplatives offers us the insight that if we’re seeking to know God, then the direction to go is down into our own depths, and resting in stillness, knock at the door of our own heart. Christ is waiting there for us, but our hearts may be too wounded to recognize him.  Like Mary Magdalene at the tomb on Easter Sunday, the disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem, the pair of disciples on the road to Emmaus (eh-MAY-uhs), or the disciples by the Lake of Tiberias we can have trouble recognizing Jesus, our hearts clouded by things like fear, anger, anguish, grief, or hurtful stories we tell about ourselves.

It can be discouraging knowing that our search for God will probably lead to being “disturbed,” as the Gospel of Thomas puts it, before we can marvel at God’s goodness and rule with Christ in our hearts.  But there are two reasons to hope. First, Jesus modeled for us the way of the grain of wheat that must die before bearing fruit, promising us resurrection after the pain of dying to our old selves. Second, as revealed in the book of Revelation, Christ is already standing at the door of our heart knocking — he’s been with us on this journey before we even started, seeking us, out of His love for us, and he’ll be with us the whole way, especially when it gets rough.

Let us pray. We ask you, God of Love and Truth, to give us the courage we need to seek you out in the depths of our soul. We know, Lord, that even before we knock at the door to our hearts, you’ve been waiting for us there, waiting to be with us and support us in whatever pain and suffering is ours to endure before awakening to your Truth and Love. We look to the Cross for hope in resurrection, in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, our savior. Amen.

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  1. CHRISTINA MCKERROW on January 8, 2019 at 10:27

    I think, for me, the word “disturb” is where this passage is difficult. Like Margaret, I have had ‘experiences’ but they are like being overwhelmed, and I am NOT me for a space of time. They leave me wondering, ‘where did that come from?’ They happen unexpectedly and are not of my thinking – not my searching. The most recent one was at the Christmas Eve worship service – a young woman in tears at the back of the sanctuary, intent on leaving, but slowly THOU persuaded her to settle and stay for some time. God’s blessings. Christina

  2. Gerry Malmo on January 8, 2019 at 09:02

    One of the things Brother Nicholas does well is write short and concise, but with very thought provoking clarity. Brother, you do this very well. In my last 5-6 year spiritual journey, I have discovered the Gospel according to St. Thomas. I am reminded often that I must die before I can live. I trust there may be additional opportunities learn from this recently discovered gospel. Again, thank you!

  3. Reed Saunders on January 8, 2019 at 05:15

    Inspired writing. Thank you.

  4. Margaret Dungan on October 25, 2018 at 17:38

    Br. Nicholas Thank you for your “Word” .today.It is amazing when something that one has experienced is described by someone else. It becomes a shared experience in an unexpected way.I think all the more so because my experience was quite some time ago and never before shared.
    Thank you.


  5. Karen Wright on October 25, 2018 at 15:32

    perhaps, the best message … Thank you Nicholas

  6. James Rowland on October 25, 2018 at 14:00

    Thank you, Br. Nicholas for thoughts that have been with me for some time.
    It seems like so many of my friends now must face severe and life threatening situations. We are all now
    seeking Christ “waiting to be with us and support us in whatever pain and suffering that is ours to endure”. Amen.

  7. marie on October 25, 2018 at 12:37

    Thank you for your wise words and for your prayer! It is so beyond fathoming that the King of the Universe, the Creator of all beauty, the Life of God, the Light of heaven, the glorious Truth, the All-Giving Redeemer lives within us by the Spirit. And yet, it is true. I ask for His perception and I then see things I’d rather not see. I ask for His discernment and then what I discern is hurtful. I love what you’ve written. I so deeply rings true.

  8. Eben Carsey on October 25, 2018 at 10:07


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