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Seek, and You Shall Find (And Be "Disturbed") – Br. Nicholas Bartoli

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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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